Playbook PM: Exclusive numbers on how Biden’s SOTU played

SURVEY SAYS — President JOE BIDEN has been riding a wave of fairly favorable media coverage after his State of the Union last week, when he seemed to corner Republicans into agreeing not to cut Social Security and Medicare.

But his speech has made less of a splash with voters. New POLITICO/Morning Consult polling finds the electorate’s assessment of Biden across 23 character traits to be largely unchanged from before SOTU.

Under the hood, there are some indications in our survey that Biden’s speech boosted the Democratic Party relative to the GOP, at least among those who watched (only 47% tuned in to at least part of the address, in line with last year). For one thing, voters who watched the speech rated Biden more favorably on several measures — his mental fitness, his strong leadership, etc. — than voters overall.

A majority of people who watched think Republicans will try to cut entitlements (56%), compared to 46% of voters overall — the exact narrative the White House is trying to drive.

When it came to appealing to voters in the middle, Biden beat Arkansas Gov. SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, who delivered the GOP response. Among those who watched Biden’s and Sanders’ speeches, more called hers divisive (56% to 48%) and extreme (54% to 41%) than his.

The heckling from some Republicans during the speech didn’t play well, either: Fifty-four percent of voters say that when members of Congress disagree with the State of the Union, they should stay silent. Read the poll’s full toplinesCrosstabs

THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS — A judge ruled this morning that parts of the Fulton County, Ga., special grand jury report investigating the efforts to overturn the 2020 election will be made public Thursday. It’ll be a big moment for one of the most aggressive DONALD TRUMP probes in the works. But beyond the introduction and conclusion, most of the report will remain secret, following a court battle between media groups (for transparency) and DA FANI WILLIS (for privacy). The judge wrote that the disclosure “may not be convenient for the pacing of the District Attorney’s investigation,” but “the compelling public interest in these proceedings and the unquestionable value and importance of transparency require their release.”

The jurors had recommended that the report, which urges indictments and raises concerns about witnesses lying under oath, be published. (What we’ll see on Thursday won’t name names.) More from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Friends in high places: When Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.) was forced to testify before the grand jury, his legal expense fund got hefty contributions from his Senate GOP colleagues, Raw Story’s Jordan Green scooped. Graham got $78,000 in total in December from Sens. JOHN BARRASSO (R-Wyo.), JOHN BOOZMAN (R-Ark.), MIKE CRAPO (R-Idaho), STEVE DAINES (R-Mont.), JOHN HOEVEN (R-N.D.), JAMES LANKFORD (R-Okla.), SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-W.Va.), KEVIN CRAMER (R-N.D.) and CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-Iowa).

BIG MEDIA MOVE — YAMICHE ALCINDOR will leave her role as moderator of PBS’ “Washington Week” later this month to focus on her NBC work and memoir.

Good Monday afternoon, and thanks for reading Playbook PM. Drop me a line at [email protected].


2024 WATCH — Sen. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) is moving closer to jumping into the presidential race, trying out a message “focused on unity and optimism,” WSJ’s Eliza Collins reports. Even people close to him aren’t sure if it’s a pitch the GOP base really wants to hear, despite Scott’s conservatism. But he has events lined up this month in South Carolina and Iowa, with a busy schedule to follow in the coming months. In a crowded field, bolstering his name ID could be a central early challenge.

Barrasso, Senate GOP Conference chair: “I think a RONALD REAGAN ‘Morning in America’ hopeful America vision is one that Tim has, lives and breathes and is really needed in our country.”

IF YOU’RE NOT FIRST, YOU’RE LAST — New Hampshire Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU told The Dispatch’s Andrew Egger, David Drucker and Audrey Fahlberg that the state won’t move its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, DNC be damned. (The high-profile clash is ultimately the secretary of state’s call, not the governor’s, but he feels the same way.)

POLL POSITION — There’s been plenty of chatter about whether Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS could flame out in the presidential race like SCOTT WALKER in 2016. But NYT’s Nate Cohn writes that it’s not really an apt comparison, as DeSantis starts off with a much stronger position in the early polls — 32% nationally, compared to Walker’s 7%. Statistically, DeSantis is in rarefied air, attracting support at the level of BARACK OBAMA or Reagan — and he’s done so without a family name or other pre-existing benefit. “The simplest explanation for his unusual popularity is that Republicans haven’t just liked what he’s done, but also that they’ve liked what they’ve seen and heard of Mr. DeSantis himself.”

ANGLE TO WATCH — Thanks to constitutional limits, Trump could serve only one more term if he’s elected to the presidency in 2024 — a ticking clock that could present a vulnerability for other Republican contenders to exploit, NBC’s Allan Smith, Jonathan Allen and Natasha Korecki report. Not many people have hit Trump on the term limit issue yet, and it remains to be seen if it would resonate with voters. But MIKE POMPEO did indicate on New Hampshire radio that Republicans should pick somebody who can lead for eight years. And Trump’s restriction would also raise the stakes for his VP choice.


RED ZEPPELIN — China today accused the U.S. of flying its own surveillance balloons over China — eliciting a swift denial from the NSC. The spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry claimed that more than 10 U.S. balloons had illegally orbited China since last year, dismissing the American response to recent flying objects as “an overreaction of overexertion.” But NSC spokesperson ADRIENNE WATSON said the U.S. doesn’t operate spy balloons over China, which she said is “scrambling to do damage control.”

NYT’s Chris Buckley examines the role of WU ZHE, a scientist who seems to have played a key role in China’s balloon program and whose companies the U.S. blacklisted last week.

DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN is considering a meeting with top Chinese diplomat WANG YI at the Munich Security Conference this week, Bloomberg’s Peter Martin and Jennifer Jacobs scooped. That would be their first discussion in person after the balloon led Blinken to call off a trip to Beijing in which he planned to meet with Chinese President XI JINPING.

SPY GAMES — “Former FBI agent’s side work puts bureau under new scrutiny,” by WaPo’s Shane Harris, Rosalind Helderman and Catherine Belton: “An examination of [CHARLES] McGONIGAL’s adventures reveals a wild tale but few clear answers so far. He appears at times to have acted for and against Russian interests. McGonigal’s alleged crimes ultimately may reveal more about the conflicts of interest that agents face as they seek to capitalize on their government careers.”


McCARTHY MAKING MOVES, PART I — Speaker KEVIN McCARTHY will lead a House GOP delegation to the southern border near Tucson on Thursday, including a CBP tour by air. He’ll be joined by Reps. LORI CHAVEZ-DeREMER (R-Ore.), JUAN CISCOMANI (R-Ariz.), JEN KIGGANS (R-Va.) and DERRICK VAN ORDEN (R-Wis.). Jonathan Martin notes that between this trip and Ciscomani’s appointment to the Appropriations Committee, McCarthy is making a play to keep the Arizonan from getting recruited to run for Senate.

McCARTHY MAKING MOVES, PART II — @SpeakerMcCarthy: “The Architect of the Capitol, BRETT BLANTON, no longer has my confidence to continue in his job. He should resign or President Biden should remove him immediately.”

McCARTHY MAKING MOVES, PART III — The House GOP’s “five families” of ideological factions met last week to discuss a plan for raising the debt limit, as McCarthy tries to game out a strategy to keep his conference together, CNN’s Manu Raju and Melania Zanona report. The speaker intends to create a proposal that would garner 218 Republican votes in the House, giving the lie to Democrats’ argument that McCarthy will need Dem votes and undercutting the White House’s insistence on a clean increase. McCarthy is granting more power to the rank and file, rather than imposing a plan from leadership — but getting conservatives and moderates on the same page could be tough.

Rep. DUSTY JOHNSON (R-S.D.), chair of the Main Street Caucus: “There’s a level of trust and engagement within the five families that I have not seen in the previous four years.”

WHO’S AT DEFAULT — Though the government is likely to run out of money in mid- to late summer, potentially triggering the debt ceiling crisis, the date could arrive as soon as early June, two economists tell HuffPost’s Jonathan Nicholson. In that scenario, Treasury would find out in late April.

THE TALENTED MR. SANTOS — Here’s another mystery in Rep. GEORGE SANTOS’ (R-N.Y.) campaign filing: $365,000 in spending without any details, NYT’s Grace Ashford, Alexandra Berzon, Ken Bensinger and Alyce McFadden report. “The mysterious expenditures, which list no recipient and offer no receipts, account for nearly 12 percent of the Santos campaign’s total reported expenses — many times exceeding what is typical for congressional candidates.”


GET OUT — The U.S. Embassy in Moscow warned that all American citizens should leave Russia immediately due to the war in Ukraine, per Reuters. The U.S. encouraged “increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions.” The State Department last issued such a warning in September.


THE VACCINE PICTURE — The U.S. is going to purchase an additional 1.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses from Novavax, WSJ’s Liz Essley Whyte and Stephanie Armour scooped. The company didn’t provide details on the price, but the deal is “part of efforts preparing for the end of government purchases and the start of a commercial market for the shots.”


TWO AMERICAS — Red and blue states are veering in opposite directions over history instruction in schools: Several Democratic-led states are newly mandating courses in Black, Latino or other ethnic studies, while some Republican leaders are clamping down on the ways race is taught, WaPo’s Hannah Natanson reports. The trends are “setting up a uniquely American division over how we teach our past.”

Related read:“The College Board’s Rocky Path, Through Florida, to the A.P. Black Studies Course,” by NYT’s Anemona Hartocollis, Dana Goldstein and Stephanie Saul


MEDIA MOVES — CNN’s PR team is adding Shani George as VP of comms and Molly Gannon as senior director of comms. Both were previously at WaPo.

WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Shuwanza Goff is now with the federal government relations team at Cornerstone Government Affairs. She previously was deputy assistant to the president/deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and House liaison.

TRANSITIONS — Lauren Stimpert is starting as senior counsel for the House Judiciary Committee under Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). She previously was counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. … Jake Parker is now a professional staff member on the House select committee on China. He previously was a policy adviser for Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.). … Jason Peña is now a legislative assistant for Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). He previously was a program manager for the policing and public safety initiative and legal policy programs at the Manhattan Institute.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Whitney VanMeter, VP of political affairs at UPS, and Rick VanMeter, founder of Prevail Communications and a Roger Wicker alum, welcomed Lindy Browning VanMeter on Thursday. She joins big sister Billie and big brother Franklin. Pic

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 and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.