Biden’s uphill battle with Haley supporters

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In today’s edition … House Republicans who backed Trump opponents win their primaries … Tensions rise between Ukrainian and American leadership … but first …

The Biden campaign’s challenge courting Haley voters

An initial meeting between one of President Biden’s campaign staffers and a group of Nikki Haley supporters over Zoom last week was a small, cursory step by the Biden campaign to reach out to her voters who haven’t gotten behind presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

But the path to winning over Haley supporters will not be an easy one, even as the Biden campaign insists it is part of the strategy heading into November.

Many Haley supporters are Republicans and can’t fathom voting for a Democrat for president — and for those who can, coming out in support of Biden could be risky in an era of public shaming and violent threats. Some more prominent Republicans are afraid to stick their necks out, one anti-Trump Republican told us.

Plus, the Biden campaign’s outreach plan isn’t fully in place even as some are encouraging his team to more aggressively court Republican voters.

Neither Biden nor the campaign had reached out to Haley before she said she would vote for Trump last week. And former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has said there’s no way he would vote for Trump, reiterated this week that he still hasn’t heard from Biden or the campaign.

The Biden campaign insists it’s a priority but that it’s not the time for high-profile endorsements as most voters aren’t fully plugged in to the presidential race. It plans to hire a staffer who can move in Republican circles and is devoted to the effort. It’s a delicate process, the campaign says, to meet people where they are. They point to a seven-figure digital ad buy launched last week focused on Haley voters.

The campaign reached out a couple months ago to Olivia Troye, a former Trump administration national security official who has been an outspoken critic of the former president. She has no official role with the campaign at the moment, but because she believes Trump is such a threat to democracy, she is talking to Republicans about their options in November.

“Has it been a slower start? Yes, I think so,” Troye said of the Biden campaign outreach effort to disaffected Republicans. “I think it’s going to be a lot of work, but I think they’re going to have to do it because I think they’re going to need us.”

Biden’s uphill challenge

Haley has continued to receive a significant share of the Republican primary vote despite dropping out more than two months ago.

She won nearly 17 percent of the vote in Pennsylvania and 13 percent in Wisconsin — both swing states that held primaries last month. She won 14 percent in Ohio, 18 percent in Arizona, 18 percent in Nebraska, 22 percent in Indiana and 23 percent in Maryland.

The question is: Where will those voters turn in November?

According to a February Quinnipiac University poll, 37 percent of Americans who preferred Haley to win the nomination said they would support Biden in the general election. But many Haley supporters don’t feel at home with the Democratic Party quite yet. About half of them said they would support Trump in the general election, and 12 percent said they will abstain, vote for a third-party candidate or are undecided.

  • “I’m a lifelong Republican, and I have some real issues from a policy standpoint with some Biden administration policies,” one prominent Haley fundraiser in Atlanta told us. “The Biden campaign has not reached out to me, and I don’t think they should.”

But that donor said he isn’t yet willing to vote for Trump even though he was pleased the former president said there was a place for Haley on his team after she backed him. “I’ve got some issues with the former president, and I’ve got to reconcile that in my head,” the donor said.

For Robert Schwartz, co-founder of Haley Voters Working Group and the super PAC Haley Voters for Biden, Haley supporters refraining from voting for Trump is just as good as voting for Biden.

“If a vote for Biden is a bridge too far,” sitting out the election “is something we will take,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz set up last week’s Zoom call with the Biden campaign that was joined by 16 Haley supporters, including some from the battleground states of North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona. The campaign aide listened to their concerns and acknowledged that even considering voting for Biden is not easy, Schwartz said.

Schwartz said his super PAC hopes to raise $2 million dollars to target Haley voters with messaging that appeals to their moderate Republican inclinations.

One challenge for Biden is that while he works to make inroads with Haley voters, he also must shore up his base as he lags behind his 2020 numbers among Black, Hispanic and young voters. Israel policy is an area where there is little overlap between the base and Haley supporters.

But Biden’s central message that Trump is a threat to democracy can work for both anti-Trump Republicans and the Democratic base.

“Voters who care deeply about the future of our democracy, standing strong with our allies against foreign adversaries, and working across the aisle to get things done for the American people — while also rejecting the chaos, division, and violence that Donald Trump embodies,” the campaign wrote in a recent memo about outreach to Haley voters.

Thanks to Scott Clement for help with polling data.

The Supreme Court is expected to hand down at least one decision this morning.

A lot of cases are left from this term, including two involving Trump. One deals with whether he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in office, and the other involves whether Trump and Jan. 6 rioters can be charged with obstructing an official proceeding.

The court also has not ruled on whether a key provision of the 2017 tax law Trump signed is constitutional and whether the Food and Drug Administration erred in 2016 when it loosened restrictions on the abortion medication mifepristone, among other cases.

In New York, jury deliberation began yesterday in Donald Trump’s hush money case. Jurors were dismissed late afternoon and will reconvene this morning. It’s not clear when a verdict will be reached, and it could come at any time today or in following days. Yesterday, the jury is reported to have asked for readbacks of parts of former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker’s testimony and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony.

House Republicans who backed Trump opponents win their primaries

Opposing Donald Trump in the Republican Party is often thought to be a campaign killer. But the few House Republicans who endorsed Trump’s primary challengers this cycle fared well in their own primaries, our colleague Patrick Svitek reports.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the Republican presidential primary and won their primaries easily. (Massie even did so with Trump’s endorsement.)

Trump called for a primary challenger to Reps. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) and Laurel Lee (R-Fla.), but no serious contenders ran against them. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) was the only House Republican to throw his support behind Haley in the GOP presidential primary and is unopposed in his primary.

A variety of factors have led to the easy primary season for Republicans who supported a Trump rival. Trump’s busy year with his own campaign and lawsuits have left him preoccupied with other matters. Also, incumbents always have an edge, and popular representatives can be tough to challenge.

Norman said that for a primary challenger to succeed, they’ll need “more to run on than simply who his opponent endorsed.”

One congressman has had a harder time than the rest: Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), who earned Trump’s ire for endorsing DeSantis. Trump has returned the favor by endorsing Good’s primary opponent, John McGuire.

Tensions rise between Ukrainian and American leadership

Tensions between Ukrainian leaders and the United States have increased recently as U.S. and European backers disagree over military strategy, our colleague Michael Birnbaum reports.

One area of debate is the use of U.S. weaponry to carry out strikes on Russian soil. The Biden administration has conditioned American assistance on Ukraine’s agreement not to do so, worrying that it would escalate tensions between the United States and Russia. Many world leaders have publicly declared they have no such qualms, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and officials from Finland, Canada and France. Germany and Italy have aligned with the United States in the debate.

  • “Americans think that they should avoid escalation with Russia by creating zones of ambiguity, but it provokes Russia,” said Oleksandr Lytvynenko, a senior Ukrainian security official. “Russia needs to have very clear lines. A gray zone is just an invitation to try.”

But U.S. officials insist these disagreements are minor in the grand scheme of things.

  • “I’m not going to tell you there isn’t ever friction as we wrestle with these critical and challenging pressures of Russia’s full-scale invasion,” a senior U.S. official told Michael. “The depth and breadth of our partnership is sufficient that we can manage disagreements about tactics and find the best way forward as strategic partners.”

The disagreements reportedly extend off the battlefield. The United States’ leadership is cautious about whether to create a path to NATO membership for Ukraine, and American policymakers are pushing for more anti-corruption actions from Ukraine.

From Washington Post Live

Today at 1 p.m. Eastern, Leigh Ann will host a Washington Post Live discussion with filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky and former Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov about the future of Ukraine. They’ll also discuss Afineevsky’s documentary “Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” which examines the challenges of a country fighting for its survival through the eyes of its citizens. Tune in here.

This is one way to do it.

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