6 min read

Ten questions to start the week

As Israel readies its ground offensive and the House prepares to vote for a new speaker, a few key questions to frame the week.
Ten questions to start the week
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, a key diplomatic player in the Biden administration’s complicated balancing act. (Twitter)

Good morning! It’s Monday, October 16, 2023. The 2024 elections are 386 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Here are ten key questions to watch this week:

Israel/Hamas war

How expansive is Israel’s ground offensive? The world is waiting as Israel prepares to launch a ground offensive in Gaza in response to last week’s attacks by Hamas. Per the New York Times, Israel plans to deploy tens of thousands of soldiers, with the goal of capturing Gaza City and decimating Hamas leadership. It would be the first time since 2008 that Israel has “attempted to capture land and at least briefly hold onto it,” the Times notes.

The offensive will face a “face a hellish thicket of tightly packed buildings, mines and tunnels,” the Washington Post reports, threatening to create a “bloodbath” of human suffering. President Biden is warning Israel to focus on attacking Hamas, and not to try for a full occupation of Gaza, which he told “60 Minutes” last night would be a “big mistake.”

Will the conflict spiral into a broader regional war? The Biden administration is growing “increasingly anxious” that Israel’s enemies might respond to the ground offensive by opening new fronts in the conflict, a fear that Iran has already threatened to turn into a reality.

The U.S. sent a second aircraft carrier strike group to the to the eastern Mediterranean this weekend, a move aimed at deterring Iran or Hezbollah — which Iran supports — from launching an attack.

Will the U.S. pull off its diplomatic balancing act? Secretary of State Antony Blinken is back in the Middle East this week for the second time since the Israel/Hamas war began. He is making stops in Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, attempting to coordinate with offiicals in each country to avoid a full-fledged humanitarian crisis.

Appeals from Biden and Blinken succeeded in persuading Israel to restart the water supply in southern Gaza, although Hamas says the water is still turned off. The U.S. is now focused on persuading Egypt to open a humanitarian corridor to allow passage out of Gaza for American citizens and other foreign nationals. Blinken said Sunday that the border crossing was poised to open, but it remains unclear if that is the case, as Egypt says Israel is blocking the delivery of aid to Gaza that Cairo had set as its condition.

Does President Biden visit Israel? Per Axios, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Biden to visit Israel, which he is considering doing as early as this week. A presidential visit would come as “both a show of support for Israel amid the war with Hamas and a message to Iran and Hezbollah not to join the fighting,” Axios notes.

Speaker fight

Can Jim Jordan get to 217? It has now been almost two weeks since the U.S. House has had a speaker. House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH), who became the GOP’s latest nominee for the post on Friday, plans to push forward with a speaker vote on the House floor tomorrow, despite lingering doubts that he can seal the deal.

As of Friday, 55 House Republicans said they would vote against Jordan on the floor; a senior House Republican told CNN that he has personally spoken to 20 colleagues who remain steadfast in their opposition. (Jordan can only afford four defections.) The hard-charging Ohioan has launched a pressure campaign — aided by Sean Hannity — to browbeat his rivals into submission, which some lawmakers say has only backfired.

Will someone run against Jordan? Per Politico, the anti-Jordan faction plans to field a candidate to run against him during the vote tomorrow, although they have yet to land on a specific challenger.

Whoever runs against Jordan will likely be more of a protest candidate — representing the objections of the “governing wing” of the House GOP, which has coalesced against Jordan — than a serious contender for the speakership. In an internal party vote on Friday, low-profile Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) played this role against Jordan. Despite not campaigning and saying he barely even wanted the job, Scott managed to receive 81 votes to Jordan’s 124.

Is Patrick McHenry here to stay? If Jordan falters on the floor, expect House Republicans to look seriously at the possibility of empowering Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick Henry (R-NC) for a longer turn at the helm.

A group of centrist Democrats are already offering to make a deal with McHenry, temporarily giving him expanded authority in exchange for allowing floor votes on more Democratic-authored bills.

2024 campaign

Will the Israel/Hamas war have any impact? With Israel mired in conflict, the Republican presidential candidates have turned from concentrating on domestic matters to a fresh focus on foreign policy. Some pundits have suggested Nikki Haley — with her credentials as a former UN ambassador — could benefit from the shift, or that Trump could falter after breaking with Netanyahu.

But more likely — like almost every event of the past few months — the war won’t change the primary calculus much. Regardless, pay close attention to the polls this week to see if there’s any Haley bump or Trump drop.

Will Trump receive (another) gag order? Former President Trump was recently hit with a gag order in his New York civil trial — but he could soon face the first gag order in any of his criminal trials. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan is set to hear arguments today in response to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s request to rein in Trump’s incendiary comments about potential witnesses.

Can Mike Pence’s campaign survive? Third-quarter fundraising reports came in this weekend, and Mike Pence took in less money than any of his major rivals. As NBC News notes, Pence is mired in mounting debt and “operating on completely different financial terrain from that of his rivals.” How much longer can Pence go on, as his polling numbers stagnate and his campaign goes into debt?

More news to know.

Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry. (Gage Skidmore)

Louisiana: Republican Jeff Landry wins the Louisiana governor’s race, reclaims office for GOP (AP)

Israel: Poll: Americans are deeply sympathetic toward Israelis and see their military response to Hamas attacks as justified (CNN)

Hate crime: Muslim boy killed and woman wounded in Illinois hate crime motivated by Israel-Hamas war, police say (AP)

2024: Biden raises $71 million in 3rd quarter, far outpacing Trump and the Republican field (USA Today)

Santos: George Santos’ campaign loses $16,500 in three month (Axios)

Abortion: How Kari Lake’s Tactical Retreat on Abortion Could Point the Way for the GOP (NYT)

Elections around the world: Polish opposition looks set to oust ruling nationalists in major political shift (Reuters)

The day ahead.

The D.C. courthouse where arguments on a potential Trump gag order will be held today. (Gabe Fleisher)

White House: President Biden was set to visit Pueblo, Colorado — Lauren Boebert territory — for an economic speech today, but the trip was scrapped this morning at the last minute. Biden will instead remain at the White House to monitor the situation in Israel.

Congress: The Senate will hold a procedural vote on a Biden judicial nominee. House Republicans are set to meet at 6:30 p.m. ET ahead of tomorrow’s expected speaker vote.

Courts: The Supreme Court has no oral arguments for the next two weeks. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan will hear arguments on whether to censor Donald Trump with a gag order.

Thanks for reading.

I get up each morning to write Wake Up To Politics because I’m committed to offering an independent and reliable news source that helps you navigate our political system and understand what’s going on in government.

The newsletter is completely free and ad-free — but if you appreciate the work that goes into it, here’s how you can help:

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.‌‌‌‌

Thanks so much for waking up to politics! Have a great day.‌‌‌‌

— Gabe