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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Joe Biden has an Elizabeth Warren problem.

The big picture: Warren is rising in national, battleground and state polls, electrifying liberals with her very specific and very liberal ideas — and she's well-positioned to undermine Biden, win or lose.

  • Warren has the ability to unify the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, especially if she locks arms with AOC in attacking Biden’s more cautious and conventional politics. 
  • Even if she tops out, her politics are much closer to Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris, so she could help lift another candidate over Biden with her endorsement and support.

Be smart: Biden’s people are worried about her rise, and feel they caught a break in not having to face her in the first debate. 

  • "Avoided her and thus avoided a potential first round TKO," a Biden confidant told me.

The intrigue: President Trump has told people he thought he killed her campaign with his "Pocahontas" smear and that he’s surprised by her resurgence, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • Trump, in private chats, wonders if she he sprang the taunts too early.

A Biden source tells me: "What we see here is a battle between Bernie and Warren for the left lane of the Dem electorate — Warren’s rise is largely coming from Bernie, not from Biden. A good reminder that Biden appeals to a much wider swath of the electorate than either of them do."

A Biden adviser adds:

  • "Warren's 'rise' isn’t a surprise. ... What was surprising was Warren's slow start — she’s now where we thought she'd be upon entry."
  • "It doesn't matter to us whether it's Bernie or Warren — either way we are happy to have someone who is operating in the far left lane in second place."

Go deeper: Elizabeth Warren on the issues, in under 500 words

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Go deeper

6 hours ago - World

Top general: U.S. losing time to deter China

Stanley McChrystal. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Stanley McChrystal, a top retired general and Biden adviser, tells Axios that "China's military capacity has risen much faster than people appreciate," and the U.S. is running out of time to counterbalance that in Asia and prevent a scenario such as it seizing Taiwan.

Why it matters: McChrystal, the former commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, recently briefed the president-elect as part of his cabinet of diplomatic and national security advisers. President-elect Joe Biden is considering which Trump- or Obama-era approaches to keep or discard, and what new strategies to pursue.

Progressives shift focus from Biden's Cabinet to his policy agenda

Joe Biden giving remarks in Wilmington, Del., last month. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

Some progressives tell Axios they believe the window for influencing President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet selections has closed, and they’re shifting focus to policy — hoping to shape Biden's agenda even before he’s sworn in.

Why it matters: The left wing of the party often draws attention for its protests, petitions and tweets, but this deliberate move reflects a determination to move beyond some fights they won't win to engage with Biden strategically, and over the long term.

Dave Lawler, author of World
8 hours ago - World

Venezuela's predictable elections herald an uncertain future

The watchful eyes of Hugo Chávez on an election poster in Caracas. Photo: Cristian Hernandez/AFP via Getty

Venezuelans will go to the polls on Sunday, Nicolás Maduro will complete his takeover of the last opposition-held body, and much of the world will refuse to recognize the results.

The big picture: The U.S. and dozens of other countries have backed an opposition boycott of the National Assembly elections on the grounds that — given Maduro's tactics (like tying jobs and welfare benefits to voting), track record, and control of the National Electoral Council — they will be neither free nor fair.

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