POLITICO Playbook PM: Senate GOP takes a sucker punch

MORE LIKE SUNU-NO — In a surprising blow to Republicans’ hopes to retake the Senate in 2022, New Hampshire Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU announced this morning that he will not run against Democratic Sen. MAGGIE HASSAN, Stephanie Murray reports.

For Senate Republicans, Sununu was the crown jewel of its 2022 recruits — a popular swing-state governor and tested pol who very plausibly could’ve flipped a Democratic seat in the 50-50 body. And for months, it seemed that Sununu had been teasing his eventual entry into the race. But Sununu said that the more that senators tried to recruit him, and the more he heard about the day-to-day realities of the gig, the less it appealed to him.

Sununu “didn't just turn down a run for the Senate. He savaged the chamber,” writes Anthony Adragna, who rounds up the “most scorching, and driest, Senate takedowns from his press conference.”

Here’s what’s raising eyebrows: Sununu told reporters that he didn't give Republicans in D.C. advance notice that he’d decided against a campaign. And by all appearances, the announcement seems to have stunned Republicans who’d invested so much time and energy in recruiting him.

“Unbelievable,” tweeted JOSH HOLMES, the political consiglieri to Senate Minority Leader MITCH MCCONNELL. “Yep,” replied STEVEN LAW, another longtime McConnell hand who heads the GOP’s Senate Leadership Fund.

But it’s also pretty easy to understand where the governor is coming from. “Can't really blame Chris Sununu for wanting to be the god-king of a fun state instead of Vote #51 for some circuit court nominee,” tweeted WaPo’s Dave Weigel.

And maybe this was all in the cards. “Chris Sununu’s horoscope is a little on the nose,” joked our own Stephanie Murray, sharing the November-born governor’s horoscope for today by the Astrotwins in Elle: “Don’t do it, Scorpio!” it reads. “Your words will pack a punch today… It doesn’t matter if you’re dead right and this is something that needs to be vocalized. You can’t just lay it all on the line when there’s a strong possibility of wounding a sensitive soul.”

THE AFTERNOON BUZZ — Two stories worth reading for your water-cooler talk this afternoon:

1) The lede anecdote in JONATHAN KARL’s Atlantic piece on JOHNNY MCENTEE: When a young HUD assistant liked one of TAYLOR SWIFT’s Instagram posts in October 2020 encouraging her followers to vote and holding a tray of Biden-Harris cookies, then-COS MARK MEADOWS got a call about it from a top HUD staffer. This wasn’t just a fan liking a post — to the “enforcers” in the Presidential Personnel Office, this was treacherous, Karl writes in a new excerpt from his forthcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show” ($25.76). “During the final year of the Trump administration, that office was transformed into an internal police force, obsessively monitoring administration officials for any sign of dissent, purging those who were deemed insufficiently devoted to Trump and frightening others into silence. … Some Trump aides privately compared the PPO to the East German Stasi or even the Gestapo — always on the lookout for traitors within.”

2) The ridiculous opulence of the NANCY PELOSI-officiated wedding of IVY GETTY: For generations, the Getty family has been San Francisco royalty, and their considerable fortune has placed them at the center of the city’s social and political life. Witness the shimmering wedding of Ivy Getty, great-granddaughter of oil baron J. Paul Getty, which played out at San Francisco’s regal city hall, officiated by Pelosi and attended by Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM and Mayor LONDON BREED, among many others. Vogue has the writeup and dozens of photos of the event — which is all the talk of Twitter at the moment.

Good Tuesday afternoon.


REDISTRICTING READ — Republicans may be shut out entirely in Maryland as Democrats weigh how cutthroat they can afford to be in their redistricting of the state. “Legislators in Annapolis are expected to unveil drafts of a new congressional map this week, offering potential blueprints for the state’s eight House seats for the next decade,” Ally Mutnick reports. “And while there are certainly enough Democratic voters in the state to make all of them blue, it's not clear how aggressive mapmakers will ultimately be in targeting GOP Rep. ANDY HARRIS.”

‘FREE JOE BIDEN’ — DCCC Chair SEAN PATRICK MALONEY saw the Election Day results as a “wake-up call” to Dems — a sign of a messaging problem that he says starts at the top, he told NYT’s Trip Gabriel in an interview. “The president needs to get himself out there all around the country and do events in local media markets to punch through these key messages. … My message is ‘free Joe Biden.’ That campaign needs to start now before the next crisis takes over the news cycle.”

KNOWING HARRIET HAGEMAN — In Wyoming, HARRIET HAGEMAN is running to unseat Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.). But she’s also going to serve as the latest test of just how much weight DONALD TRUMP’s endorsement carries, Jewish Insider’s Matthew Kassel writes.

“Hageman, a longtime trial attorney and GOP activist in Cheyenne, describes encountering a deep and growing well of anti-Cheney sentiment as she embarks on a bid to unseat Wyoming’s lone congresswoman. ‘Liz Cheney is not liked in Wyoming,’ Hageman, 59, charged in an interview with Jewish Insider on Friday. … Hageman, a Wyoming native who was raised on a ranch outside Fort Laramie, gained prominence as a land and water resources lawyer with a libertarian conservative bent. In 2018, she ran an aggressive campaign for Wyoming governor but only placed third with about 22% of the vote.”


TO THE LETTER — It often looks like a simple PR stunt, but Protocol’s Ben Brody takes a look at a peculiar piece of congressional maneuvering that, despite its outdated feel, still holds weight. “In the era of email, lawmakers may dash off a couple letters a week to other parts of the government. … [T]he occasional smart letter can work as an obscure policy lever, convincing agencies they have political cover to take on more controversial enforcement, interpret statutes more broadly and even dust off powers they've long abandoned, all without Congress taking a single vote. And in an era when successful votes are hard to come by, these letters, for better or worse, are sometimes the best lawmakers can do.”


FOOTING THE BILL — As part of his vaccine mandate, Biden wants the unvaccinated workers to pay for their required testing when they return to offices. But it appears likely that business themselves will have to cover testing thanks to already existing laws. “The prospect of hitting businesses with new testing costs as many struggle to staff back up could harden opposition to Biden’s plan, and hamper the president’s latest push to end the pandemic,” Rebecca Rainey and David Lim write.


THE BACKSTORY — In the days after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, the NRA huddled on a private call to determine what the organizations next steps would be. “And in those private moments, the NRA considered a strikingly more sympathetic posture toward mass shootings than the uncompromising stance it has taken publicly in the decades since, even considering a $1 million fund to care for the victims,” NPR’s Tim Mak reports. “NPR has obtained more than 2 1/2 hours of recordings of those private meetings after the Columbine shooting, which offer unique insight into the NRA's deliberations in the wake of this crisis — and how it has struggled to develop what has become its standard response to school shootings ever since.”

SUPPLY AND DEMAND — One of the big problems causing a mess for the U.S. supply chain is a severe shortage of truck drivers to deliver goods. “Truck drivers have been in short supply for years, but a wave of retirements combined with those simply quitting for less stressful jobs is exacerbating the supply chain crisis in the United States,” NYT’s Madeleine Ngo and Ana Swanson write. “A report released last month by the American Trucking Associations estimated that the industry is short 80,000 drivers, a record number, and one the association said could double by 2030 as more retire.”

REVERSE CARD — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reversed a decision made in the waning days of the Trump administration after it was found that political appointees “relied on faulty science to justify stripping habitat protections for the imperiled northern spotted owl,” AP’s Matthew Brown and Gillian Flaccus report in Portland, Ore.


THE NEW COLD WAR — Biden and Chinese President XI JINPING “will have a rare virtual encounter this week as they gather online with other Pacific Rim leaders to chart a path to recovery out of the crisis brought on by the pandemic,” AP’s Nick Perry reports.

FOR YOUR RADAR — The U.S. is taking a page out of Israel’s book and has been testing an Iron Dome missile-defense system in Guam, WSJ’s Alastair Gale writes. “The dome can protect only against limited types of missiles, and the U.S. is pursuing separate plans to beef up defenses against Chinese ballistic missiles that descend from space. Still, the Iron Dome test points to the wide range of U.S. hardware heading to the Asia-Pacific region as the Pentagon addresses a Chinese buildup that it has called its No.1 challenge.”


ON THE GROUND — A delegation of Democratic lawmakers — including Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ — arrived in Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit today, per NYT’s Lisa Friedman in Glasgow. “‘We’re here to push,’ Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. ‘It’s time for us to re-examine our first-world and global governments, to re-examine their priorities about what is possible, and really try to push them on the boundaries of that.’”

RENEWABLE REPORT CARD — A new report released today finds that the “proportion of electricity the United States gets from solar and wind nearly quadrupled between 2011 and 2020,” WaPo’s Tik Root writes. “The analysis also found that if the current growth rate continues, wind, solar and geothermal would meet current electricity demand levels by 2035 — which is when President Biden aims to have an entirely fossil-fuel-free grid.” The report


HATCH(ET) JOB — 13 former Trump officials violated the Hatch Act — a law barring federal officials from certain political behavior — over the course of the 2020 election, according to a report released by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel today. “The bulk of the violations, according to investigators, came as the result of comments pertaining to the election of then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden while the officials were giving interviews in their capacity as government officials,” Nick Niedzwiadek writes.


IN MEMORIAM — via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Former U.S. senator and Veterans Administration leader Max Cleland died Tuesday more than 53 years after a live grenade dropped by a fellow soldier in Vietnam robbed him of three limbs. … A Democrat bound to a wheelchair most of his adult life, the 79-year-old Cleland was one of the first veterans from the killing grounds of Southeast Asia to enter American politics. He took a state senator’s seat in 1971, three years after his wounding, and went on to serve as top administrator in the U.S. Veterans Administration, as Georgia Secretary of State, a U.S. senator and an appointee in other federal agencies.”

— An important point: “During his watch [as head of the Veterans Administration], VA doctors admitted the existence of post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘For the first time ever, you could get combat-related pay even if you came back without visible wounds,’ he wrote.”

STAFFING UP — Allison Preiss is joining the CFPB as a senior advisor to the director for comms, on leave from the Center for American Progress, where she was VP of comms.

TRANSITION — Tanveer Kathawalla is joining Logically as VP and general manager. He previously was partner at Pioneer 1890.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Lauren Schapker, VP of legislative affairs at ARTBA, and Mark Keida, deputy VP at PhRMA, welcomed Miller Brooks Keida on Thursday. Pic

    POLITICO Playbook PM: Senate GOP takes a sucker punch POLITICO Playbook PM: Senate GOP takes a sucker punch POLITICO Playbook PM: Senate GOP takes a sucker punch POLITICO Playbook PM: Senate GOP takes a sucker punch