December 03, 2023

Welcome back to Sunday Sneak, our weekly look ahead at the forces shaping American politics.

  • Smart Brevityβ„’ count: 1,254 words ... 4.5 minutes.

1 big thing: House Dems ditch "Bidenomics" messaging

President Biden speaks about Bidenomics at CS Wind in Pueblo, Colo., last week. Photo: Michael Ciaglo via Getty Images

House Democrats have rejected the White House's months-long campaign to sell the term "Bidenomics," Axios' Stef Kight and Alex Thompson report.

Why it matters: Democrats are going into the 2024 election divided on how to communicate about the economy at a time when most voters are dissatisfied with it.

What's happening: House Democratic leadership stopped pushing the term months ago.

  • The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC, two key fundraising arms, are also avoiding it on social media and press releases, as polling indicates the tagline is ineffective.
  • In a meeting this past summer to discuss economic messaging strategy, House Democrats decided to stick with "People Over Politics" rather than "Bidenomics," one senior Democratic leadership aide told Axios.

Zoom in: The "Bidenomics" catchphrase seemed to present a host of issues, according to Democratic sources.

  • The term was seen as tone-deaf to voters still struggling economically and also invoked a president with lackluster polling numbers.
  • One Democratic strategist said the biggest problem wasn't using "Biden," but that the term was too philosophical and required too much explanation.
  • Democrats across the board intend to keep many of the policies behind the "Bidenomics" tagline front and center heading into 2024.

What they're saying: "This week GDP growth was revised upward to 5.2% in the last quarter and this story's economic focus is on how many times the House Dems have uttered a single particular word," Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign's communications director, told Axios in a statement.

How we got here: The White House began touting the catchphrase "Bidenomics" this year in an effort to change the troubling polling on the president's economic record ahead of 2024.

  • Biden was initially ambivalent about the term, then embraced it β€” but "Bidenomics" has recently disappeared from his prepared speeches, as NBC News reported.
  • The White House and the Biden campaign have continued to use the term, and the president spoke at an event in Colorado this past week with "Bidenomics" signage.

The big picture: It's not the first time there has been distance between the White House and House Democrats on economic messaging, and former President Obama similarly struggled with the issue ahead of 2012.

  • The Biden team is largely dismissive of critics within their own party β€” a confidence forged by proving such doubters wrong in the past.
  • In the months before the 2022 midterm elections, those critics included some members of Biden's own Cabinet who repeatedly appealed to senior Biden advisers Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon to change the economic messaging, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
  • In response, a WH official framed the conversations as constructive, telling Axios that the cabinet members "wanted to discuss and advise on messaging."
  • Democrats went on to have the best midterms in decades for a first-term president.

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2. πŸ—³οΈ Young voters' mixed messaging

Students participate in a pro-Palestinian protest at Columbia University in New York on Nov. 14. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In the past two months, young voters have shown Democrats that their anger over U.S. policy on Israel could help spoil Biden's bid for re-election β€” but that their support for abortion rights could help him win, Axios' Eugene Scott writes.

Why it matters: Those mixed messages β€” delivered in polls on the war in Gaza and in several state elections last month β€” are partly why Democrats, with increasing urgency, are putting abortion rights front and center in aggressive campaigns to motivate voters under 30.

Zoom in: Ohio's vote in favor of abortion protections β€” along with Democratic wins in Kentucky and Virginia β€” has organizers in Arizona, Nevada and Florida rushing to get abortion-rights measures on the ballot in those key states, partly to try to boost Biden and down-ballot Democrats next November.

  • But many Democratic activists say their takeaway from last month's contests wasn't just the potency of abortion rights at the ballot box β€” it was the enthusiasm young voters showed in backing the cause.
  • In Virginia, for example, many university precincts reported particularly heavy turnout as Democrats took control of the legislature β€” and denied Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin a chance to pass his proposed 15-week abortion ban.
  • The overwhelming majority of Ohio voters age 18 to 40 β€” Generation Z and millennials β€” backed amendments protecting abortion rights and legalizing marijuana, according to CNN exit polls.

Yes, but: The Israel-Hamas war, sparked by the militant group's Oct. 7 attack on Israel, has complicated activists' efforts to rally under-30 voters to support Biden in 2024 β€” and capitalize on the momentum from last month's elections.

  • Leaders of several groups of young progressives warned Biden recently that he's risking "millions of young voters staying home or voting third party next year" because of his strong support of Israel, which resumed its military campaign in Gaza after a temporary ceasefire collapsed due to Hamas' refusal to release more hostages.

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3. πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Liz Cheney: U.S. is "sleepwalking into dictatorship"

A supporter holds a print depicting Trump's mugshot at a commit to caucus campaign event yesterday in Ankeny, Iowa. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice chair of the now-defunct House Jan. 6 committee, told CBS News that former President Trump's potential victory in the next election presents an "existential crisis."

What they're saying: "He's told us what he will do," said Cheney, whose new book, "Oath and Honor," pulls no punches on her former House colleagues and other pro-Trump figures in the Republican Party.

  • "People who say, 'Well, if he's elected, it's not that dangerous, because we have all of these checks and balances,' don't fully understand the extent to which the Republicans in Congress today have been co-opted," the former No. 3 House Republican warned.
  • "One of the things that we see happening today is sort of a sleepwalking into dictatorship in the United States."

The bottom line: "In my view, fundamentally, there is a choice to be made," Cheney said. "You can't both be for Donald Trump and for the Constitution. You have to choose."

Meanwhile: At his rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last night, Trump attempted to paint "crooked Joe" Biden as the true threat to democracy.

  • "Joe Biden is not the defender of American democracy. Joe Biden is the destroyer of American democracy," Trump, who faces 17 combined charges related to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, declared.
  • "If I'm the Biden campaign, I would say bring it on. This is bringing the fight to a place that is good for Joe Biden," former White House communications director Kate Bedingfield told CNN.

4. 🐊 DeSantis dodges, dodges and dodges

Screenshot via NBC News

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told NBC's "Meet the Press" this morning that his administration would "replace and supersede" the Affordable Care Act with a "better" health care plan.

  • Asked seven times whether that meant he would "repeal" Obamacare, DeSantis refused to answer.

Why it matters: The Biden campaign has had a field day with Trump's revived pledge to repeal and replace the ACA, which the Republican front-runner reiterated at a rally last night.

  • DeSantis hammered Trump for his failure to get rid of the ACA during his administration, calling it "part of a pattern" of empty campaign promises.
  • But the Florida governor refused to use the word "repeal" to describe his own plan for a health care law that has grown in size and popularity over the last several years.

The big picture: DeSantis also dodged moderator Kristen Welker's questions on whether the Iowa caucuses are "do or die" for his campaign, whether he condemns Trump's use of the word "vermin" to attack his enemies, and whether he would sign a six-week federal abortion ban.

β˜• Thanks for starting your week with us. This newsletter was copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.