POLITICO Playbook: What Hurricane Ian leaves behind

Hurricane Ian’s death toll stands at 30 as of this morning: 27 people in Florida and three in Cuba, per the AP, though the number is expected to keep rising. Some rivers are continuing to balloon, threatening fresh flooding. And as the sun comes up today, we’ll also begin to get a clearer view of what havoc Ian has wrought in South Carolina. One firm pegged the estimated economic damages at $66 billion to $75 billion; another said they could soar above $100 billion. The remnants are now headed through the Carolinas and toward the mid-Atlantic. Live updates from the Fort Myers News-Press

As floodwaters recede, political assessments are starting to pour in: Any natural disaster represents a major test for local, state and federal leaders, and Ian placed one of the country’s most prominent politicians on a new stage. Both WaPo and the AP write that Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS pivoted from his typical pugnacity to strike a unifying tone and work smoothly with President JOE BIDEN on the response.

“This new eyewall of political cooperation … has temporarily paused the rhetorical knife fight that was set to grow in the coming weeks between the president and a governor with presidential aspirations,” writes WaPo’s Michael Scherer. Biden paused his Florida campaigning, too, and the two men spoke three times this week to coordinate efforts. Even CHRISTINA PUSHAW dialed it down on Twitter.

Not everything is kumbaya. Some Democrats have made sure to point out that DeSantis voted against disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy when in Congress and to highlight Republicans’ intransigence on taking action to ameliorate climate change.

And VP KAMALA HARRIS raised hackles on the right when she talked Friday about “giving resources based on equity” and taking into account the disproportionate effects of disasters on low-income and minority communities. Pushaw chimed in on that one: “This is false. @VP’s rhetoric is causing undue panic and must be clarified. FEMA Individual Assistance is already available to all Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian, regardless of race or background.”

DeSantis also publicly warned potential looters: “I would not want to chance that if I were you — given that we’re a Second Amendment state.”

He’s not the only official in the spotlight: This is a big test for FEMA Administrator DEANNE CRISWELL, the first woman in that role, ABC’s Isabella Murray reports. “Will Criswell make a difference when FEMA is needed most — and have lessons been learned so it can respond better now?”

And local leaders are coming under scrutiny: Lee County emergency managers waited longer than other counties to issue evacuation orders in apparent contravention of county plans, NYT’s Frances Robles, Mike Baker, Serge Kovaleski and Lazaro Gamio report. That “may have contributed to catastrophic consequences” for the county, where the majority of deaths reported so far took place.

Election impact: Lee County officials are now working hard to send out absentee ballots ahead of a Thursday deadline, despite losing power in their facilities, CNN’s Fredreka Schouten reports. It may be difficult to reach displaced voters, and leaders also have to find alternatives to damaged in-person voting centers.

Strange bedfellows: Cuba has asked the U.S. for emergency aid, an unusual request between longtime enemies, WSJ’s Vivian Salama and José de Córdoba scooped. Cuba’s in particularly dire straits because Russia, its usual backer, is preoccupied with Ukraine.

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop me a line at [email protected], or reach out to the rest of the team: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

TOP TALKER — We’ve all become pretty well inured to DONALD TRUMP’s slashing attacks on his political enemies over the past seven years. But a screed he posted on Truth Social on Friday night targeting Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL was downright stunning: “He has a DEATH WISH,” Trump said in part. “Must immediately seek help and advise from his China loving wife, Coco Chow!” The message, seemingly prompted by passage of a short-term government funding bill, could be interpreted as a death threat against McConnell, while his racist reference to former Transportation Secretary ELAINE CHAO sparked immediate backlash online.

A Trump spokesperson told NBC that a literal interpretation of “DEATH WISH” was “absurd”: “Mitch McConnell is killing the Republican Party through weakness and cowardice. He obviously has a political death wish for himself and [the] Republican Party.”



DEMOCRACY DIGEST — MICHAEL FLYNN and PATRICK BYRNE’s The America Project is investigating local election officials across eight swing states, having interviewed or reached out to almost 200 of them, Votebeat’s Jen Fifield reports. Hundreds of volunteers are asking administrators about debunked conspiracy theories through “Operation Eagles Wings.” “The survey questions appear intended to detect potential weaknesses in local election systems and gather detailed information about how elections are run,” she finds. “Election experts say the information could easily be used to fuel misinformation campaigns, disrupt voting, or challenge results.”

POLITICAL VIOLENCE WATCH — DHS this week gave local election officials information on how to de-escalate voter encounters at the polls that have the potential for violence, CNN’s Sean Lyngaas scooped. “The training includes ‘non-confrontational techniques’ for dealing with angry voters as well as how to determine if an ‘emergency response’ is needed or if law enforcement should be alerted.”

THE RED RESURGENCE — A week after he argued the opposite, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver says some evidence of a political rebound for Republicans is growing — and Democrats have a variety of reasons to stay up at night. Among them: worries about polling accuracy, GOP ad spending, the enthusiasm gap and fundamentals that continue to favor Republicans. “Republicans still could do quite well for themselves in November,” he reminds.

MEGATREND — “Ticket-splitting voters were going extinct. Now they may decide 2022’s biggest races,” by NBC’s Sahil Kapur, Allan Smith and Jonathan Allen


THE GOP COMEBACK — The Pennsylvania Senate race appears to have tightened substantially, as Republican voters have come home to MEHMET OZ after a divisive primary and a sustained barrage of ads have attacked Lt. Gov. JOHN FETTERMAN for the first time, the Philly Inquirer’s Jonathan Tamari reports. Both parties had expected the contest to get closer. “Democrats are taking solace in the idea that a lot more voters like their candidate. … Republicans argue momentum favors Oz, and that the more voters hear about Fetterman, the closer the race is getting.”

— To wit: Sarah Longwell notes a focus group of Trump 2016-Biden 2020 voters that evinced no support for DOUG MASTRIANO but was divided down the middle on the Senate race: “Fetterman losing ground due to onslaught of crime-focused ads.”

— Republicans are playing catch-up but gaining ground, and they envision a path to victory that runs straight through Georgia and Nevada, WaPo’s Isaac Arnsdorf, Michael Scherer, Liz Goodwin and Hannah Knowles report. But even as Republicans have clawed their way back into TV advertising, current bookings show Democrats set to retake them again on the airwaves in the final weeks of the campaign. “Nothing’s a layup, don’t get me wrong,” says Sen. KEVIN CRAMER (R-N.D.). “It’s not like we’re measuring the carpet for Dr. Oz or anything.”


WHERE DEMS AREN’T TALKING ABOUT ROEIt doesn’t feel like an abortion election in South Texas, where both Democrats and Republicans are avoiding the issue in a handful of pivotal House races, Marissa Martinez reports. “The largely Hispanic region … has a muddled relationship with abortion rights. Many people are personally religious, socially conservative and against abortion,” she writes. “But both parties acknowledge that those personal views don’t automatically translate to wider support for government bans on abortion, either.”

SEEING RED — Rep. MICHELLE STEEL’s (R-Calif.) campaign is courting controversy with a doctored new mailer that shows JAY CHEN holding “The Communist Manifesto,” along with images of the Black power salute, VLADIMIR LENIN and more, the L.A. Times’ Seema Mehta and Anh Do report. Critics call the ads “red-baiting” and misleading; Steel’s campaign says they want to highlight Chen’s past vote as a school board member in favor of a Beijing-backed cultural education program. The anti-China messaging could have a big impact in the district, which has a big Vietnamese population.


THE TRUMP EFFECT — Michigan GOP gubernatorial nominee TUDOR DIXON is placing a risky bet on going all in on Trump (and his style) in her bid to take down Gov. GRETCHEN WHITMER, NYT’s Jazmine Ulloa reports this morning from Clarkston. The strategy worries some Republicans, but with Dixon facing an uphill battle, “it might be the only option she has.” Ulloa finds that Dixon is smooth on the stump, but some of her positions, particularly on abortion, concern Republicans as being too far right for the general.

ABORTION ON THE BALLOT — Michiganders who support abortion rights are mounting a drive to pass a state constitutional amendment protecting them in November, with potentially significant implications up and down the ticket, AP’s Sara Burnett reports from Utica. Using a relational organizing model, advocates are trying to get suburban women to engage and turn out people they know.

Dobbs raises the stakes for several state Supreme Court races, as Democrats worry about losing ground in Illinois, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio and more, AP’s Andrew DeMillo reports. That’s “prompting groups that have normally set their sights on other offices to concentrate attention and money on the judicial campaigns.”

UP FOR DEBATE — Republican Texas Gov. GREG ABBOTT and BETO O’ROURKE squared off in their only debate Friday night. Abortion, immigration and guns were among the most contentious topics of discussion, per The Texas Tribune.

Abbott on abortion and rape victims: “An alternative, obviously, is to do what we can to assist and aid the victim. And that is to help get them the medical assistance that they need and the care that they need,” Abbott said, adding that Texas could offer public assistance and “baby supplies” to rape victims who give birth.


— Michigan: Whitmer leads Dixon 51% to 45%, per Trafalgar. The Dem nominees in key secretary of state and AG races also are ahead, by narrower margins.

— Alaska: A new Alaska Survey Research poll has Republican NICK BEGICH III nudging ahead of SARAH PALIN to reach the final round of ranked-choice voting with Democratic Rep. MARY PELTOLA — but losing to the incumbent, 54% to 46%. They also find GOP Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI triumphing over KELLY TSHIBAKA 57% to 43%, and GOP Gov. MIKE DUNLEAVY beating LES GARA 53% to 47%.

— Illinois: A GOP poll from Fabrizio, Lee & Associates finds Democratic Gov. J.B. PRITZKER in a tight race, leading DARREN BAILEY 50% to 45%, or 48% to 40% when third-party candidates are included.

— Maryland: Annapolis appears overwhelmingly likely to flip to the Democrats: Gubernatorial nominee WES MOORE is beating DAN COX 60% to 28%, per WaPo/University of Maryland.


1. MAR-A-LAGO LATEST: The Justice Department asked an appeals court Friday to expedite its consideration of their special master appeal, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report. Though the feds already won an appellate ruling that lifted U.S. District Judge AILEEN CANNON’s order for a set of classified documents, they now want her whole special master ruling overturned, arguing that it’s hampering their investigation. DOJ asked for legal briefing in the appeal to wrap up by mid-November instead of mid-December or later. The 15-page filing

— Trump’s lawyers are fighting over how to proceed, WaPo’s Rosalind Helderman, Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Perry Stein report. CHRISTOPHER KISE is pushing to lower the temperature, while other attorneys want to keep being aggressive, and Trump has been weighing both arguments. Kise’s step-back from Mar-a-Lago filings reflects his disagreement: He wants to find an “off-ramp” for Trump before any charges, and he warns that CHRISTINA BOBB, EVAN CORCORAN and BORIS EPSHTEYN may be endangering themselves in an arena where they lack experience. But Trump so far is siding with the bulldogs.

2. POINT OF PRIVILEGE: The Mar-a-Lago and Jan. 6 investigations both hinge on the question of how much executive privilege can protect Trump in the post-presidency, NYT’s Charlie Savage and Glenn Thrush report. Though many experts say his arguments are a legal and philosophical stretch, “there are few definitive legal guideposts in this area, and the fights could have significant ramifications.”

3. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT: After subpoenaing the people involved in Arizona’s fake 2020 electors scheme earlier this summer, federal officials have yet to enforce them, state GOP Chair KELLI WARD’s attorney said in a filing Friday, per Kyle Cheney. “It’s unclear if DOJ has taken steps to enforce subpoenas issued to false electors in states other than Arizona.” The filing

4. BIG VOTING RIGHTS RULING: A federal judge upheld Georgia’s voting laws on all counts Friday, a major victory for Republicans and a loss for STACEY ABRAMS’ Fair Fight Action, which brought the suit in 2018, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Niesse. “Although Georgia’s election system is not perfect, the challenged practices violate neither the Constitution nor the VRA (Voting Rights Act),” the Obama appointee wrote.

5. GATHERING NO MOSS: “‘It’s Gotta Grow to Stay Alive’: Inside Noah Shachtman’s Raucous Reinvention of Rolling Stone,” by Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein: “Shachtman, an extremely online, F-bomb-dropping Brooklyn dad who played CBGB before establishing himself on the national defense beat, has breathed new life into Rolling Stone since taking over as editor in chief one year ago. He’s increased the publication’s online metabolism in a way that’s reminiscent of how he led the Daily Beast … But the breakneck pace is also whiplashing staff at a legacy print magazine whose web presence seemed, until recently, like an afterthought. His hard-charging style in the newsroom and swagger on social media has chafed some staffers.”

6. JUDGMENT CALL: Dominion Voting Systems is fingering Judge JEANINE PIRRO as a key figure in its massive defamation lawsuit against Fox News, NPR’s David Folkenflik reports. “Its filings argue that by questioning Pirro, Dominion can meet the key legal threshold of proving Fox showed ‘actual malice’ when it broadcast false claims.” Fox declined to comment.

7. 2024 WATCH: “What Is Gavin Newsom Doing in Texas?” by David Siders in Austin for POLITICO Magazine: “If his undertakings this summer — his ads, his travel here — were designed to persuade Democrats that their style of politics is too soft, they have also served to create a unique place in the party for him as the most exasperated voice of the left.”

8. MORE ‘UNCHECKED’ REVELATIONS: House Intelligence Committee attorneys met with ANDREW BAKAJ, a lawyer for the intelligence community whistleblower at the heart of Trump’s first impeachment, despite Chair ADAM SCHIFF’s (D-Calif.) claims that he had no contact with the whistleblower, Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian reveal in their new book, “Unchecked: The Untold Story Behind Congress’s Botched Impeachments of Donald Trump” ($28). Per the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker, news of the September 2019 meeting lends some credibility to Republican criticisms of Schiff on the matter.

9. LOCKED UP: “Biden pledged to end solitary confinement. Federal prisons are increasing its use,” by NBC’s Erik Ortiz: “Figures from the federal Bureau of Prisons analyzed by NBC News revealed that 11,368 inmates were held in restrictive housing — informally known as solitary confinement — as of Tuesday, up 7% from 10,607 inmates on May 28, the same week as when Biden signed his executive order. It’s also up more than 11% from the first few months of the Biden administration.”

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies


“How to Hit Back,” by Esther Wang in N.Y. Mag: “The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate.”

“More Trans Teens Are Choosing ‘Top Surgery,’” by NYT’s Azeen Ghorayshi: “Small studies suggest that breast removal surgery improves transgender teenagers’ well-being, but data is sparse. Some state leaders oppose such procedures for minors.”

“Elise Stefanik Is Most Likely to Succeed,” by Foreign Policy’s Amy Mackinnon: “A young woman once hailed as the future of the Republican Party embraces Trumpism to stay that way.”

“The Pandemic’s Legacy Is Already Clear,” by The Atlantic’s Ed Yong: “All of this will happen again.”

“Taken Under Fascism, Spain’s ‘Stolen Babies’ Are Learning the Truth,” by Nicholas Casey in the NYT Magazine: “Thousands of Spanish children were taken from hospitals and sold to wealthy Catholic families. This is Ana Belén Pintado’s story.”

“The Making of a Monster,” by Dan Schwartz in Bicycling: “Centuries ago it was an idyllic earthen path. Today, it’s the most dangerous road for cyclists in America.”

Kay Granger helped negotiate the bill to avert a government shutdown, then voted against it, then told Caitlin Emma she couldn’t say why.

Mike Pence served up ice cream at an old-school parlor in Iowa.

Jimmy Carter will celebrate his 98th birthday with Rosalynn and the Braves.

McGruff the Crime Dog stopped by the Capitol.

The Right Stuff, the new conservative dating app, includes prompts like “January 6th Was” and “Favorite Liberal Lie.”

IN MEMORIAM — “Marybeth Peters, Influential Former Head of Copyright Office, Dies at 83,” by Billboard’s Robert Levine: “She guided the Copyright Office through one of the most eventful times in its history [from 1994 to 2010], from the early days of the commercial Internet to a time when piracy ran rampant on it.”

“Pa. Supreme Court Chief Justice Max Baer dies at 74,” by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gillian Mcgoldrick, Jon Moss and Mick Stinelli: “Mr. Baer was first elected to the Supreme Court in 2003 and was sworn in as its chief justice in 2021. He was set to retire at the end of 2022, after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75.”

SPOTTED: Al Sharpton on Thursday night at Shelly’s Back Room.

OUT AND ABOUT — Forbes Tate Partners celebrated its 10th anniversary Thursday night at its office in Chinatown. SPOTTED: Reps. David Valadao (R-Calif.), Troy Balderson (R-Ohio), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio), Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Blake Moore (R-Utah), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio), Natalie Torentinos, Elizabeth Brown, Asher MacDonald, Matt Lathrop, Holly Horn, Dave Grimaldi, Rob Hall, Jason Mahler, Jonathan Lamy, Amy Isbell, Alabama state House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, Josh Saltzman, Nick Calio, Dan Turton, Rebecca Mandell, Keith Stern, Amy Soenksen, Sam Segall and Francesca McCrary.

TRANSITION — Molly Bauhan is now scheduler for Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.). She previously was a staff assistant for Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-Kan.).

ENGAGED — Greg Wischer, VP of government affairs at Westwin Elements, proposed to Joanna Miller, an adviser at Save America and a Trump White House alum, on Friday night by the Georgetown canal. They celebrated at Flavio, where they had their first date. The couple met through mutual friends last fall. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Former President Jimmy Carter (98) … Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) … WSJ’s Ben Pershing … WaPo’s Jose Del RealTommy Andrews of Squire Patton Boggs … Tim Hannegan of HLP&R Advocacy … CNN’s Brian Todd and Evan Semones Alex Gleason of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies … AEI’s Joe Antos … POLITICO’s Andy Goodwin and Marie French Rob Seidman of the Glover Park Group … Heather Reams of Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions … Justin Hunter of Encompass Health … Laura Fullerton of House Foreign Affairs … Scott Eckart Daniel Clifton … Fenway’s Ben Krauss Nayyera HaqTheo Yedinsky … CRC Advisors’ Mike Thompson Vinh Nguyen … ServiceNow’s Nichole Francis Reynolds Alisa La of McDonald’s … Moh Sharma of House Judiciary … Joanne Peters Denny … Israel Policy Forum’s Michael Koplow Sharon Yang of Building Back Together … Kenny Cunningham of Cunningham Communications … Jennifer Storipan of Lot Sixteen … Brook Ramlet

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) … North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper … NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Panel: Stephen Hayes, Susan Page, Symone Sanders-Townsend and Julio Vaqueiro.

CNN “State of the Union”: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell … Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) … Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Panel: Ashley Allison, Scott Jennings, Xochitl Hinojosa and Brendan Buck.

FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp … FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. Panel: Doug Heye, Olivia Beavers, Chad Pergram and Mo Elleithee.

CBS “Face the Nation”: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell … Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) … Chris Krebs … retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster … Fort Myers, Fla., Mayor Kevin Anderson.

MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) … Tara Setmayer … Stuart Stevens … Doug Jones … Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) … FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

ABC “This Week”: FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell … Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) … retired Gen. David Petraeus. Panel: Donna Brazile, Ramesh Ponnuru, Susan Glasser and Peter Baker.

CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Kaitlan Collins, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Jonah Goldberg, Eva McKend and Joan Biskupic.

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