POLITICO Playbook Daily Briefing


POLITICO Playbook's must-listen briefing on what's driving the day in Washington.


United States




POLITICO Playbook's must-listen briefing on what's driving the day in Washington.




Feb. 8, 2023: Biden’s no-compromise SOTU

President Joe Biden had a few goals last night: 1. Remind his audience of his accomplishments over the last two years; 2. Reiterate his positions in the spending debate (no negotiations over the debt ceiling and no touching Social Security and Medicare); 3. Detail the most popular highlights of his 2023 agenda; and 4. Expose his congressional GOP opposition as unreasonable and chaotic. The speech accomplished the first three goals if you listened or read it carefully. But it will be best...


Feb. 7, 2023: Inside Biden’s high-road SOTU

In his prior trips to the House rostrum, President Joe Biden was flanked by symbols of unified Democratic power in Washington: VP Kamala Harris over his right shoulder and then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi over his left. When Biden arrives tonight for his State of the Union address, things will look different. A newly minted Republican speaker, Kevin McCarthy, will look down on Biden in a visual reminder of how power has shifted in Washington — and how Biden’s presidency will have to shift along...


Feb. 6, 2023: China deflates Biden’s SOTU swagger

When President Joe Biden ascends the House rostrum tomorrow to deliver his State of the Union address, the buzz will hover tens of thousands of feet higher, where a Chinese surveillance balloon floated until it was shot down Saturday off the South Carolina coast. It’s a distraction Democrats aren’t exactly thrilled about. They’ve been hoping Biden could use the biggest bully pulpit of them all to tout their legislative victories of the past two years — moving to cut prescription drug prices,...


Feb. 3, 2023: Worries balloon over Chinese spying

We have our first taste of how different conducting foreign policy will be for President Joe Biden now that Republicans control the House. The Pentagon revealed Thursday afternoon that it has detected and is tracking a large Chinese spy balloon floating in the stratosphere above Montana, where it was surveilling a nuclear missile base. The balloon, which entered U.S. airspace on Tuesday, is well above the altitude at which commercial aircraft fly, and Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat...


Feb. 2, 2023: Trump vs. DeSantis vs. who else?

“The Cold Calculus Behind the Shrinking GOP Presidential Field.” Would-be Republican White House aspirants face a harsh reality: It’s not just Donald Trump who’s freezing the 2024 field, reports Jonathan Martin. As GOP strategist Scott Jennings puts it: “They don’t have a Trump problem, they have a [Ron] DeSantis problem.” But consider this: “[T]he history most on the minds of the Republicans considering the race, who are not named Trump or DeSantis, is what happens when there’s a bloody...


Feb. 1, 2023: Why you shouldn't expect much from the Biden-McCarthy summit

President Joe Biden and Rep. Kevin McCarthy are scheduled to meet today in the Oval Office at 3:15 p.m. Keep your expectations in check. “Boring,” a top White House official said, when we asked about the first one-on-one session between the president and new House speaker. “First meeting of a hundred to follow.” McCarthy has set a similarly low bar. “I think the first thing he should do,” McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday, “especially as president of the United States, is say he’s willing...


Jan. 31, 2023: The House GOP’s growing pains

One month into the House Republican majority, a clear picture is emerging of the problems Speaker Kevin McCarthy will face managing his slim, five-seat majority. (That is, if the chaotic speaker election didn’t make things clear enough.) Already, Republicans are scrambling to salvage red-meat proposals they’ve been talking about for months, whether it’s cracking down on the southwest border or targeting Omar’s committee seat. Yes, it’s early going, but the new majority’s struggles in passing...


Jan. 30, 2023: Washington confronts the Tyre Nichols tragedy

The brutal and shocking video showing Tyre Nichols being beaten to death by Memphis police officers earlier this month prompted condemnation from all corners of Washington after it was released Friday. Whether it will prompt action is another matter. It has, for now, renewed behind-the-scenes conversations on Capitol Hill about the possibility of bipartisan policing legislation. Aides for key lawmakers on the issue, including Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), as well as...


Jan. 27, 2023: Is there an RNC shocker in the making?

Later this morning, RNC members here at a five-star resort on the Pacific Ocean will pile into a private conference room and elect the organization’s next chair after a weekslong, bitter campaign pitting incumbent Ronna McDaniel against top challenger Harmeet Dhillon. While McDaniel remains the favorite, Dhillon’s team has been working overtime since they arrived, and there are unmistakable signs she’s made headway. Just days ago, she had fewer than 30 of the 168 RNC members publicly...


Jan. 26, 2023: Why this debt ceiling showdown is different

With a catastrophic federal default potentially months away, Wall Street and the rest of America is reacting with a big yawn — and, honestly, can you blame them? The high-stakes debt standoffs of Barack Obama's presidency each ended with last-second deals that avoided economic calamity and saved face for all the principals involved. Washington went on to lift the debt limit four more times with minimal drama. So why are so many veterans of the first modern debt ceiling showdown freaking out?...


Jan. 25, 2023: George Santos has $199 problems

On Tuesday, Kevin McCarthy officially booted Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee. In a letter that was short on details about the two California Democrats’ sins, the new House speaker referred to “integrity,” “honesty” and “credibility” as driving his decision. It is no surprise that reporters immediately asked McCarthy how his expulsion of the two Democrats for alleged dishonesty squares with his hands-off approach to another well-known congressman:...


Jan. 24, 2023: Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks

Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued the new GOP roster for the House Rules Committee Monday, and he made good on his pledges to give his conference’s hard right a foothold on the powerful panel, naming Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) to the powerful gatekeeping panel. Norman and Roy were among the cadre initially opposing McCarthy’s speaker bid, and Massie is — how to put it? — a real pain in leadership’s ass. And our colleagues Ally Mutnick and Sarah...


Jan. 23, 2023: McDaniel in the lion’s den

The biggest moment yet in the 2024 election cycle happens later this week in Dana Point, Calif., where RNC members will choose their next leader — and incumbent Chair Ronna McDaniel faces an unexpected fight for a fourth two-year term. McDaniel is still the favorite, but the race has turned contentious: Attorney Harmeet Dhillon, who backed Donald Trump's attempt to throw out the 2020 election results and represented him before the House’s Jan. 6 panel, is challenging McDaniel, blaming her...


Jan. 20, 2023: White House says, celebrate the Biden-versary!

President Joe Biden was sworn in two years ago today. To mark the occasion, White House Comms Director Kate Bedingfield is sending congressional Dems and other allies this “Cheat Sheet” of the president’s accomplishments to tout. It’s worth a read to understand the emerging Biden reelection message — note the heavy emphasis on a manufacturing renaissance — which these talking points contend “is in contrast to MAGA Republicans in Congress who are creating chaos and proposing an extreme and...


Jan. 19, 2023: Meet House Oversight’s new brawlers

Just days after House Democrats announced impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump in 2019, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy faced an unwanted pressure campaign from the president’s closest allies. McCarthy refused — centrists, he believed, would have more credibility when they called foul on the Democrats’ impeachment process. Trump allies, meanwhile, would be dismissed by persuadable voters as knee-jerk partisans playing to an audience of one. That strategy has now flown the coop....


Jan. 18, 2023: What McCarthy gave up, drafting DeSantis and more

NBC’s Scott Wong and Kyle Stewart did the work on putting together a comprehensive list of where all of the antagonizers who slowed McCarthy’s ascension to the speakership ended up after committee assignments were settled Tuesday. A few of the notables: - Reps. Andy Biggs (R- Ariz.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) kept their seats on the Judiciary Committee; - Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who like Biggs and Gaetz voted ‘present’ on the final ballots, won a seat on the...


Jan. 17, 2023: Rep. Jim Banks leans into the culture war with Senate bid

Today, ambitious Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks launches his bid to replace retiring GOP Sen. Mike Braun. (Watch his announcement video here.) The 42-year-old former chair of the Republican Study Committee is widely seen as the favorite in the race, which has already attracted interest from fellow Rep. Victoria Spartz. But he could face a challenging primary if former Hoosier State Gov. Mitch Daniels jumps in. And, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent a letter to Speaker Kevin McCarthy...


Jan. 13, 2023: Joe Biden’s gift to Jim Jordan

In a September interview with CBS’ Scott Pelley for “60 Minutes,” President Joe Biden blasted Donald Trump for taking sensitive classified materials with him to Mar-a-Lago. When he learned the news, Biden said he instantly wanted to know “how that could possibly happen.” He worried that the documents contained information “that may compromise sources and methods.” He was flummoxed how “anyone could be that irresponsible.” Now, four months later, those same pointed reactions are aimed at...


Jan. 12, 2023: Is Biden’s best defense a good offense?

January is a time of new beginnings in Washington. A new Congress. A new Republican-led House. A new speaker, Kevin McCarthy. New investigations into Biden by GOP-helmed committees. And now, in light of all of the above, there’s a new effort from the White House to go on offense against Republicans like never before. Like so many Washington trends these days, it started with a tweet. “It’s a giant tax cut for rich tax cheats. Bill #1 from the new House GOP,” Ron Klain, the very online White...


Jan. 11, 2023: Blake Hounshell, 1978-2023

Most listeners to this show or readers of the Playbook newsletter didn’t know Blake Hounshell, but all of you were influenced by him. He nurtured and mentored dozens of young journalists who now populate virtually every significant news organization. He plucked brilliant academics from obscurity and turned them into influential writers. He shaped the world of online political news, newsletters and social media for over a decade at Foreign Policy, POLITICO and The New York Times. He put...