POLITICO Playbook: Get ready for a bonkers week in politics

With help from Garrett Ross

JUST POSTED —“Biden, Xi meet amid efforts to cool tensions between their nations,” by Jonathan Lemire: “The two leaders shook hands against a backdrop of flags and, in their brief opening remarks, focused on the need to create a foundation for a relationship. … The two men, along with their small team of aides and translators, then disappeared to begin their hours-long meeting.“

BREAKING OVERNIGHT —WaPo: “Three people were fatally shot and two others were injured on the campus of the University of Virginia late Sunday, U-Va. officials said, in an outburst of violence that set off an intense manhunt in and around Charlottesville for a suspect police described as armed and dangerous.”

WHAT A WEEK — Monday:JOE BIDEN and XI JINPING meet in Indonesia. MIKE PENCE’s sitdown interview with ABC’s David Muir airs. The House and Senate return to session. Tuesday: House GOP leadership elections. New books released by MICHELLE OBAMA and Pence. DONALD TRUMP expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign from Mar-a-Lago. … Wednesday: Senate GOP leadership elections. Long-delayed NASA Artemis I moon mission scheduled for launch. Thursday: Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) testifies before a Georgia grand jury on Trump’s alleged post-2020 election interference. … Friday: Republican Jewish Coalition annual meeting begins in Las Vegas, featuring speeches from Pence and Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS but not Trump … Saturday: NAOMI BIDEN’s White House wedding. … Sunday: Biden turns 80.

WHITHER THE HOUSE — Control of the House remains undetermined, but Democrats’ path to keeping their majority narrowed Sunday. POLITICO projects that Republicans have won 212 seats to Democrats’ 203. Per our Steve Shepard: Only 10 remaining uncalled races are true toss-ups, with Republicans needing to win THREE to secure the majority. GOP candidates now lead in SEVEN of those toss-up races.

Three races trended away from Democrats after Sunday’s ballot drops …

— AZ-01: Rep. DAVID SCHWEIKERT (R) pulled ahead of JEVIN HODGE (D) by 894 votes.

— AZ-06:JUAN CISCOMANI (R) expanded his lead over KIRSTEN ENGEL (D) and is now ahead by 1,773 votes.

— CA-41: Rep. KEN CALVERT (R) expanded his lead over WILL ROLLINS (D) and is now ahead by 4,066 votes.

The upshot: “Dems’ dreams of holding the House majority probably died tonight,” Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman tweeted.

INSIDE THE GOP RECKONING — For Republicans, Festivus comes early this year. In fact, it starts today at 4:30 p.m.

That’s when House Republicans kick off their candidate forum for leadership positions next Congress — the first formal event in what is expected to be a weeklong, party-wide Airing of Grievances following Republicans’ abysmal Election Day performance.

Would-be speaker KEVIN McCARTHY will face a stalking-horse challenge from senior House Freedom Caucus member ANDY BIGGS (R-Ariz.), who — as CNN’s Mel Zanona scooped — is running to demonstrate that the California Republican doesn’t have the 218 votes to be speaker.

Biggs’ challenge won’t matter — not yet, anyway. McCarthy only needs a majority of the GOP conference to get the speaker nomination this week, and he’ll easily get it. It’s not until January that he has to win a majority of the full House, giving him about 35 days to try to cajole his members. If current ballot trends hold, he will only be able to afford a small handful of defections.

Conservatives are still asking for a leadership election delay. They note that many races haven’t been called, meaning would-be Republicans won’t get a chance to vote on next Congress’ leadership teams. The Club for Growth also urged a pause over the weekend. But McCarthy, we’re told, has no intention of pumping the brakes. Read Olivia Beavers’ preview of the GOP races

Meanwhile, in the Senate …

MITCH McCONNELL, we hear, is confident of his own reelection as leader — even as he faces mounting pushback from Trump allies in the chamber. On Sunday night, Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) became the latest Republican to back a delay of Wednesday’s scheduled leadership elections — citing the Dec. 6 Georgia runoff.

“In light of #GASen runoff, it would be appropriate to delay Senate leadership elections until we know who is in the Senate Republican Conference,” he tweeted. “I totally agree with Senator [TED CRUZ] that to do otherwise would be disrespectful to [HERSCHEL WALKER].

Graham is the eighth incumbent Republican senator to implicitly rebuke McConnell by publicly backing an election delay. But the Senate GOP’s center of gravity still lies closer to Sen. TOM COTTON (R-Ark.), who publicly dismissed the calls Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation”:

“I don’t see why we would delay the election, since all five or six of our leadership elections are uncontested,” Cotton told Margaret Brennan. “You know, the great wrestling champion RIC FLAIR used to say, ‘To be the man, you gotta beat the man.’ And so far, no one’s had the nerve to step forward and challenge Sen. McConnell.”

And on the 2024 presidential front … 

Trump’s scheduled Tuesday campaign announcement is still moving full steam ahead despite fellow Republicans begging him to hold off in light of the pending Georgia contest.

One person familiar with his plans told Playbook that Trump would never postpone the kickoff, if only because doing so would be a tacit acknowledgement that he is, in fact, a drag on GOP candidates running in close general elections.

Trump’s team is trying to frame his announcement to feel “more like 2016, less like 2020,” according to another top adviser. There’s a hope in his camp that since he’ll be declaring against an incumbent, he can reclaim an anti-establishment, Washington-outsider mantle. Serious question: Does Mar-a-Lago have an escalator?

The announcement, we’ll remind you, comes the same day Pence’s new book, “So Help Me God” ($35), drops. The former VP is working hard to capture at least some of this busy week’s spotlight, sitting down with ABC’s David Muir for his first televised interview since the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

In a first clip released Sunday, Pence gave his most unvarnished assessment yet of Trump’s conduct that day: “The president’s words were reckless and his actions were reckless. The president’s words that day at the rally [before the riot] endangered me and my family and everyone at the Capitol building.”

The balance of the interview will air later today on “World News Tonight.” ABC teases that Pence will address Trump’s expected 2024 reelection bid, whether Pence will launch a presidential campaign himself, Trump’s effect on the midterms and “what Pence makes of authorities saying classified documents were taken from the White House.”

DEMS IN DELAY — GOP drama aside, Speaker NANCY PELOSI might actually be the pivotal character of the week. With control of the House still in the balance, House Democrats have been left twiddling their thumbs as they await a long-anticipated retirement announcement — or news that she plans to seek another term as leader.

While few expect the latter, Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm showing has made a Pelosi return suddenly seem a lot more plausible — particularly if Democrats somehow manage to hold the House. That’s because the party would likely have only a one- or two-seat margin, a dynamic that would make managing the already unruly Democratic caucus an almost impossible task.

Impossible, that is, for anyone except Pelosi, who has proven she can do just that and could see herself being drafted into staying on for another two years. She turned heads Sunday when she suggested on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she was entertaining requests for her to stay put: “My members are asking me to consider doing that.”

While we wait for the House to be called — and Pelosi to make her intentions known — the Democratic leadership derby is largely, but not entirely, frozen in place. One hot spot is the race to chair the DCCC, which officially became a contested race this morning with the entry of Rep. AMI BERA (D-Calif.).

Our Nick Wu scooped the announcement from Bera, who chaired the DCCC’s frontliner program and is “telling his colleagues his work to protect the party’s seats this cycle … can make him an effective campaign chief for the next election.” He will face off against fellow California Rep. TONY CÁRDENAS, who formerly chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s campaign arm and announced a bid Friday. Read Bera’s Dear Colleague letter

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. We hope you got some rest this weekend, because this week is going to exhaust you! Grab that coffee, and send us your tips on the Senate and House leadership election drama: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.



HOW IT HAPPENED — “How Catherine Cortez Masto clinched the Nevada seat — and the Senate,” by NBC’s Natasha Korecki in Sparks, Nev.: “In a backyard on a sunny afternoon in late October, a smattering of former office holders, donors and prominent Nevada families surrounded Democratic Sen. CATHERINE CORTEZ MASTO and offered their endorsements.

“The significance? They were all Republicans from the swing area of Washoe County, and some supported abortion rights, just like Cortez Masto, who lost the county in 2016. But she couldn’t lose it again if she were to defeat her GOP opponent, ADAM LAXALT, in what would become one of the closest races in the country. The campaign’s internal data moving into the fall showed that a significant number of Nevadans still didn’t know Laxalt’s stance on abortion, said an adviser to Cortez Masto. That underscored a vulnerability on an issue she was certain would motivate the electorate.”

RUNOFF REPORT — “With Democratic Senate sealed, Walker and Warnock try to rev up voters,” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Shannon McCaffrey and Greg Bluestein: “In urgent messages to left-leaning voters, [Sen. RAPHAEL] WARNOCK’s allies framed his race as a crucial 51st vote to better insulate Democrats from the whims of U.S. Sens. JOE MANCHIN of West Virginia and KYRSTEN SINEMA of Arizona, two moderate Democrats who have opposed key liberal legislation. … [HERSCHEL] WALKER’s supporters, meanwhile, brushed aside concerns that his base would be less intense now that one of his core arguments — that a vote for Walker would flip the chamber — is off the table.”

“Shorter voting window could cut turnout in Georgia runoff,” by AP’s Jeff Amy in Atlanta: “Under Georgia’s 2021 election law, there will be only four weeks before the runoff — with Thanksgiving in the middle. Many Georgians will be offered only five weekdays of early in-person voting beginning Nov. 28. And June’s primary runoffs showed time for mail ballots to be received and returned can be very tight.”

“Saturday voting barred in U.S. Senate runoff after Ga. holidays,” by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Niesse: “Early voting won’t be allowed on a Saturday before the U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia because it’s the day after the state holiday formerly known as ROBERT E. LEE’s Birthday and two days after Thanksgiving.”

THE KEY IN THE KEYSTONE — “Democrats See a Blueprint in Fetterman’s Victory in Pennsylvania,” by NYT’s Trip Gabriel in Kittanning, Pa.: “An alternative explanation for why [JOHN] FETTERMAN did so much better than Mr. Biden in red counties, besides winning some former Trump supporters, is that a different spectrum of voters turned out in 2022 than during the presidential race two years ago. Mr. Fetterman, who campaigned aggressively for more than a year in the rural counties before his stroke under the banner ‘every county, every vote,’ may have inspired inconsistent voters who still leaned Democratic to turn out for him. And Trump supporters may have skipped voting in the midterms because [MEHMET] OZ failed to excite them.”

BY THE WAY — “Doug Mastriano concedes to Josh Shapiro, five days after Election Day,” by the Philly Inquirer’s Chris Brennan

TRUST THE PROCESS — “Election Day saw few major problems, despite new voting laws,” by AP’s Christina Cassidy and Gary Fields: “There have been no widespread reports of voters being turned away at the polls, and turnout, while down from the last midterm cycle four years ago, appeared robust in Georgia, a state with hotly competitive contests for governor and U.S. Senate. The lack of broad disenfranchisement isn’t necessarily a sign that everyone who wanted to vote could; there’s no good way to tell why certain voters didn’t cast a ballot.”

“Arizona precincts with voting problems were not overwhelmingly Republican,” by WaPo’s Lenny Bronner, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez in Phoenix: “The finding undercuts claims by some Republicans — most notably KARI LAKE, the GOP nominee for governor, and former president Donald Trump — that GOP areas in the county were disproportionately affected by the problems, which involved a mishap with printers. Republicans nonetheless argue that their voters were more likely to be affected, given their tendency to vote on Election Day rather than mail in their ballots.”

WAY OUT WEST — “Democratic wins in Washington state buoy party hopes,” by AP’s Gene Johnson in Seattle


WHAT’S COMING DOWN THE PIKE — “Fiscal winter is coming: Lawmakers’ 5 chilly hills to climb,” by Caitlin Emma: “Lawmakers will return to session on Monday barreling at full speed toward a series of high-stakes fiscal hurdles while control of the House remains unsettled. Before year’s end, they’ll have to keep the government open after current funding expires Dec. 16, and tackle Medicare cuts on the horizon — making for a hectic post-election session, given the other fights looming as soon as 2023 begins. And the dynamics of a new Congress are already making legislating even harder.” The five hurdles: 1) Government funding … 2) The debt ceiling … 3) Ukraine aid … 4) Recession relief … 5) Medicare cuts.

AID ON THE WAY — “Congress seeks to arm Taiwan quickly as China threat grows,” by WaPo’s Ellen Nakashima: “Deliberations on an unprecedented package of billions of dollars in military assistance to the self-governing island democracy come as Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping meet in Bali on Monday, with maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait a top item of discussion.

“The bipartisan effort would enable the U.S. military to dip immediately into its own stocks of weapons like Javelins and Stingers — something done at scale only for Ukraine, officials said — and provide weapons for the first time to Taiwan through the foreign military financing program, paid for by the United States.”


HEADS UP — “Deadly Bombing in Istanbul Is Being Investigated as a Terrorist Attack,” by NYT’s Ben Hubbard and Safak Timur

SETTING THE TABLE — “Biden says he’s going into Xi meeting ‘stronger’ after Senate victory,” by WaPo’s Yasmeen Abutaleb and Matt Viser in Phnom Penh, Cambodia: “‘I know I’m coming in stronger, but I don’t need that,’ Biden said Sunday of his meeting with Xi, which is scheduled to take place one day before the beginning of the Group of 20 summit in Bali. ‘I know him well. He knows me. There’s no — we have very little misunderstanding. We just got to figure out where the red lines are and what we — what are the most important things to each of us going into the next two years. And his circumstance has changed, to state the obvious, at home.’”

Related reads: “Biden’s past promises for US to defend Taiwan under microscope in meeting with China’s Xi,” by CNN’s Kevin Liptak … “Xi Jinping Steps Back Onto Global Stage After Three-Year Absence,” by WSJ’s James Areddy … “Dozens of Americans Are Barred From Leaving China, Adding to Tensions,” by WSJ’s James Areddy and Brian Spegele

AT THE G-20 SUMMIT — “Divided over Ukraine war, G-20 summit struggles on economic agenda,” by WaPo’s David Lynch and Emily Rauhala in Bali: “Twenty of the world’s most powerful men and women will meet here this week with the global economy weakening by the day, developing countries facing a looming debt crisis and war raging in Europe. The Group of 20 leaders summit is expected to do precious little about any of it.”

SPY GAMES — “Iran and China Use Private Detectives to Spy on Dissidents in America,” by NYT’s Benjamin Weiser and William Rashbaum: “Across America, investigators are increasingly being hired by a new kind of client — authoritarian governments like Iran and China attempting to surveil, harass, threaten and even repatriate dissidents living lawfully in the United States, law enforcement officials said. Federal indictments and complaints in the past two years detail cases in which private investigators were drawn into such schemes in New York, California and Indiana, and F.B.I. officials say they believe others have been as well.”

2024 WATCH

LOOKING AHEAD — “Republican rivals start considering a post-Trump future,” by WaPo’s Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Michael Scherer: “In private conversations among donors, operatives and other 2024 presidential hopefuls, a growing number of Republicans are trying to seize what they believe may be their best opportunity to sideline Trump and usher in a new generation of party leaders. Many of the party’s top donors are actively trying to back other candidates and are tired of Trump, according to Republican officials and operatives in touch with them.”


PULLING THE LEVERS — “Trump Wanted I.R.S. Investigations of Foes, Top Aide Says,” by NYT’s Michael Schmidt: “While in office, President Donald J. Trump repeatedly told JOHN F. KELLY, his second White House chief of staff, that he wanted a number of his perceived political enemies to be investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, Mr. Kelly said.

“Mr. Kelly, who was chief of staff from July 2017 through the end of 2018, said in response to questions from The New York Times that Mr. Trump’s demands were part of a broader pattern of him trying to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who had been critical of him, including seeking to revoke the security clearances of former top intelligence officials. Mr. Kelly said that among those Mr. Trump said ‘we ought to investigate’ and ‘get the I.R.S. on’ were the former F.B.I. director JAMES B. COMEY and his deputy, ANDREW G. McCABE.”


THE VIEW FROM KHERSON — “Russia Tried to Absorb a Ukrainian City. It Didn’t Work,” by NYT’s Andrew Kramer


FOR YOUR RADAR — “Investigation underway over midair crash at Dallas air show,” by AP’s Juan Lozano, Josh Funk and LM Otero in Dallas

DATELINE NEWTOWN — “Sandy Hook memorial opens nearly 10 years after 26 killed,” by AP’s Dave Collins


TURNING THE PAGE — “The New York Post aims national,” by Semafor’s Max Tani: “[KEITH] POOLE is a new model leader for a newspaper that has turned from a money-losing local hobby for RUPERT MURDOCH into a national political force. The Post said it nearly doubled its profits in 2022 compared to 2021, and brought in 198 million unique users in June 2022 compared to 123 million in the previous year. The paper has also become an influential voice in national Republican politics.”


DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS — Platformer’s @CaseyNewton: “Company sources tell me that yesterday Twitter eliminated ~4,400 of its ~5,500 contract employees, with cuts expected to have significant impact to content moderation and the core infrastructure services that keep the site up and running. People inside are stunned.” More from AP


BUILD BACK BETTER — “Union Station has fallen on hard times. Can it be saved?” by WaPo’s Luz Lazo: “Travelers, commuters and workers say they are worried about the fate of the 115-year-old landmark, a once-vibrant gateway into the nation’s capital that was a destination on its own. They cite rising concerns about safety, encounters with those suffering from mental health episodes and declines in the building’s upkeep — deterioration that became evident years ago but was hastened by the pandemic.”

Donald Trumpput on a tux for Israel.

Tuesday’s results didn’t do much for the Ruben GallegoKyrsten Sinema relationship.

Ivanka Trump cropped Kimberly Guilfoyle out of a Tiffany Trump wedding photo, then later posted the full picture.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at David and Danielle Pasch’s Arlington house on Sunday for a party celebrating NPR’s Tim Mak‘s move from Washington to LA: Jonathan Swan and Betsy Woodruff Swan, Jamie Weinstein and Michelle Fields, Byron Tau, Alicia Rose, Sahil Kapur, Adam Klasfeld and Will Dugan.

MEDIA MOVE — Steven Ginsberg is leaving WaPo to run The Athletic, Semafor’s Max Tani reports.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Sarah Peck is joining GoFundMe as senior director of public affairs. She most recently was comms director and a deputy assistant secretary at DHS and is a Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign alum.

TRANSITIONS — Angela Chiappetta is now senior VP for business development at Direct Impact/BCW Global. She previously was managing director for business development at Rational 360. … Haley Scott, John Blasco, Tevin Williams and Simone Kanter will be chief of staff, district director, director of community and external affairs, and press secretary for Rep.-elect Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.). Scott was most recently a VP at BerlinRosen. Blasco was most recently chief of staff for New York Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. Williams was previously a legislative aide in New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman’s office. Kanter was previously comms director for Goldman’s campaign.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Ainsley Holyfield, director of public affairs for the Distilled Spirits Council and a Mike Johnson and Scott DesJarlais alum, and Vincent Giglierano, senior manager at Faegre Drinker Biddle and a Glen Grothman alum, got married on Saturday at the Hermann-Grima House and Broussard’s in New Orleans. The couple first met at the Georgia State Society’s Pig Jig in 2016. PicAnother picAnother pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Amanda Gonzalez Thompson, comms director for Senate Banking Committee Republicans and ranking member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and Will Thompson, associate at Sidley Austin, welcomed William Henry Thompson IV on Thursday. He came in at 5 lbs, 9 oz. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) and Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) … Condoleezza RiceValerie JarrettBen RhodesTony PowellJacob Freedman of Albright Stonebridge … Peter LattmanSarah BinderJohn Jameson … POLITICO’s Lauren Lanza … WaPo’s Paige CunninghamRachel NoerdlingerLiz Morrison of No Labels … Randolph Court of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation … Ed RenoAshley Yehl FlanaganBrianna ManzelliMadeleine WeastJonathan Landman Jeff Danziger Prince Charles Bella GrabowskiCourtney Alexander

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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