WASHINGTON — The last two days have demonstrated one of Democratic Party’s biggest challenges against President Trump, especially over the next year.
Their presidential field is going to rough up each other over issues that cut to the heart of the debate over the party's future, but that would barely register a blip on the daily Trump Outrage Scale.
Add up those kinds of Dem skirmishes over a year, and you can see why an incumbent president (who faces no real primary threat) has a built-in advantage for re-election — no matter his current poll numbers.
On Tuesday, President Trump refused to apologize to the “Central Park Five” — young African Americans and Latinos in the late 1980s who were wrongly convicted for beating and raping a Central Park jogger.
"You have people on both sides of that," Trump said. "They admitted their guilt.” (Fact check: They were later exonerated.)
The next day, the Democratic presidential field piled on frontrunner Joe Biden for recalling “civility” in working with segregationist Democratic Sens. James Eastland and Herman Talmadge from the 1970s, even if he disagreed with them on the issues.
Cory Booker called for Biden to apologize (which the former vice president refused to do), saying, “Vice President Biden’s relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people.”
“James Eastland literally thought my wife and I should not have the legal right to marry, that those children should not exist and our children should not be on this earth. That's how personal it is for me,” Bill de Blasio said on “MTP Daily” yesterday.
Now ask yourself: Which of these stories — Central Park Five or Eastland/Talmadge — is still making headlines today?
Don’t get us wrong: We’ve said before that one of Biden’s biggest weaknesses in this 2020 Democratic race is how his nearly 50 year career in Washington makes him seen out of touch with today’s Democratic Party – on race, on abortion, on “civility.”
Yesterday’s pile-on is a chief example.
And it also showed how the rest of the Democratic field isn’t going to give him the benefit of the doubt on any of these issues.
That’s what happens when you’re the frontrunner.
But the dust-up is also a reminder of the disconnect between the kinds of issues that will get Democratic candidates into trouble, versus what Trump has conditioned almost everyone to see as just the latest in a series of predictable outrages.
And that’s a significant advantage for the president of the United States.
A tale of two controversial Biden statements
Twenty-four hours later, we’re surprised that Biden’s Eastland/Talmadge remarks got more attention than what he said about wealthy people and their taxes.
On Eastland/Talmadge, per the pool report of the fundraiser he attended:
Mr. Biden then recalled his time serving in the Senate. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, briefly channeling the late Mississippi senator’s Southern drawl. Mr. Biden said of Mr. Eastland, “He never called me boy, he always called me son.” Mr. Biden then brought up a deceased Georgia senator, “a guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don't talk to each other anymore.”
On wealthy people and their taxes:
“By the way, you know, remember I got in trouble with some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side, because I said, ‘You know what I’ve found is rich people are just as patriotic as poor people.’ Not a joke. I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money. The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change. Because when we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution.”
Rich people are just as patriotic as poor people?
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Let’s not demonize anybody who has made money?
No one’s standard of living will change?
How are those comments also not producing big stories today?
Iran shoots down U.S. drone: Uh oh.
“A U.S. drone was shot down in international airspace above the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday, U.S. Central Command said, contradicting a claim by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that it struck the aircraft after it entered that country’s airspace,” NBC’s Courtney Kube, Phil Helsel and Ali Arouzi write.
“The news comes amid rising tensions in the region, with American officials blaming Iran for what they said was an attack on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Iran has denied any involvement.”
2020 Vision: Oh, Roy
Roy Moore will make an announcement today at 3:00 pm ET on whether he will run for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard.
The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, who lost his 2017 special U.S. Senate race against Democrat Doug Jones, will address reporters at The Foundation for Moral Law, the conservative/religious group which Moore founded.
Hillyard adds In the December ‘17 special election to fill the remaining two years of Jeff Sessions’ seat, Moore lost by 20,715 votes. There were 22,819 other Alabamians, including Republican Sen. Richard Shelby who wrote in an alternative name to Moore or Jones.
And Moore referenced that fact yesterday, tweeting: “If Senator Richard Shelby would have stayed out of the 2017 race, Doug Jones would not be in the Senate now! The people of Alabama already know what he did in 2017, obviously he feels guilty about helping elect a Democrat. What's he really afraid of?”
On the campaign trail today
Michael Bennet holds a press call at 9:30 am ET to unveil his plan to combat corruption and strengthen democracy… And Julian Castro, in Florida, delivers remarks at the American Immigration Lawyers Association's annual conference.
Data Download: The number of the day is … 7.7
That's Joe Biden's average score among Democratic voters asked to rate his strength as a candidate against Donald Trump on a scale from 0-10 , according to a new Monmouth University poll.
On the questionnaire's scale, a rating of 0 meant that respondent believed the candidate had no chance of beating Trump, while a score of 10 meant that the candidate would definitely beat him.
The 7.7 rating for Biden was the highest of all Democratic candidates.
Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren had average scores of 6.5 and 6.4, respectively.
The poll was in the field June 12 to 17.
The Lid: Electability, yeah you know me
Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we did a deep dive on those new electability ratings from the Monmouth poll.
ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss
The Washington Post writes that Trump is "losing interest" in Venezuela after failing to score a "quick foreign policy win" there.
Here's the latest on the officer-involved shooting that took South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg off the trail.
Does Joe Biden still support the death penalty?
Ta-Nehisi Coates made a splash on the Hill yesterday during a hearing about reparations.
Trump agenda: Declining Hope
Hope Hicks refused to answer lawmakers' questions about working in the Trump White House, our Hill team reports.
And Felix Sater will testify to the House intel committee on Friday behind closed doors.
A federal judge says that new evidence in the Census citizenship case merits consideration.
The Senate has confirmed a Trump judicial nominee who had been heavily criticized by LGBTQ groups.
Here's your daily reminder that we could soon be facing a spending bill impasse.
2020: Michael Bennet’s new plan
Michael Bennet is touting his plans to "reform the way this democracy works."
What exactly does "Medicare for All" really mean? Check out this in-depth explainer from our colleague Benjy Sarlin.
Cory Booker is proposing clemency for thousands of inmates serving time for non-violent drug-related offenses.
Texas Rep. Al Green is endorsing Kamala Harris.
POLITICO reports that House Republicans aren't all feeling confident in the NRCC.
North Carolina Democrat Cal Cunningham is switching from the lieutenant governor race to the Senate contest. Here's why.