A second, inner White House press team? How North Korea is on President Trump’s agenda this week. And why we shouldn’t underestimate the influence of the retired Harry Reid.
These stories and more are all part of this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get tomorrow’s headlines today.
1) A secret White House press team?
The White House press operation has been in the news a lot of late, from reports about President Trump’s unhappiness with Press Secretary Sean Spicer to the recent trend of fewer press briefings (and even fewer on-camera meetings with reporters).
There are talks about bringing in a new press secretary and conflicting accounts from the White House about how much sway Spicer will have in picking his potential successor.
But Michael Bender of the Wall Street Journal suggests some of the attention might best be shifted to a quieter, parallel operation whose mission is more closely defined as protecting Brand Trump.
“Lesser known is a separate team, deeper inside the White House, that is basically tasked with protecting the family — the President, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner,” Bender reports. “What I’ll be watching for in the next couple weeks is whether or not these two teams will be merged as part of this reorganization.”
2) Why Harry Reid still matters
Harry Reid is retired from the Senate and back home in Nevada. But don’t for a second take that to mean Harry Reid is retired from politics.
The longtime Democratic leader remains a political force back home, and his latest maneuvers could impact this week’s Senate debate on health care.
CNN’s Manu Raju details how Reid’s fingerprints are on a number of Nevada political wrinkles relevant to the Obamacare repeal fight.
“Behind the scenes (Reid) played an instrumental role in getting Jacky Rosen, the Democratic congresswoman, to announce her Senate candidacy against Republican Dean Heller,” Raju reports. “Of course, she’s viewed as a top-tier candidate by both Republicans and Democrats, and her candidacy is viewed as one reason why Dean Heller may eventually be a no vote on this bill. Before Brian Sandoval and Dean Heller had that press conference on Friday, guess who met with Brian Sandoval beforehand? Harry Reid.”
3) A key Trump meeting on North Korea
President Trump is back on the world stage this week and ready to compare notes about North Korea with a key ally: South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
But there’s a wrinkle. The new South Korean leader was elected on a platform that was critical of the Trump administration and open to a more conciliatory approach to the North.
President Moon Jae-in has suggested North Korea be invited to the Olympics — a stance that runs counter to Trump White House calls for sanctions and isolation.
Margaret Talev of Bloomberg Politics notes the differences between the two men on this issue, but she also reports on some potential common ground.
“He and President Trump actually seem to have diverging views in many ways about what to do with North Korea,” Talev explains. “The death of Otto Warmbier and the new South Korean’s president press for China to do more may give them some common ground to move forward. It’ll be a really interesting meeting to watch.”
4) Poll brings good, bad news for Democrats
The big current fight among Democrats is trying to assign blame for an 0-4 record in the special elections for House seats previously held by members of Trump’s Cabinet.
The griping grew louder after two losses this past week, especially in the Georgia race Democrats thought might be within their reach.
There are calls for Nancy Pelosi to step aside, and even louder calls for the party to work harder on a new economic platform.
The losing streak is feeding some despondency in the Democratic ranks, but some Democrats — including Pelosi allies — say the long-term view is more favorable.
There is some credence to that: In a new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats have an eight-point advantage when voters are asked which party they want to be the majority in Congress. It is important to remember that midterms aren’t until November 2018 — almost a year and a half away. Still, that eight-point edge suggests Democrats have the potential retake the House.
But some of the poll’s other numbers are damning or daunting if your partisan leanings tilt left. Republicans maintain an edge on the economy and on which party change Washington.
Democrats do have an edge on health care and on who best represents the middle class, but the biggest weapon for Democrats is displeasure with President Trump.
That is a powerful organizing force. But it is not a positive organizing force.
Veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart offers some sober analysis:
“The numbers that look good for the Democratic Party are really negative results about the Republican Party and Donald Trump,” Hart writes. Yes, he says, Democrats can take pleasure in numbers showing large swaths of voters don’t view the President as honest or competent.
But, he adds, “None of these numbers tells a single positive story of Democratic achievement.”