Biden repays younger voters

With his student debt forgiveness plans now blocked by courts, Biden has extended the “emergency” freeze on federal student payments. The freeze was set to expire at the start of 2023 but will now run until June.

In a video message yesterday, Biden said he was “completely confident” that his debt forgiveness plan was legal, and that the Supreme Court would soon clear up the confusion. (We’ll see about that.) Until then, the president argues, it would be unfair to expect graduates to resume their payments.

I won’t rehash the arguments against forgiveness here (illegal, unfair, regressive), or do any more than point out the absurdity of the idea that we are really still in a “national emergency” at the moment. Rather, let’s look at the move as a revealing clue as to what the White House sees to be its winning formula.

After the midterms, Biden appears to know which side his bread is buttered on, heaping economic benefits on loyally Democratic sections of the electorate to keep them enthused and engaged. Young voters broke Democrat in overwhelming numbers earlier this month, and young voters with a college degree even more so. After the Democrats’ surprisingly strong showing, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said that Biden “kept his promises to younger Americans (with action on climate change, student loans, marijuana reform, etc), and they responded with energy and enthusiasm.”

A Tufts study bears this out. It found that not only did young Democrats turnout in historic numbers this cycle, but they also had an outsized influence on key races. In Pennsylvania, John Fetterman did especially well with younger voters, who broke 70 percent to 28 percent in his direction. In Arizona, the gap was even bigger, at 76 percent to 20 percent. The study attributes Catherine Cortez Masto’s tight victory in Nevada to younger voters.

Betting on youth-vote turnout has generally been a losing game in American politics. But it worked for Biden this month. And so don’t expect the White House to feel any kind of embarrassment about the absurd act of extending emergency Covid measures if it helps lock up a crucial cohort of younger voters for the party led by an octogenarian.

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McCarthy looks for unity on the border

Facing an uncertain path to the 218 votes he needs to become the next speaker, Kevin McCarthy headed to the border yesterday. Speaking in El Paso, he called on Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to resign and pledged to begin an impeachment inquiry into the man responsible for border security. The subtext to the trip, and the announcement, is McCarthy’s desperate for every vote he can find come January, when the House will select its next speaker. Impeachment proceedings of this sort are exactly the kind of thing that McCarthy skeptics on the right wing of the Republican Party want to see from the next speaker. And immigration is a subject on which his party is united, meaning this aggressive approach is less likely to alienate the moderates.

Back in Washington, Ralph Norman became the latest Freedom Caucus member to announce that he would not be voting for McCarthy for speaker come January. Norman said he was a “hard” no and attributed his decision to McCarthy’s refusal to endorse the Republican Study Committee’s plan for addressing the national debt. That brings the total tally of GOP nays to five.

It’s a holiday, Ron!

Nothing says Thanksgiving like White House-issued talking points. “One last item for your Thanksgiving dinner,” tweeted Ron Klain. “Some talking points for when ‘that Uncle’ comes ‘at you’ about @POTUS.” Their follows a long list of “top accomplishments.”  Wouldn’t it be better for the self-styled unifier in chief and his team to urge Americans to put politics to one side at the Thanksgiving table this year than arm their side with bullet points?

When is a private family event not a private family event? When it’s in Vogue

In Monday’s diary, I described Naomi Biden’s White House wedding as a private affair. In the build-up to the occasion, Biden press secretary Karine Jeanne-Pierre described it as a “family event” and asked that everyone respect the couple’s wish for privacy. Then, on Tuesday, Vogue splashed a “digital cover” (whatever that means) featuring Naomi in her wedding dress and her grandmother Jill Biden, just one in a series from an elaborate bridal photoshop accompanied by a fawning interview of the president’s granddaughter. So much for Naomi wanting to keep a low profile!

What you should be reading today

Art Tavana: Thirty-five years of crying to Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Charles Lipson: Why we should still be optimistic about America
Bernard-Henri Lévy: Snapshots of Ukraine
Niall Ferguson, Bloomberg: FTX kept your crypto in a crypt not a vault
Joseph Zeballos-Roig Semafor: Capitol Hill finally wants to regulate crypto. But some critics just say ‘let it burn’
Keith Bradsher, New York Times: Outbreaks test China’s efforts to limit the cost of ‘zero Covid’

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 41.7 percent
Disapprove: 54.3 percent
Net approval: -12.6 (RCP average)

Georgia Senate runoff
Raphael Warnock: 51 percent
Herschel Walker: 47 percent (Fabrizio/Anzalone)

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