With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
NO TRANSPARENCY — “No Labels declines to reveal just who is funding its third party bid,” by Heidi Przybyla and Shia Kapos
TAKE THIS PLEDGE AND SHOVE IT — CNN’s @kaitlancollins: “WILL HURD, the newest Republican 2024 contender, says he won’t sign the RNC pledge to support the nominee. ‘I’m not going to support DONALD TRUMP.’ Asked if Trump betrayed the nation if the allegations against him are true, he says, ‘100% he did.’” Video of the exchange
PENCE LEANS IN ON ABORTION POLITICS — Tomorrow marks one year since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, revoking the constitutional right to abortion it established. And ever since, Republicans have been twisting themselves in knots over how to handle the fallout.
Trump avoids talking about the matter almost entirely. Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS signed a six-week abortion ban in the middle of the night in April and has barely spoken about it since. Sen. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) originally waffled on whether he’d support a nationwide abortion ban. And former South Carolina Gov. NIKKI HALEY has been vague about how she’d handle the issue as president.
Then there’s MIKE PENCE.
More than any other Republican candidate, the former VP has staked his pitch to voters on his unabashed restrictionist stance.
While some Republicans — including Trump and former New Jersey Gov. CHRIS CHRISTIE — say that in a post-Roe America, abortion policy should be left up to the states, Pence has endorsed a nationwide ban on the medical procedure at 15 weeks of gestation.
While some Republicans say the party shouldn’t weigh in on banning widely used abortion drugs, Pence’s 501(c)(4) group Advancing American Freedom has filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the most widely used abortion pill.
And this weekend, while Pence will be among a parade of 2024 hopefuls addressing evangelical conservatives at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference in Washington (more on that below), he is the only candidate who’ll also speak at the Students for Life rally on the National Mall, in addition to being the only candidate invited to address a nationwide Susan B. Anthony List call for activists commemorating the end of Roe.
Yesterday, we caught up with Pence to talk about the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs ruling. We wanted to know how he squares his own position with the political reality that abortion restrictions are consistently unpopular in polls and whether he’s worried that opposition will blow back on him and the GOP at the ballot box.
The upshot: not a bit. And he thinks Republican candidates need to stop running scared from the issue and embrace it head on. Listen to excerpts in Playbook Daily Briefing
HOW PENCE SEES IT: The GOP, Pence said, faces a choice, “whether or not we’re going to continue to be a party grounded in the conservative principles that have won not only the White House, but won majorities over the last 50 years again and again — or whether our party is going to shy away from those core traditional principles.”
As for him? “For me, for our campaign, we’re going to stand where we’ve always stood, and that is stand without apology for the right to life,” he said.
In our interview, Pence flatly rejected the conventional wisdom in Washington that Republicans suffered in the midterms because of Dobbs blowback. Those who lost, he said, had a “common denominator” that “has not to do with the issue of abortion.”
“Rather, where candidates were focused on the past — focused on relitigating the past — we did not fare well,” Pence said, a veiled reference to Republicans parroting the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election.
PENCE VS. THE FIELD: His unabashed stance on abortion is one way Pence differentiates himself from the rest of the GOP’s 2024 field. And he’s certainly not shy about drawing that contrast, particularly vis-a-vis Trump.
In our conversation, Pence brought up Trump several times unprompted — though never by name — arguing that Trump’s suggestion that the Dobbs ruling undercut the GOP in 2022 was “wrong,” and hitting back at Trump for criticizing DeSantis’ six-week ban as “too harsh.”
“In my announcement speech, I articulated my concern that my former running mate and other candidates in the field are backing away from an unwavering commitment to the right to life,” Pence said. “It’s not consistent with the kind of principled leadership that I believe Republicans are looking for in the cause of life.”
Asked if there should be a litmus test for Republicans to carry the “pro-life” label, Pence suggested they should all be supporting a nationwide abortion ban: “I would expect that pro-life voters around the country would … be looking for men and women willing to stand unambiguously for advancing the cause of the right to life at every level — at the state and federal level.”
He also vowed to do “everything in my power” to reverse approval of mifepristone if elected: “I do not support mail-order abortion,” he said.
PENCE’S STRATEGY: As the Republican Party struggles to make inroads with suburban women, Pence’s stances are politically risky for the GOP. But Pence said he has a prescription to help Republicans embrace this issue:
— First, articulate Democrats’ support for late-term abortions, which polling shows many Americans are wary of. “There’s no question that the Democrat Party’s position on abortion is out of step with 90% of the country,” Pence said.
— Second, pair abortion restrictions with what he called policies of “compassion.” That means, for instance, passing funding for anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers” that offer services to pregnant women and enacting reforms to make adoption more affordable, he said.
Even if the polls don’t change, Pence won’t be reassessing his stance.
“I knew that the cause of life would have to be my cause … and we’ve never wavered,” he said. “I’ve always stood for life. And whatever the future holds for me and my family, I always will.” For more, read our full story that just posted
Happy Friday. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
MAD LIBS HEADLINE OF THE DAY — “Moms for Liberty chapter apologizes for quoting Hitler in its newsletter,” by AP’s Ali Swenson
THE FAULT IN OUR RISING STARS — “Kentucky GOP Star Took Cash From Recovery Center He’s Investigating,” by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger: “In March and April, [Kentucky GOP AG DANIEL] CAMERON accepted $6,900 from officials at an addiction recovery center tied to an ongoing state investigation. Despite the donations, Cameron did not recuse himself from that investigation before he attacked the judge. Instead, he waited until an open records request threatened to reveal the existence of that investigation, personally withdrawing from the case two days after the request came in.”
LIVE FREE OR BYE — Olivia Beavers has the scoop on a simmering schism within the House Freedom Caucus over perceived fealty to leadership — a split that’s become so big that a vote to eject members got floated. “At least two hardliners have discussed — and proposed to Freedom Caucus Chair SCOTT PERRY (R-Pa.) — trying to boot members who no longer meet the group’s ideological standards, according to three Republicans with knowledge of the talks who spoke on condition of anonymity.
So who’s on the chopping block? “The lawmakers declined to name who’s behind the ouster calls, underscoring the sensitivity of the situation. While the members suggesting a purge did not specify the people they want to remove, they are signaling that one target of any ejection push is Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.).”
THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: RALPH REED — This week, as evangelical conservatives from across the country gather at the Washington Hilton for the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Conference, they’ll hear from a parade of 2024 hopefuls.
But one man looms above the entire proceeding: Trump.
He’s the only candidate about whom these two things can be said: (1) His personal and public life makes a mockery of the ideals of conservative evangelical voters, and (2) he’s delivered more policy victories for these same voters than any other president.
And those two statements — and their implications for 2024 — lead inevitably to the two central questions central to every political discussion at the conference: (1) Was the deal with Trump worth it for evangelical conservatives? (2) Should they, in essence, renew the contract?
Our guest on Playbook Deep Dive this week is the founder and chair of the Faith & Freedom Coalition: RALPH REED. A former aide de camp to Rev. PAT ROBERTSON, Reed is as savvy a political operator as exists on the religious right, with decades of experience that have taken him to the apex of American power.
Ryan sat down with him to talk 2024, Trump and the post-Dobbs political landscape. You can hear the conversation on Apple Podcasts or Spotify — but first, a couple choice moments …
Reed on the 2024 GOP primary: “Trump is in as formidable a position as any titular frontrunner for the nomination in my career. … My sense is that if DeSantis or someone else can win in either Iowa or New Hampshire, that this race will change overnight. … If Trump doesn’t lose either of those two, I think it’ll be almost impossible to stop him.”
On why some evangelicals prefer Trump to more devout alternatives: “PAUL WEYRICH … told me something one time when I was just a young buck coming up that I never forgot. He said, ‘Ralph, I would rather have somebody who isn’t one of us who thinks I elected him than somebody who is one of us who thinks he did it by himself.’
“And the point is this: Nothing against the candidates of genuine faith and longtime service … But I’ve worked with a lot of those guys, and a lot of them, they don’t think you did it; they think, ‘Well, they voted for me because I was the Sunday school teacher and the moral guy.’ Trump knew that people in the community had jumped on a grenade for him and it delivered the vote. He didn’t believe he had done it on his own, so he felt like he had a debt to repay. And that mattered.”
PHOTO OF THE DAY
As we approach the one-year mark of the Supreme Court’s monumental Dobbs decision, a number of outlets are rolling out pieces taking stock of where things stand one year later.
POLITICO Mag surveys a range of authorities: “These Experts Knew America Would Change after Roe. They Had No Idea How Much.”
WaPo: “Interviews with more than 30 key players in the abortion rights debate, including advocates, lawmakers and doctors, found that the stark lines dividing post-Roe America — with some states restricting abortion access and other states expanding it — have become far blurrier than many anticipated in the 12 months since the ruling.”
NYT: “At least 61 clinics, Planned Parenthood facilities and doctors’ offices stopped offering abortions in the last year. Most were in the 14 states that banned abortion outright. But the uncertainty surrounding laws in several other states also caused providers there to shut down.”
In the states:
THE WHITE HOUSE
MEMENTO MODI — In Biden and Modi’s joint news conference yesterday, Biden hailed the deepening relationship with India, highlighting the ascendant nation’s strategic importance while making only oblique references to New Delhi’s backsliding democracy, our colleagues Jonathan Lemire and Jennifer Haberkorn write. While Biden did not needle Modi or his country explicitly, he gently noted a need for a shared commitment to “democratic values.”
Modi’s message: “India’s Modi emphasizes democratic values despite human rights concerns,” by Lawrence Ukenye
The policy piece: “U.S., India resolve trade disputes, launch ‘new beginning,’” by Doug Palmer
EXPECT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THIS — “Brad Raffensperger’s refusal to fix voting machine bugs sets up 2024 election fight,” by John Sakellariadis and Kyle Cheney
BACKING BIDEN — Biden is expected to receive the formal endorsements of EMILY’s List, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund at an event in D.C. later today, Eugene scooped yesterday. While the backing from the three biggest abortion rights organizations in the country isn’t surprising, it adds to the growing list of endorsements that the Biden reelect has stacked up in the past few weeks.
BACK IN BUSINESS — “Trump, DeSantis interviews show Fox influence on GOP field still strong despite troubled year,” by AP’s David Bauder
THE PHILLY SPECIAL — “They Danced When Biden Won. Now They’re Biting Their Nails,” by Matt Taylor for POLITICO Magazine in Philadelphia: “A strong showing in the midterms should have Democrats sitting pretty. So why are some Philly Dems on edge?”
STUPID GAMES, MEET STUPID PRIZES — “Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer sues Kari Lake for defamation,” by the Arizona Republic’s Sasha Hupka
LABOR OF LOVE — “Group seeks boost to labor organizing in Senate,” by Daniella Diaz and Katherine Tully-McManus: “The effort, led by Sen. SHERROD BROWN (D-Ohio), comes more than a year after the House paved the way to allow staffers to unionize if they choose. While Democrats control the Senate, they would need to find nearly a dozen Republican senators in favor to overcome the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster. That is a long shot.”
IMPEACH REACH — The hard-right effort to impeach Biden will have to wait for a stronger push after it failed in the House yesterday. “This first push — led by firebrand Rep. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-Colo.), against the wishes of Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY — fizzled out almost as quickly as it accelerated. All Republicans, including Boebert herself, voted to refer Biden impeachment back to GOP-led committees that are already investigating the president,” Sarah Ferris, Nicholas Wu and Jordain Carney write.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER — “IRS whistleblowers allege sweeping political interference in Hunter Biden case,” by Benjamin Guggenheim
VIBE CHECK — “Trump insider says mood has shifted to ‘quiet’ and ‘a bit sour,’” by NY Post’s Mara Siegler and Ian Mohr
CANNON FODDER — “Trump Trial Setting Could Provide Conservative Jury Pool,” by Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Swan and Alan Feuer: “If Judge AILEEN CANNON sticks to her initial decision to hold the trial in Fort Pierce, Fla., the jury would be drawn largely from counties that Donald Trump won handily in his previous campaigns.”
ON THE MONEY — “Is There a Price That Keeps Trump Quiet? E. Jean Carroll May Find Out.,” by NYT’s Benjamin Weiser
FED UP — “No, the Fed isn’t letting up on rates: Takeaways from Powell’s hearing,” by Victoria Guida
SHOCKING, SAD CONCLUSION — “U.S. Navy Heard What It Believed Was Titan Implosion Days Ago,” by WSJ’s Ben Kesling, Nancy Youssef, Gordon Lubold and Costas Paris
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week,” with guest moderator William Brangham: Weijia Jiang, Carl Hulse and Mary Bruce.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
ABC “This Week”: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper … Will Hurd. Panel: Donna Brazile, Reince Priebus, Marianna Sotomayor and Asma Khalid.
CBS “Face the Nation”: Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) … Cindy McCain.
CNN “State of the Union”: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum … Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Panel: Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Alyssa Farah Griffin, Jamal Simmons and David Urban.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Mike Pence … Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Panel: Karl Rove, Juan Williams, Jeff Mason and Morgan Ortagus. Panel: Jonathan Turley, Tom Dupree and Elizabeth Wydra.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Panel: Cornell Belcher, Danielle Pletka, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Amy Walter.
MSNBC “Inside with Jen Psaki”: Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
The Obama family recently toured ancient ruins in Greece.
Billy Crystal, Dionne Warwick, Renée Fleming, Queen Latifah and Barry Gibb are this year’s Kennedy Center honorees.
Lester Holt plays Wordle nightly with his wife.
Mark Pocan donated blood for the first time since the lifting of the ban on gay men giving blood.
Jon Tester took a Twitter meme to a grisly place.
The Qatar Investment Authority wants to buy into Monumental Sports & Entertainment— the parent company of the Washington Capitals, Wizards and Mystics.
OUT AND ABOUT — The Warner Theater hosted a screening for the new documentary “Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West” at the Warner Theater last night, where a rescued 19-year-old wild horse greeted guests. SPOTTED: director Ashley Avis, Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Dina Titus (D-Nev.). Pic … Another pic
— Chris Pilkerton and Ja’Ron Smith held a party for their new book, “Underserved, Harnessing the Principles of Lincoln’s Vision for Reconstruction for Today’s Forgotten Communities” ($30) at Denton Global Advisors with an introduction by CEO Ed Reilly. SPOTTED: Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), Deana Bass, Jimmy Kemp, Leonard Haynes, Rodney Hood, Mary Martinez, Megan Moore, Kristan Nevins, Andrew Olmem, Hasan Solomon and Brett Tolman.
— The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies held a farewell event for outgoing President Spencer Overton yesterday at Google DC. SPOTTED: Reps. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.) and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows, Social Security Administration acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi, Ex-Im President Reta Jo Lewis, Jessica Fulton, Paul Thornell, Lisa Rice, Nikitra Bailey, Roz Brooks, Kylie Patterson, Troy Clair, Eddie Hailes, Marcus Jadotte, David Johns, Leslie Overton, Hazeen Ashby, Ralph Everett, Robert Raben and Ashley Lewis.
TRANSITIONS — Nicole Golden is now scheduler for Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.). She most recently was an associate managing director at Dentons. … James Summers is now a presidential management fellow in the Office of International and Interagency Relations at NASA. He previously was a staff assistant for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). … Richard Reeves will be launching the American Institute for Boys and Men, a new research organization. He currently is a Brookings Institution senior fellow.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Liza Weir, PAC director at NSSF – The Firearm Industry Trade Association, and Scotty Weir, project director at Superior Mechanical Services, welcomed Thomas Scott Weir on Tuesday. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Justice Clarence Thomas … Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.) … Chasten Buttigieg … WaPo’s Philip Bump … DOD’s Usha Sahay … State’s Robert Palladino … POLITICO’s Chris Ramirez, Daniel Han, Lauren Rutt, Ryan Kohl, Nadia Dawit and Samuel Parven … Robert Kaplan … Aaron Cutler of Hogan Lovells … Paul Tewes … Greg Hale … Meta’s Amber Moon … J.P. Fielder … Judy Lemons … Steven Cheung of the Trump campaign … Niskanen Center’s Louisa Tavlas Atkinson … Atanu Chakravarty … Bradley Engle … Steven Stombres … Joe Duffy … Emma Whitestone … Brian Pomper … Christopher Barnard of the American Conservation Coalition … former Reps. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) (7-0), Bob Dold (R-Ill.) and Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.) … AU’s Sylvia Burwell … Ally Sammarco (26)
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.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this newsletter included an incorrect daily calendar for the Senate, which is out today, and misreported the home state of Rep. Glenn Ivey (D-Md.).