President JOE BIDEN’s monthslong public opinion slump shows no signs of abating yet: A new AP/NORC Center for Public Research poll out this morning finds him slipping to the worst marks of his presidency, with a 39% approval rating.
FiveThirtyEight’s aggregated assessmentof Biden’s polls now slots him at 40.7% approval, just 0.3 percentage points off his all-time nadir in late February.
Under the hood: Most Americans are pessimistic about the direction of the country and the state of the economy in the AP poll, with the biggest drops since April coming from Democrats. A slight majority of Americans say Biden’s policies have done more to hurt the economy than help it. And the president’s approval rating among members of his own party doesn’t even clear the three-in-four mark.
KEYSTONE STATE LATEST — A new batch of ballots tallied in the ultra-close Pennsylvania GOP Senate primary today bumped MEHMET OZ’s lead up slightly to 1,115 votes statewide. The race still looks headed for a recount, but this update constitutes a bit of good news for Oz since the votes came from Allegheny County, where DAVID MCCORMICK expected to do well, per NBC’s Steve Kornacki.
— Dave Wasserman assesses that progressive state Rep. SUMMER LEE has bested STEVE IRWIN in the Democratic primary for a Pittsburgh House seat.
DEMOCRACY WATCH — VIRGINIA THOMAS, the wife of Justice CLARENCE THOMAS, emailed Arizona officials after the 2020 election to urge them to subvert the results, WaPo’s Emma Brown scoops, making clear that she “was more deeply involved in the effort to overturn Biden’s win than has been previously reported.”
— There are higher-profile races, but there may be no more telling primary than next week’s GOP primary for Georgia secretary of state, the first big trial of whether Trumpist candidates who deny the reality of the 2020 election can take over states’ election administration. Zach Montellaro breaks down the race between incumbent BRAD RAFFENSPERGER and DONALD TRUMP-backed Rep. JODY HICE, in which polling leaves the outcome uncertain but Raffensperger could face a tough battle if it goes to a runoff.
In Nebraska and Idaho, Zach notes, election deniers lost primaries only because they split the vote. But in Georgia, you need 50% to win. “And that makes Tuesday’s primaries a true testof whether there’s room left in the GOP for an conservative Republican who checks nearly all the boxes on the party’s election administration orthodoxy — except for refusing to propagate the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.”
— From Savannah, WaPo’s Amy Gardner examines Raffensperger’s attempt to walk the Trump line, “courting the former president’s base while not completely abandoning his image as the rare Republican willing to take Trump on.” Even the fact that the race is close surprises some political observers, who’d expected a year ago that Raffensperger would have no shot after disobeying Trump, she notes.
— Related op-ed:WaPo’s Greg Sargent argues that with candidates like DOUG MASTRIANO ascendant, Democrats should “focus the public discussion more sharply on the precise nature of the threat” to democracy — and pass Electoral Count Act reform pronto to prevent Mastriano and others from stealing a future election. “At this point, is our system even capable of protecting itself from the gathering threat?” he concludes.
Happy Friday afternoon.
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
PAGING HILL REPUBLICANS — DHS is warning that it may need anywhere from $1.2 billion to $2 billion in new funding to handle a surge of migrants at the border as the administration prepares to lift the Title 42 policy, NBC’s Julia Ainsley and Jacob Soboroff scoop. They haven’t formally asked for a supplemental spending bill, but top officials are concerned they won’t be able to accommodate the expected influx.
LOOK WHO’S BACK — Former NYC Mayor BILL DE BLASIO said he’ll run for Congress in what’s likely to be an open Manhattan/Brooklyn seat under New York’s new draft district map. Announcement on “Morning Joe”
WHAT TEAM CHENEY IS TOUTING — For the Casper Star-Tribune and WyoFile, Victoria Eavis and Rone Tempest have a major deep dive into Wyoming GOP Chair FRANK EATHORNE, who’s ruled the party with a purist, small-tent vision and absolute statewide dominance. He’s secured big conservative victories but also alienated some Republicans. Now he’s pushing hard to oust Rep. LIZ CHENEY. “A working rancher with a reputation as a soft-spoken charmer, Eathorne’s journey to political power has not been without controversy,” they write, with tons more details in the full story.
POLL POSITION — The Power the Polls initiative that recruited poll workers in 2020 is relaunching its efforts this year, Zach scoops. They’re trying to get 2020 volunteers to reengage, with “a particular emphasis on recruiting workers who have specialized skill sets, like knowing multiple languages, that local officials need to run elections smoothly.”
JAN. 6 AND ITS AFTERMATH
EASTMAN LATEST — A new court filing shows that conservative lawyer JOHN EASTMAN was frequently in touch with Trump directly or indirectly in the weeks before Jan. 6, as he sought to craft a plan to help the president overturn the election, Kyle Cheney reports. “The filing also describes the direct role of Trump himself in developing strategy.” The filing
LIKE A ROLLING STONE — NYT’s Alan Feuer got access to the list of members in the Friends of Stone group chat, revealing that after the 2020 election, ROGER STONE “was involved with a strikingly wide array of people who participated in efforts to challenge the vote count and keep Mr. Trump in the White House.” Several of them are under investigation or have been charged in connection with Jan. 6.
THE WHITE HOUSE
SEOUL SEARCH — Not the welcome Biden expected: Two Secret Service agents were sent home following reports that one of them was under investigation for an off-duty drunken assault before the president arrived in South Korea. “The two went bar hopping Thursday night and returned to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, where the president is now staying,” CBS’ Sara Cook reports. “When one of the employees got into the physical ‘altercation’ with the taxi driver, the Secret Service, hotel security and local police were contacted. Only one employee was investigated by local authorities, and no one was detained, arrested or charged with any criminal conduct.”
TRADE WARS — WaPo’s David Lynch has some new reporting this morning on the Biden administration’s internal debates over whether to lift some China tariffs to try to fight inflation. The president isn’t yet convinced that he should remove the tariffs. Among the moves being considered: “The president could make it easier for importers to win waivers from the import levies. Or he could drop tariffs on some Chinese products while launching a new investigation of Chinese trade practices that could result in fresh tariffs on high-tech products or those improperly subsidized by Beijing.”
WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE IS TOUTING: this Bloomberg story on U.S. economic growth topping China’s for the first time in nearly half a century.
REALITY CHECK — The White House keeps emphasizing the country’s narrowing budget deficits as a tool to fight inflation. But NYT’s Talmon Joseph Smith and Jeanna Smialek dig into that claim with some skepticism, finding that the inflation/deficit connection is much more complex than that. “It’s probably not something they should be taking credit for,” one Moody’s expert tells them.
FOR YOUR RADAR — A Social Security anti-fraud program ramped up during the Trump administration to levy “unprecedented” fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars largely “on poor, disabled and elderly people, many of whom had no hope of ever being able to pay,” WaPo’s Lisa Rein reveals. “The remarkable penalties led to tumult inside the Office of Inspector General GAIL ENNIS, where a whistleblower was targeted for retaliation.”
PRESIDENTIAL PRESSURE — Abortion-rights advocates are urging Biden to take a more active and visible role ahead of the Supreme Court’s expected decision overturning Roe v. Wade, irritated that he hasn’t done more in the past few weeks, WSJ’s Catherine Lucey and Tarini Parti report. Notably, Biden “hasn’t given a speech on abortion, met at the White House with abortion providers or participated in a recent day of protest rallies around the nation.”
THE DATA ANGLE — Advocates and groups involved in providing telemedicine abortions “are shoring up privacy defenses and urging people seeking abortions to take steps to protect their data,” Ben Leonard reports. As red states crack down on abortion providers, fears about surveillance are rampant.
FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK — The Trump campaign and OMAROSA MANIGAULT NEWMAN have settled their NDA dispute for an undisclosed sum, according to her lawyer, JOHN PHILLIPS.
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
TREVOR REED SPEAKS — In the first clip from his interview with JAKE TAPPER airing this weekend, the former Russian detainee tells of his brutal experience in a psychiatric treatment center: “There was blood all over the walls there — where prisoners had killed themselves, or killed other prisoners, or attempted to do that,” he said, per CNN. “The toilet’s just a hole in the floor. And there’s, you know, crap everywhere, all over the floor, on the walls. There’s people in there also that walk around that look like zombies.”
WAR IN UKRAINE
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS …
— The eastern city of Sievierodonetsk is the latest site of intense fighting, with Ukraine saying a dozen civilians have been killed in the last day. But Ukraine said the Russian attack had been repelled, per the AP.
— Ukraine’s military intelligence chief tells WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov that Ukraine won’t give up until Russia is gone from the whole country — including Crimea and the Donbas.
— Russia said it will cut off natural gas exports to Finland, per the BBC.
— To shore up its military, Russia’s parliament said it will take up legislation to allow people over 40 to sign up, per Reuters.
IN MEMORIAM — “Donald K. Ross, Leading Public Interest Lawyer, Dies at 78,”by NYT’s Sam Roberts: “A Ralph Nader acolyte, he galvanized students in the 1970s and promoted social change through legislation, legal action and political pressure.”
OUT AND ABOUT — Thai Ambassador Manasvi Srisodapol hosted a festive reception at the Royal Thai Embassy in honor of the House Chiefs of Staff Association, with craft cocktails, a Thai buffet and a live band with karaoke. SPOTTED: Singapore Ambassador Ashok Mirpuri, Indonesian Ambassador Rosan Roeslani, Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Quoc Dzung,Mitchell Rivard, Nancy Peele, Charubhumi Ruangsuwan, Melanee Farrah, Chris Crawford, Robert Edmonson, Mark Dreiling, Kristin Walker, Ven Neralla, Chris Tomassi, Paige Hutchinson, John Byers, Tara Rountree, Tim Svoboda, James Bernhard and Jonathan Day.
— Alan Patricof had a garden party for his new book, “No Red Lights: Reflections on Life, 50 Years in Venture Capital, and Never Driving Alone” ($28), at Margaret Carlson’s home, co-hosted by Jane Harman and Afsaneh Beschloss. SPOTTED: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), French Ambassador Philippe Etienne, Italian Ambassador Mariangela Zappia,John Phillips,Linda Douglass, Andrea Mitchell, Michael Beschloss, Josh Dawsey,Jennifer Maguire and Chris Isham,Robert Barnett and Rita Braver,Kate Lehrer, Francesca Craig, David Adler, Margaret Warner, Pam Stevens, Michael Kinsley and Patty Stonesifer, and Sally Quinn.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Waleed Shahid, spokesperson for Justice Democrats, and Emily Mayer, founder of IfNotNow, got married Saturday in Coxsackie, N.Y. They met in college at Haverford. Pics
BONUS BIRTHDAY: Mia Phillips of CRC Research
Correction: Wednesday’s Playbook PM incorrectly listed Ashley Biden among the attendees at the John and Lillian Miles Lewis Foundation’s gala.