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Playbook PM: Biden circles a Middle East breakthrough



BULLETIN — Iowa evangelical heavyweight BOB VANDER PLAATS is planning to endorse Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS for president later today, NewsNation’s Kevin Bohn scooped.

MIDDLE EAST LATEST — Israel and Hamas appear to be on the brink of a deal to pause the war for several days and release dozens of hostages, brokered by Qatar and the U.S. in what our colleague Alex Ward calls the most significant diplomatic breakthrough of the war thus far.

The deal would be a major, though limited, achievement for President JOE BIDEN’s administration in a conflict that has reportedly killed more than 12,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis, and it comes as he faces serious political pressure to stop the bloodshed. While hedging that it’s not final yet, Biden said this morning at the White House that a deal is “very close, very close” and “things are looking good at the moment.” More from Lara Seligman and Alex

Israeli PM BENJAMIN NETANYAHU’s war cabinet is meeting today to approve the deal. Though the details could change, various news outlets reported that the contours of the agreement would include Hamas freeing 50 to 60 women and children out of roughly 240 hostages, Israel freeing about three times as many imprisoned Palestinians, and all sides committing to a four- or five-day break in fighting. There’s also a possibility that the deal could encompass a six-hour daily pause in Israeli surveillance drone flights over Gaza, per CNN, and more shipments of fuel aid.

It’s not clear whether any American hostages will be released: Jewish Insider reports that they’re likely to all be Israeli or maybe Thai citizens.

The humanitarian situation continues to be dire in Gaza. In the past six weeks, 1.7 million people have been displaced, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said today, per CNN. Diarrhea and acute respiratory illness have jumped 40% in the past fortnight, and on average 700 people are sharing each shower.

Regional fallout: The U.S. launched an airstrike in Iraq targeting Iran-backed militants who had attacked American forces at an air base, U.S. officials said today. More from ReutersJOHN KIRBY said the U.S. is considering slapping the Houthis with a terrorist designation again.

RETIREMENT WATCH — Rep. ANNA ESHOO (D-Calif.) announced today that she won’t run for reelection, becoming the latest veteran lawmaker to decide to hang it up at the end of 2024. Her move creates a rare opening in a safe Democratic Bay Area seat, and the names floated as possible replacements include JOSH BECKER, EVAN LOW, JOE SIMITIAN and SAM LICCARDO. Eshoo, a Silicon Valley stalwart, has been a prominent voice on tech, cybersecurity, health care and other issues in Congress. Her official video announcementMore from San Jose Spotlight

BIG MONEY — Billionaires ROBERT MERCER and daughter REBEKAH are considering jumping in with financial support for DONALD TRUMP for the first time since they pulled back several years ago, CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports. Their support isn’t certain yet, but they’re sitting on a huge stash of more than $88 million in their nonprofit — and they could be major backers for Trump, like they were in 2016.

Good Tuesday afternoon. Thanks for reading Playbook PM. Drop me a line at [email protected].


KNOWING MIKE JOHNSON — CNN’s KFile dives into the new speaker’s history of strong social conservatism, including comments last year indicating support for Justice CLARENCE THOMAS’ interest in revisiting contraception, gay sex and same-sex marriage cases, Andrew Kaczynski and Curt Devine report. (His office now says he considers them “settled law.”) Through the decades, Johnson’s “staunchly conservative rhetoric is rooted in an era of ‘biblical morality,’ that he says was washed away with the counterculture in the 1960s. ‘One of the primary purposes of the law in civil government is to restrain evil,’ Johnson said on one radio show in 2010.”

REALITY CHECK — Despite all the agita the Freedom Caucus and the GOP’s far right have brought to the House this year, culminating with the ousting of KEVIN McCARTHY as speaker, they have yet to achieve their substantive goals, WaPo’s Jeff Stein and Jacob Bogage report. Very little federal spending has been cut, and it isn’t clear if Johnson will be able to deliver.

ALL THAT GLITTERS — Sen. BOB MENENDEZ’s (D-N.J.) new defense attorney, ROBERT LUSKIN, literally has the nickname “Gold Bars,” The Daily Beast’s William Bredderman reports. It’s a nickname bestowed upon him by then-U.S. Attorney SHELDON WHITEHOUSE in 1997, when he was accused of being paid half a million dollars in gold bars by a client.

STOCK AND TRADE — It’s not just Rep. GEORGE SANTOS (R-N.Y.): Raw Story’s Alexandria Jacobson digs up 10 more members of Congress who broke the law by neglecting to file their 2022 financial disclosures in time. It’s just the latest example of members violating the STOCK Act with few consequences. The offenders are Reps. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-N.D.), AMI BERA (D-Calif.), SYLVIA GARCIA (D-Texas), BILL HUIZENGA (R-Mich.), SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D-Texas), JOHN ROSE (R-Tenn.), SHRI THANEDAR (D-Mich.), DINA TITUS (D-Nev.) and MAXINE WATERS (D-Calif.) and Del. STACEY PLASKETT (D-U.S. Virgin Islands).

2024 WATCH

AD WARS — Trump’s campaign has booked its first Iowa broadcast TV ads of the cycle, starting Dec. 1.

WHY TEAM TRUMP IS BULLISH — The Trump campaign is betting that he’ll benefit from a political landscape that plays even more to his strengths than in 2016 and 2020, particularly on crime and immigration, Semafor’s Shelby Talcott reports. Illegal immigration has spiked, as did murders (though they’ve since fallen) — and public opinion has grown more conservative on both issues. That’s to say nothing of the economy. And “to make matters worse for Biden, voters seem to be siding with the former president when asked who they trust more to take care of these key topics.”

SPOILER ALERT — CORNEL WEST had his first in-person campaign rally last night in Salt Lake City, which he selected because it’s holding a new ranked-choice mayoral election (and because it’s pretty easy to get on the Utah ballot), the Deseret News’ Samuel Benson reports. The choice reflected the philosophical bent of West’s campaign messaging, which sometimes hovers between Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) and MARIANNE WILLIAMSON. “[U]nlike Sanders, who describes himself as ‘not particularly religious,’ West’s message is not just one of social revolution, but of a spiritual one. … [H]is biggest critique of Biden is not his platform, but his ‘moral cowardliness.’”

And early next year, West will hit the trail in Michigan, where Biden’s struggles with Black and Arab American voters could provide West an opening, Brittany Gibson reports. His plans for events in Dearborn and Flint, at the University of Michigan and Michigan State, and with indigenous communities on the Upper Peninsula highlight Biden’s vulnerability in what could be a very close swing state.

ON THE TRAIL — Trump is set to join South Carolina Gov. HENRY McMASTER at this weekend’s Clemson-South Carolina game, The Post and Courier’s Caitlin Byrd reports.

NOT BACKING DOWN — “Vivek Ramaswamy really wants voters to ask him about foreign policy,” by NBC’s Alex Tabet and Katherine Koretski in Manchester, Iowa


BATTLE FOR THE SENATE — Recent polls indicate that TIM SHEEHY now has a lead over Rep. MATT ROSENDALE in a potential Montana Senate GOP primary, Ally Mutnick reports, indicating that the Republican establishment’s ad blitz for Sheehy may be paying off.

LEE-WARD — Even though Rep. BARBARA LEE’s (D-Calif.) Senate campaign fell short of expectations at this weekend’s state party convention, she’s not dropping out, our California Playbook colleagues report. “That means Lee will have to find a spark elsewhere — perhaps starting with her support for a cease-fire in Israel’s war with Hamas.”

DOWN BALLOT — After this weekend’s Louisiana elections, Bolts’ Daniel Nichanian tallies up the results of the year’s several hundred state legislative races across the country. The overall takeaway: Democrats gained a net of five seats — not a big change but notable given that the party in control of the White House usually suffers. Under the hood, Republicans continued to make gains in the South, while Democrats succeeded in New Jersey and Virginia.

WHAT’S IN A NAME — “60 years after JFK’s death, today’s Kennedys choose other paths to public service,” by AP’s Hillel Italie


WHAT BRAD WENSTRUP IS READING — “Secret Warnings About Wuhan Research Predated the Pandemic,” by Vanity Fair’s Katherine Eban: “A series of previously unreported alarms and clashes over US-funded research in China reveal long-standing friction between two groups of government scientists: those who prioritize international collaboration, and those who are kept up at night by the idea that cutting-edge technologies could end up in the wrong hands.”

DYSTOPIA NOW — At the U.N., many countries are making a push to impose new legal limits around technology that will soon become reality: killer autonomous drones powered by artificial intelligence, which could transform the 21st-century battlefield. But the U.S., Russia, China and others are resisting any restrictions beyond those already in place, NYT’s Eric Lipton reports.

LITTLE ROCKET MAN — Despite warnings from the U.S. and others, North Korea today sent a rocket with its first military spy satellite into orbit, NYT’s Choe Sang-Hun reports. South Korea said Russia helped Pyongyang get past technological issues to launch it.


WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED — “Dreams dying in a Texas city where immigrants fought for an education,” by WaPo’s Maria Sacchetti and Kevin Sullivan in Tyler, Texas: “Undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children are seeing their ambitions thwarted amid legal uncertainty, despite public support.”

STICKING TO HIS GUNS — “How a Maine Businessman Made the AR-15 Into America’s Best-Selling Rifle,” by ProPublica’s James Bandler and Doris Burke: “Long before his competitors, [Bushmaster’s RICHARD DYKE] saw the profits in a product that tapped into Americans’ primal fears, and he pulled the mundane levers of American business and politics to get what he wanted.”


ONE TO WATCH — “U.S. Warns Iran Is Weighing Sending Short-Range Missiles to Russia,” by WSJ’s Michael Gordon

IT’S ELECTRIC — The U.S. has quietly helped Ukraine import special new gear to block Russian attacks on its power grid, CNN’s Sean Lyngaas scooped. The technology, made by Cisco in Texas and worth $1 million, aims to help Kyiv keep the electricity on through the winter months.


IT’S NOT SO ELECTRIC — Prices have tumbled for the metals that are crucial to electric vehicle batteries, leading miners to pull back on supply and potentially disrupting the country’s EV transition championed by Biden, WSJ’s Scott Patterson reports. “[T]he slowdowns could result in material shortages in coming years and leave carmakers scrambling for scarce supplies.”


BUSINESS BURST — The White House announced today that the Treasury Department is rolling out $50 million in grants from the American Rescue Plan to help small businesses across 20 states get access to loans and investment.


HOT JOB, via Daybook: “Experienced PR Professional” at OpenAI.

BOOK CLUB — Journalist Jacob Heilbrunn has written a new book, “America Last: The Right’s Century-Long Romance with Foreign Dictators,” which will be published by Liveright in February. “It seeks to show that none of the arguments in America on behalf of Trumpian authoritarianism are new but have repeatedly been embraced by the political right,” he tells us.

TRANSITIONS — Hyma Moore is joining Cornerstone’s public affairs practice. He most recently has been chief of staff to the office of DNC Chair Jaime Harrison. … Joyce Rechtschaffen will retire in March as assistant VP for government affairs at Princeton University, where she’s led the school’s D.C. office since 2006. Julie Groeninger will succeed her.

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton, producer Andrew Howard and Playbook Daily Briefing producer Callan Tansill-Suddath.

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