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Ron Klain, Elder Statesman, Writes Memos
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Now, on with the latest FAKE Ron Klain memo.
FROM: Ron Klain
RE: An old dog doesn’t need new tricks….
Mr. President, from out here in the private sector, things look pretty darn good.
I’m not saying you should start outlining a 2025 cabinet in your mind quite yet.
But it looks like you might have to come up with some names, Secretary-of-Agriculture-for-Life Tom Vilsack being perhaps just one of a handful of exceptions.
Between all the strong below-the-radar work Team Biden-Harris is doing and the comic trajectory on the Republican side, this campaign could end up being easier than 2020 was for us.
I’m confident the historic lack of leaking by our folks and the (relatively) small amount of infighting in the administration and at the campaign will continue.
We make the “No drama Obama” folks look like the output of a series of sequential and increasingly heated phone calls between Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner, and Maggie Haberman.
From our core team to our Hill allies to the groups to the First Lady – everyone agrees on how to get you re-elected and the importance of your getting four more years.
Before I give you my perspective on our side, let me tell you what I’m hearing and seeing across the aisle.
The press is bored with your efforts, and fascinated by the Republican presidential nomination contest. And in that fascination, they are badly underestimating the chaos and division to come that will be driven by the Republican process.
Trump is of course pure mayhem. But DeSantis and he will have a titanic fight, and there are about six or seven other hopefuls who will have to rattle every cage and stick a finger in every eye to get attention. At some point, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them makes like a Vietnam-era monk and lights himself on fire to get a bit of coverage.
Almost all of them will be catering to the MAGA folks, which will define the party, leaving the Bush wing feeling bleak. From the Daily Caller to Tucker Carlson to Team McConnell to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the hand wringing will be intense and dejected. All of which will work to your benefit.
No one knows what is going to happen, but the most likely scenarios (Trump wraps it up by South Carolina; DeSantis wins a battle that goes well past Super Tuesday, with a vanquished Trump sulking and undermining his party) all will make you look better and better.
The media will continue to fret about your “delay” in announcing formally you are running. Those of us who have been around you know there is no such thing as a big Joe Biden decision that is not deferred until the last possible moment (or a bit later). There is ZERO reason for you to get into this race anytime soon except for fundraising, and the team has found a way to finesse that.
You were the most experienced person in modern American history to enter the vice presidency and then the most experienced to become president -- and you will run for re-election as the most experienced national candidate of all time — at it since 1988 (that’s 35 years!).
When people ask me what the re-elect will be about I say, “Look at the State of the Union address.” Mike laid it all out there for the world to see.
MAGA versus sane. Destroyers of entitlements versus protector of entitlements. Disband NATO versus allies around the world.
And, of course, BIDEN-HARRIS ‘24: NO MORE RESORT FEES.
Doug Sosnik, Ken Mehlman, and Jim Messina might have all smartly looked at the past lessons learned of how to win a presidential re-election, but we are looking at EVERY successful presidential campaign since 1992.
From Bill Clinton ’92: Rely on longstanding relationships with the left to get “permission” to do some triangulation….coordinate with the Democrats on the Hill, knowing that Chuck and Hakeem are every bit as cutthroat as George Mitchell (and will get just as much of a free pass from our friends in the press to do whatever we need)….talk up manufacturing, education, and good jobs…..opportunity, responsibility, and community…..specificity is a character issue; we will continue to bombard the world with “fact sheets” that the media will ignore but the impacted groups will love…..
From Bill Clinton ’96: Emphasize micro issues that cut across gender, class, and race (them: school uniforms; us: credit card fees)….define the opposition early with coordinated paid and earned media (them: DoleGingrich; us: TrumpDeSantisGreeneGaetz)….get to the hawkish right of the Republicans on a couple of foreign policy issues…build a bridge to whatever comes next….
From George W. Bush ’00: Get the campaign out of DC….build an all-star team of diverse surrogates to flood the zone on fundraising, campaign travel, TV hits….be a happy warrior….use humor to make the most cutting attacks….get the Cheneys on board…..
From George W. Bush ’04: Go with the meta slogan “Times are tough, stay the course”….have a rapid response team that takes advantage of every opponent mistake in real time….have coordinated command and control between the White House and the campaign that puts the interests of the candidate first….listen to EVERYTHING the First Lady says….
From Barack Obama ’08: Be the cool hand when the other side is getting hot and bothered….sell hope and change every chance you get…..make Joe Biden’s experience a virtue…
From Barack Obama ’12: Hammer the opposition for supporting tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts to entitlements….put non-traditional media central to the messaging plan….make Joe Biden’s experience a virtue….
From Donald Trump ’16: Emphasize the nation’s “forgotten men and women”….micro target every conceivable demographic group with special messages…get the Romneys on board….
From Joe Biden ’20: Make the campaign a battle for the heart and soul of the nation….
Jen and Anita and Mike have more authority to use the government to further an incumbent re-election than any past White House team with the obvious exception of when James Baker dined alone.
That’s mostly good news, but it does make it harder to find folks to staff the formal senior campaign team, most of whom will end up being glorified deputy campaign managers for operations.
I continue to do all my career planning with an eye on making sure I will have ample time (and limited conflicts) to be a big part of the campaign.
For one thing, we will have the earliest start to debate prep ever; in fact, it is already underway. We are going to turn those frequent RNC videos mocking you into the greatest expectations lowering device of all time. If we get you a ton of rest before the first debate, you will be as sharp as you were with Prime Minister Trudeau last week – and you will blow everyone away and put to rest doubts about your fitness to serve.
We already have plenty of oppo on Robert Kennedy and Marianne Williamson, but I don’t think we will ever have to use it.
Someone just needs to manage the Axelrod account aggressively. Since he considers himself to be everyone’s superior, there’s no great choice for the role. But Ben LaBolt knows where all the pushable buttons are. He’s like Rahm, if Rahm had a soul.
Jeff is doing great as my replacement. Yes, there have been the hiccups we have discussed, but we all knew there would be some growing pains with a different chief of staff model. As we have already seen, whenever the press pokes around, the wagons will be circled.
Every challenge we face – the economy, public health, immigration, crime – were all there in 2022, and we romped, thanks to MAGA and your leadership. DeSantis is just a younger Trump and everyone is already seeing that.
In the Piers Morgan interview, he wouldn’t say where he was on 9/11, and he said personal character doesn’t matter in public officials, only public character. We aren’t sure yet where those two curious responses go, but this is not a normal person. In the end, he might turn out to be so freakish he makes Donald Trump look like Tom Carper.
We would still rather run against Trump, but we can beat either of them.
I’m staying in touch with everyone regularly, although dealing with the West Coast is certainly distracting. To twist the old Begala line, Hollywood is Washington for people who think they know everything about politics. Man, if I have to listen to one more agent tell me he knows exactly how to beat Trump….
Your workouts still seem to be going great – you look fantastic!!
PS: With 2008 and 2016 being the only exceptions the research department could find, voters otherwise never cast their ballots based on the bottom of the ticket.
* The Associated Press, in the first significant positive DeSantis clip in a bit (although it ain’t all positive); note in particular throughout this is the rare news story that purports to reflect the “private” views of Team DeSantis, whose members don’t engage much for attribution of any sort:
DeSantis’ allies privately scoffed at recent reports of anonymous concerns over the direction of his campaign, noting there is no campaign. The 44-year-old governor isn’t expected to launch his White House bid for at least two more months. And the first presidential primary contest is roughly 10 months away.
For now, DeSantis’ team, headquartered here on the front edge of Florida’s Panhandle, believes he holds a position of strength among Republican voters. And as Trump fights to undermine DeSantis, his strongest Republican rival, the Florida governor’s growing coalition is eager to highlight the contrast between the two men….
“Of all the things that Donald Trump has done and accomplished in his life, it’s just constant chaos. And I think the American people are just tired of it,” said Florida state Rep. Spencer Roach, a former Trump supporter who thinks DeSantis would be “a very formidable presidential candidate….”
Should Trump be charged, DeSantis supporters concede that Trump would likely benefit politically — in the short term, at least — as the GOP base rushes to defend their former leader from what they see as a weaponized justice system. But in the long term, DeSantis’ team believes primary voters will view Trump’s legal challenges as an acute reminder of his extraordinary baggage that could lead to another Republican disappointment in 2024….
In an effort to combat the perception that his numbers might be slipping, DeSantis’ allies quietly distributed polling conducted last week in Iowa and New Hampshire by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies that suggests vulnerability for Trump.
At Thursday’s book signing in Tallahassee, the Florida governor made little effort to speak to people who had waited in the long line — aside from an obligatory “Hey, how are you?” — as he signed their books. Most of the one-on-one interactions were silent and spanned less than 10 seconds as he scribbled his name on the inside cover.
DeSantis’ staff wouldn’t allow pictures.
* The Wall Street Journal has a meaty piece on alleged infighting and chaos among Donald Trump’s legal team, from which you will learn little about the main topic if you follow this stuff closely, but these parts are interesting:
Mr. Trump has kept a normal schedule at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He dined Thursday night with friend and actor Jon Voight. In conversations with advisers last week, he has talked about his polling advantage over Mr. DeSantis, and has been exploring new avenues to attack the governor.
His legal operation stands in contrast to his campaign, which so far has lacked the internal disorganization and drama of the past, and is led by two veteran operatives, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita.
The Trump operation, which in some previous inquiries has relied on congressional Republicans to battle in its defense, has done less to coordinate strategy with the Hill this time, even as a group of House Republicans have argued that Mr. Bragg is abusing his authority, according to a person familiar with the matter.
* Add this David French column to the clips Team Trump will cite if DA Bragg indicts, what with Mr. French saying “non” to this case.
* The Associated Press, in a very long and mysterious story:
China’s global campaign to win friends and influence policy has blossomed in a surprising place: Utah, a deeply religious and conservative state with few obvious ties to the world’s most powerful communist country.
An investigation by the Associated Press has found that China and its U.S.-based advocates spent years building relationships with the state’s officials and lawmakers. Those efforts have paid dividends at home and abroad, the AP found: Lawmakers delayed legislation Beijing didn’t like, nixed resolutions that conveyed displeasure with its actions and expressed support in ways that enhanced the Chinese government’s image.
Its work in Utah is emblematic of a broader effort by Beijing to secure allies at the local level as its relations with the U.S. and its western allies have turned acrimonious. U.S. officials say local leaders are at risk of being manipulated by China and have deemed the influence campaign a threat to national security.
Former Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou departed for a tour of China Monday, in what he called an attempt to reduce tensions a day after Taiwan lost one of its few remaining diplomatic partners to China.
The ex-president is visiting in a private capacity, bringing a delegation of academics and college students for exchanges, as well as members of his family, but the trip is loaded with political meaning.
Ma’s policies brought Taiwan and Beijing to their closest relationship ever, but his exit from office was overshadowed by massive protests against a trade deal with the mainland and his successor has focused on bolstering ties with the U.S. and defending the autonomy of the democratically governed island that China claims as part of its own territory.
Current President Tsai Ing-wen is expected to launch a 10-day diplomatic tour of her own Wednesday, ostensibly to visit the island’s remaining allies in Latin America. She will stop in the U.S., Taiwan’s biggest unofficial partner and supplier of arms.