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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It was Joe Biden’s family that almost kept him from running. Now, it could help drag him down. 

Why it matters: The former vice president is answering questions about family controversies just as Elizabeth Warren is catching him in the polls.

Top Democrats tell us they worry the Ukraine fracas winds up being an albatross for Biden because he'll be associated with an unpopular issue and process, and won't be able to shake questions about Hunter Biden.

  • All the fact checks and "to be sure" paragraphs in the world may not obviate the collateral damage.

A Democratic strategist not affiliated with a campaign said the Hunter Biden problem is not just his work in Ukraine, but all his personal and business issues.

  • They were all detailed in July in a gripping New Yorker article by Adam Entous, who had extensive cooperation from Hunter Biden and the campaign: "Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father’s Campaign? Joe Biden’s son is under scrutiny for his business dealings and tumultuous personal life."

Trump will be "relentless" in exploiting and distorting any dirt on Hunter, the Democratic strategist said.

  • Part of Trump's calculus could be psychological: Trump knows that Biden worries about his son.
  • The possible upside for Biden is that such taunting reinforces the idea that he is the 2020 Democrat most feared by Trump.

The Hillary view: Philippe Reines, a longtime Hillary Clinton confidant, tells Axios he has seen this movie before.

  • "This has nothing to do with the reality of your experience, your life or your past," Reines said. "They’re reimagining you however they want. It’s beyond a case of taking something and exaggerating it."

The Biden campaign's thinking: Biden did nothing wrong.

  • A Biden adviser told me the collateral damage from the Ukraine scandal should be mitigated for the former vice president because people feel they know Biden and find him relatable.
  • The campaign says it has had its best week of fundraising since the second week of the campaign.
  • Biden plans to continue talking about health care, climate change and gun control — although he won't ignore Trump.

The bottom line: The biggest political beneficiary of the impeachment inquiry could be Elizabeth Warren.

Go deeper: Whistleblower alleges Trump abused power to solicit foreign interference

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Go deeper

California governor declares drought emergency in most counties

A sign in April on the outskirts of Buttonwillow in California's Kern County, one of the top agriculture producing counties in the San Joaquin Valley, after historically low winter rainfall. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) extended a drought emergency declaration to cover 41 of the state's 58 counties on Monday.

Why it matters: Most of California and the American West are experiencing an "extreme" or "exceptional" drought, per the U.S. Drought Monitor. Newsom and other officials are concerned California could experience a repeat of the catastrophic 2020 wildfire season.

Pelosi's Republican playbook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Republicans fight among themselves, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is showing the myriad ways she deals with the GOP herself.

Between the lines: We've seen Pelosi cut opponents off at the knees, like she did with President Trump, or pretend to forget their names, as she did to Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). Now she's feeding oppo research against her House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), so others can use the same harsh rhetoric to frame the Republicans as the party of dysfunction.

Exclusive: Houston mayor to lead Black mayors group

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner speaks during a private funeral for George Floyd. Photo: Godofredo A. Vásquez/Pool/Getty Images

The mayor of the city where George Floyd was raised is taking over a group that represents 500 Black mayors in the U.S. amid national pressure to revamp police departments.

Why it matters: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner will become the new president of the African American Mayors Association as municipalities across the country examine police reforms and deal with the economic fallout from the pandemic.