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Trump, Biden warning signs

Red flags for the two men in America’s strangest political relationship.
Trump, Biden warning signs
(Washington Post)

Good morning! It’s Monday, May 8, 2023. The 2024 elections are 547 days away. Read this newsletter in your browser.

Coming up this week in Washington: President Biden and congressional leaders will have their big debt ceiling meeting tomorrow... Title 42, the pandemic-era border restriction, will expire on Thursday.

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Warning signs mount for Trump, Biden

It’s the strangest symbiotic relationship in American politics. Seemingly nobody wants a Trump-Biden rematch in 2024, yet each man’s best hope of returning to the White House appears to lie with the other being nominated.

And right now, they both appear to be gliding to their respective party nods, with Biden facing only token opposition and Trump averaging above 50% in GOP primary polls.

Yet, as the general election looms, both presidents have deep vulnerabilities that were on display this weekend:

Trump investigations escalate

  • The former president is already grappling with one criminal indictment; the question now is whether he will face a second or even a third. Per the Wall Street Journal, Special Counsel Jack Smith has entered the “late stages” of his Trump investigations, interviewing (and re-interviewing) key witnesses.
  • Smith has cast a wide net as he mulls charges against Trump over January 6th and his handling of classified documents. Last week alone, former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump social media maven Dan Scavino, and a pair of top Trump Organization executives testified before Smith’s two grand juries.
  • It’s also not looking great for Trump in Georgia, where Atlanta prosecutor Fani Willis plans to announce this summer whether or not she’s charging the former president. Lawyers disclosed on Friday that at least eight of Trump’s “fake electors” in Georgia have accepted immunity deals with Willis. That means they are cooperating with the district attorney’s investigation, squealing on the other eight “electors” — and possibly Trump himself.
  • Meanwhile, in New York City, closing arguments are set to begin today in the tiral over E. Jean Carroll’s civil lawsuit against Trump for allegedly raping her in the 1990s. Trump declined one last chance to testify last night, meaning the trial will end without his legal team having called any witnesses.
  • Trump’s history with investigators was one reason named in a Sunday editorial from the Wall Street Journal that blasted Trump and urged Republican primary voters to look elsewhere in 2024. Although the WSJ ed board was once an influential organ in Republican politics, 2024 seems poised to be another election cycle in which GOP voters ignore the warnings of the chattering class.

Biden faces concerns about age

  • Biden’s major warning sign came in the form of a Washington Post/ABC poll that contained a litany of bruising numbers for the president. A 36% approval rating, an all-time low. Biden trailing both Trump and DeSantis in head-to-heads. 54% of voters saying the economy was better when Trump was in office.
  • It’s just one poll, and some odd results in the crosstabs offer reason to be skeptical about some of its specific findings — we’ll need to wait for other surveys to see if it’s an outlier. But, broadly speaking, many of the Post/ABC numbers are echoed in other polls; per RealClearPolitics, the current average of general election polls shows Trump ahead of Biden by one point, 44% to 43%.  
  • The Post/ABC poll also underlined a dynamic that other polls have found: voter are more worried about Biden’s age than Trump’s. 64% said Trump is in “good enough physical health” to serve as president; 33% said the same about Biden. 54% said Trump has the “mental sharpness it takes” to run the country; 32% said the same about Biden. (Biden is 80; Trump is 76.)
  • Biden has recently taken to joking about his age, the Associated Press notes, attempting to neutralize the issue ahead of his re-election campaign. He also waved away such concerns in an MSNBC interview on Friday. “I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people,” he said. “And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office.”

If you want to hear more about the 2024 race... Click here to listen to my recent conversation with “Peach State Politics” author Niles Francis.

In other news

(Gage Skidmore)

Speaking of 2024, the Florida legislative session has ended after a series of conservative policy wins for Gov. Ron DeSantis — who is now expected to soon make his presidential campaign official. But as his own supporters fret about his viability, DeSantis is facing leaks from within his inner circle: ABC News has obtained footage of his 2018 debate prep.

Two tragedies took place in Texas this weekend. Eight people were killed in a mass shooting at an outlet mall in Allen on Saturday. Across the state, eight more — believed to be migrants — were killed in Brownsville on Sunday when a driver rammed into them as they waited at a bus stop. Officials are examining the shooter for possible white-supremacist ties, while authorities are still trying to ascertain whether the driver intentionally targeted the migrants.  

The world continues to wait for Ukraine’s long-signaled counteroffensive. After months of planning, Ukrainian officials are reportedly worried that the operation won’t live up to expectations. But Western officials, who have donated weaponry to the counteroffensive, believe it could “pave the way for negotiations between Kyiv and Moscow by the end of the year,” according to the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. is reportedly beginning to warm to the idea of China playing a key role in such talks.  

Several high-profile election deniers who lost campaigns in 2022 are readying for rematches. As the Washington Post notes, losing Republican candidates from Kari Lake in Arizona to Jim Marchant in Nevada appear poised to try again.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) is expecting a child in August, which will make her the 12th member of Congress to give birth while in office. According to the 19th, only 37 current members of Congress are mothers with minor children.

Today in government

(Gage Skidmore)

White House: President Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will announce a proposed rule today to “require more generous passenger compensation from airlines who cancel or delay flights,” according to Politico.

Congress: Neither the House nor the Senate will meet today.

Supreme Court: The justices have nothing on their schedule.

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