Type to search

Effects

The Obama path Biden chose not to take- POLITICO

Share

Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Allie Bice and Daniel Lippman. 

Send tips | Subscribe here| Email Alex | Email Max

When President BARACK OBAMA entered office in 2009, he and his team warily eyed the Democratic National Committee, viewing it as part of the establishment they had just defeated and full of HILLARY CLINTON sympathizers.

Rather than work through the committee, they decided to stand up one of their own. The result was the political organization Organizing for America (OFA), which played an outsized role in organizing around the 2010 midterms and, later, the 2012 re-elect.

President JOE BIDEN has taken a markedly different approach with both the DNC and his own outside group, Building Back Together (BBT).

Under his watch, the DNC, not BBT, has taken the lead role in political organizing and — still hypothetically — re-elect conversations, people familiar with the inner-workings told West Wing Playbook. That’s removed any potential uncertainty about how the party’s infrastructure would be deployed. If Biden decides to run for re-election and there is a primary challenge, DNC executive director SAM CORNALE told us: “We’re with Biden. Period.”

When OFA was launched, it was under the belief that the Obama movement was geared around the candidate and not the party. Obama fashioned himself as an insurgent running against the party establishment who had a cult following beyond the DNC (he chose “renegade” as his secret service code name after all). OFA, in turn, focused its resources on field organizing —Obama’s pride and joy — which many DNC members felt was duplicative.

Biden is a product of and ran as a candidate of the party establishment, and BBT reflects that. The group does not have a field program and has instead centered on convening the progressive diaspora and spending over $35 million in advocacy ads promoting the Biden legislative agenda.

“It’s just so clear that each created an org that mirrors who they are,” said one Democratic strategist working on 2022 race. The strategist was skeptical that BBT has made a huge difference but said that it is net-positive. “Unlike Organizing for America, it hasn’t hurt the Democratic Party,” the person said.

ADDISU DEMISSIE, OFA’s national political director from 2009-10 and now an advisor for BBT likewise conceded that “some corrections in both concept and execution” have been made based on the experiences of 2009.

“We knew we wanted to be separate from the DNC as opposed to how OFA was and the core functions were going to be ads and coordination,” he said. “You don’t need to recreate the wheel. It’s more important getting everyone to row in the same direction.”

Many progressive organizations agree that BBT has been useful in coordinating the occasionally unwieldy assortment of progressive advocacy groups who focus on labor, climate, health care, care, jobs, the economy, racial justice, immigration — and more. There was a standing “war room” call with those stakeholders every day until the recent passage of the large reconciliation package that participants said helped keep Democrats in array, though some Democratic operatives have complained that the sessions didn’t give good insight into White House messaging or strategic thinking. The calls continue, just with less frequency.

“I think they created a safe space for information sharing, for collaboration,” said LORI LODES, the executive director of the advocacy group Climate Power who also worked at the SEIU in 2009-10. “It was much more about ‘what is our value add?’ versus dictating the direction things would go.”

The $35 million-plus in pro-Biden advertising is certainly not the biggest investment this cycle. But it helped promote the president’s agenda and had the side benefit of being booked through firms and consultants who had worked with Biden before, like Blue Sky Strategy, 4C Partners, and 50+1 Strategies. The DNC has been happier, too. It says it has raised $255 million this cycle — a record at this point in a midterm election cycle.

It’s still unclear what role BBT will play in 2023 and 2024 although officials say it will keep going after the midterms.

Given that it’s registered as a non-profit, the group is not required to disclose its donors and did not disclose them when West Wing Playbook asked (they have previously said they wouldn’t). Even with such transparency issues—or, perhaps, because of them — BBT’s advisers are confident the group won’t be the last of its kind.

As Demissie put it: “Whoever is the next Democratic president will need its own BBT as well.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: West Wing Playbook will be taking a week-long break starting Monday, Aug. 29. We’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday, Sept. 6. We hope our absence makes your heart grow fonder. 

MESSAGE US — Are you ALICIA O’BRIEN, senior counsel and special assistant to the president? We want to hear from you! And we’ll keep you anonymous if you’d like. Or if you think we missed something in today’s edition, let us know and we may include it tomorrow. Email us at [email protected].

This one is from The Independent reporter ANDREW FEINBERG. DONALD TRUMP is not the first ex-chief executive to spend his post-presidency living in a hotel. Who are the other two?

(Answer at the bottom.)

A REBOUND CASE: The White House said first lady JILL BIDEN tested positive for Covid-19 after taking an antigen test Wednesday. She had tested negative Tuesday. Biden first tested positive for Covid-19 on Aug. 15 and took the antiviral drug Paxlovid, which can sometimes cause “rebound” cases. She remains in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and is not experiencing symptoms, according to the White House. POTUS tested negative Wednesday.

STUDENT DEBT DETAILS REVEALED: After months of deliberation and procrastination, the president announced Wednesday he will forgive up to $10,000 of student debt for millions and up to $20,000 of debt for those who previously received a Pell grant.

The relief applies to those who earn less than $125,000 a year or families earning less than $250,000. The administration will also extend the pause on student loan payments through Dec. 31st. Our MICHAEL STRATFORD and EUGENE DANIELS have more on the plan.

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: These figures from National Economic Council deputy director BHARAT RAMAMURTI that show a breakdown of the support among voters for student debt relief:

Tweet by Bharat Ramamurti

New Window

Tweet by Bharat Ramamurti | Twitter

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This Twitter thread by JASON FURMAN, the former head of the Council of Economic Advisers for Obama and occasional Biden critic, on the president’s student debt relief plan.

“Pouring roughly half trillion dollars of gasoline on the inflationary fire that is already burning is reckless,” he wrote. “Doing it while going well beyond one campaign promise ($10K of student loan relief) and breaking another (all proposals paid for) is even worse.” You can read the full thread —and, folks, it’s a doozy— here.

JOB OPENING, TOP GOVERNMENT NERD: The president has yet to nominate a permanent leader to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, a small but powerful agency that manages the administration of hundreds of federal regulations each year. But people tell our ADAM CANCRYN he’s getting close to making a pick.

The office would shape the final two years of Biden’s term — especially if Democrats lose full control of Congress after the midterms and the administration turns to regulatory action to move things along. Some of the potential candidates include environmental law expert RICHARD REVESZ. Vanderbilt University law professor and Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN ally GANESH SITARAMAN was in consideration but the White House wasn’t sure he could receive Senate confirmation.

IN OTHER PERSONNEL MATTERS … CHRIS DÍAZ is now chief of staff for the secretary of the Navy. He most recently was deputy chief of staff and White House liaison at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

THE FIGHT AGAINST MONKEYPOX, STILL NOT GOING WELL: The administration’s handling of the monkeypox vaccine distribution is, once again, drawing criticism. There had been an understanding that each vial of vaccine that states received would contain five doses of the vaccine. But health officials told our MEGAN MESSERLY and KRISTA MAHR that they were only able to get three or four doses out of each vial, vaccinating fewer people than anticipated as outbreaks persist across the country.

THINKING LONG TERM: Biden announced a new $2.98 billion security assistance package to Ukraine on Wednesday, indicating the administration’s shift to a longer-term strategy to help the country as the Russian invasion hits the six-month mark, our KELLY HOOPER, ALEXANDER WARD and LARA SELIGMAN report.

‘Ghost guns’ now must be traceable, as Biden rule takes effect (WaPo’s Mark Berman)

U.S. Says It Struck Bunkers Used by Iranian-Backed Forces in Syria (NYT’s John Ismay)

U.S., Iran inch closer to nuke deal but high hurdles remain (AP’s Matthew Lee and Aamer Madhani)

Biden administration moves to formalize DACA and shield it from legal challenges (CBS News’ Camilo Montoya-Galvez)

DAN CLUCHEY isn’t Biden’s senior presidential speechwriter for nothing.

When he spoke at his college’s 2008 commencement ceremony, he began by “accidentally” reading the lines of the speech from Amherst College’s then-president ANTHONY W. MARX.

“Two millennia ago, in the ancient land of Rome, the mighty Cronos cast his plebiscite forth upon the — oh. I’m sorry, hang on,” he said. “I think we might have switched speeches, President Marx. I apologize for that. I found mine, mine’s right here — so I’m going to do mine now.”

He’s got jokes, folks.

HERBERT HOOVER and DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER lived at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel after their presidencies.

According to the New York Times: “When the Waldorf opened at its current site in 1931, having moved from Fifth Avenue and 33rd Street, President Hoover delivered a congratulatory message live on radio from the White House.

“He moved in 1933 to a suite on the 34th floor of the Waldorf Towers, where he lived until his death there in 1964. Eisenhower also lived there (on the seventh floor; his wife, Mamie, was afraid of heights), from 1967 until he died two years later.”

A CALL OUT — Thanks to Andrew for the question. Do you have a harder trivia question? Send us your best one about the presidents with a citation and we may feature it.

Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Sam Stein.

Tags:

You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *