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Politics

Americans have low confidence in leaders, GOP at risk in political disputes: POLL

Official White House Photo by Hannah Foslien

(WASHINGTON) -- Americans expressed scant confidence in President Joe Biden and his party heading into the 2023 State of the Union address. Yet wide majorities also lack faith in their Republican counterparts, and a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds the GOP at risk on two fronts, the debt ceiling debate and its inquiry into alleged federal bias against conservatives.

Biden faces deep challenges of his own, including record economic discontent and weak job approval. Few give him credit for a range of accomplishments he may try to claim in tomorrow's address, from infrastructure to prescription drug prices.

The public takes Biden's side in the debt ceiling debate, with broad support for handling debt payments and federal spending as separate issues, along with extensive worry about the impacts of a default. The GOP leadership also faces skepticism about its probe of anti-conservative bias in federal agencies; most see this as an attempt to score political points, not a legitimate inquiry.

Among other issues, while Biden is calling on Congress to renew the long-expired ban on assault weapons, the public now is divided on the question: Forty-seven percent support such a ban, 51% oppose it. That reflects a 9-point drop in support since 2019, surprising given recent gun violence but confirming other data.

Internationally, the survey, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a substantial rise in the sense that the United States is doing "too much" to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia – 33% say so, up from 14% last spring. Still, that leaves about six in 10 saying the United States is doing the right amount (40%) or too little (19%, down from 37% as weapons shipments have soared).

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The shift toward saying the U.S. is doing too much peaks among Republicans and conservatives, up 32 and 30 percentage points, respectively. Those compare with non-significant changes of +5 points among Democrats and +6 points among liberals.

There's also the issue of confidence in the country's leadership. As detailed below, it's sorely lacking, with 68 to 72% of Americans expressing little or no confidence in Biden, newly elected Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and both their parties in Congress.

Debt debate

Biden has a wide advantage on one urgent and contentious issue, the debt ceiling. Just 26% of Americans adopt McCarthy's position that Congress should allow the government to pay its debts only if the administration agrees to cut federal spending. A broad 65% instead align with Biden's view that the issues of debt payment and federal spending should be handled separately.

Even among Republicans, fewer than half – 48% – support coupling debt payment with cuts in federal spending. That drops to 22% among independents and 10% of Democrats.

Underlying these results is broad worry about the consequences of default: A vast 82% are very or somewhat worried that a government default would damage the economy. That includes a majority, 53%, at the top end of the scale, "very" concerned.

Notably, this concern is bipartisan – about eight in 10 adults across the political spectrum are concerned about the economic impacts of a default, and being very concerned peaks among Republicans, at 59%.

That said, about two-thirds of Americans favor separate discussion of the debt limit and federal spending regardless of whether they're more or less worried about the impacts of nonpayment.

Confidence

Most broadly, the survey shows a now-common result: A public with deep economic dissatisfaction, sharp polarization and little faith in leaders on either side of the aisle. These attitudes are informed by the fact that, as reported Sunday, 41% say they've gotten worse off since the president took office, a high in polling back 37 years.

The public by an extensive 68-31% expresses just some or no confidence in Biden to make the right decisions for the country's future. It's a similar 70-28% for the Democrats in Congress. But it's even worse for McCarthy – a vast 71-19% lack confidence in his leadership. And it's 72-25% for his party.

Weaponization

In addition to the debt ceiling debate, the GOP faces headwinds in its inquiry into alleged anti-conservative bias in federal agencies by the newly created House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government. Americans by a 20-point margin, 56-36%, see the probe as "an attempt to score political points" rather than a legitimate investigation.

Indeed, while views are highly partisan, even among Republicans, 34% see the weaponization inquiry as an attempt to score political points, and a tepid 57% think it's a legitimate investigation. Results among conservatives are almost identical.

Part of the GOP's problem is widespread doubt about its premise. Relatively few Americans, 28%, think federal agencies in fact are biased against conservatives. Eleven percent think they're biased against liberals; an additional 11% volunteer that they're biased against both. A plurality, 42%, think federal agencies are not biased against either group.

Among conservatives themselves, 55% think federal agencies are biased against them. That's 47% among people who define themselves as somewhat conservative, rising to 66% of those who say they're very conservative (15% of all adults).

Assault weapons

While Biden has undertaken a new push to ban assault weapons, public views on the issue are now closely divided: Forty-seven percent support a ban, 51% oppose it. That reflects a 9-point drop in support for an assault weapons ban, and a 10-point rise in opposition, since last measured in an ABC/Post poll in September 2019. (Results were roughly similar, 49-45%, in a Quinnipiac University poll last July.)

Support for an assault weapons ban was this low just once before, a 45-53% result in December 2015; that poll, and this one, are the only two in which more than 50% have opposed a ban. In most other polls since 1995, majorities have supported an assault weapons ban, peaking at 79% in May 1999. It was 62% as recently as April 2018.

The decline in support for an assault weapons ban since 2019 is broadly based across groups. It would take a study focused in more detail on the issue to assess its reasons, but other studies provide clues. In a Pew Research Center poll last year, the public divided on whether or not making it harder to get guns would reduce mass shootings. And in a Pew study only among parents of children under 18, fewer than half, 45%, thought an assault weapons ban would be extremely or very effective at preventing shootings in schools specifically.

Accomplishments

Presidents typically tout their accomplishments in a State of the Union address. It can be a tough sell: Just 36% of Americans think Biden has accomplished a great deal or good amount as president; 62% say he's accomplished not very much or nothing. In an ABC/Post poll in January 2018, Trump was in a similar boat.

Nor does Biden get much credit for a disparate list of items he might raise in tomorrow's address. Unemployment has dropped from 6.3% when Biden took office to 3.4% now (a low since 1969) and the economy added a robust 517,000 jobs last month – yet the public by 60-34% says he has not made progress "creating more good jobs in your community."

Other efforts largely have yet to hit the ground, making it difficult for Biden to claim credit. Despite the huge infrastructure bill he signed into law in November 2021, the public by 60-32% says Biden has not made progress "improving roads and bridges in your community" – perhaps because much of the actual work is yet to be done.

Similarly, legislation Biden signed in August includes a tax credit up to $7,500 for buying an electric vehicle. But it took effect just this year; so far, the public by 56-26% says Biden has not made progress "making electric vehicles more affordable." (A substantial 18% are undecided.)

Lastly, despite measures to lower prescription drug prices for people on Medicare, the public by a closer 47-30% says Biden has not made progress "lowering prescription drug costs," with 23% unsure. Again, some of the bill's provisions take effect this year; others are years off.

This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 26-25-40%, Democrats-Republicans-independents. See the PDF for full results, charts and tables.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Maryland. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Record numbers of people are worse off, a recipe for political discontent: POLL

Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Four in 10 Americans say they've gotten worse off financially since Joe Biden became president, the most in ABC News/Washington Post polls dating back 37 years. Political fallout includes poor performance ratings for Biden and a tight hypothetical Biden/Trump rematch next year.

Given disaffection with both leaders, a rerun of the 2020 presidential election is hardly enticing: Nearly six in 10 Democratic-aligned adults don't want to see Biden nominated again for the job, and half on the Republican side would rather not see Donald Trump as their party's nominee.

If those were the choices and the election were today, the poll suggests it could be close: Among all adults, 48 percent support Donald Trump and 44 percent are for Biden; it's a similar 48-45 percent among registered voters. The differences are within the poll's margin of sampling error.

The big hit on Biden is the economy: With inflation moderating but still high, 41 percent say they're not as well off financially as they were when Biden took office, the most in nearly three dozen ABC/Post polls to ask the question since 1986, when Ronald Reagan, who popularized the "better off" phrase, held office. Just 16 percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, say they're better off.

By contrast, nearly two years into Trump's presidency, far fewer – 13 percent – said they'd gotten worse off; more, 25 percent, were in better shape financially.

Biden's overall job performance rating, 42-53 percent, approve-disapprove, has been under water, and steadily so, since September 2021. On issues, Biden has just 37 percent approval for handling the economy, 38 percent on the war in Ukraine and 28 percent on the immigration situation at the Mexican border.

Biden's approval rating after two years in office is well below average compared with the previous 13 presidents. Three have been in about the same boat at this point (Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan) and one has been lower – Trump, at 37 percent, in polling by ABC/Post and previously Gallup. The pre-Biden average is 56 percent.

EMOTIONS – Underscoring Biden's challenges, many more Americans have a negative rather than positive emotional response to the prospect of his winning a second term: The public by a broad 62-36 percent would be disappointed or even angry if he were re-elected, rather than enthusiastic or satisfied.

Responses to a hypothetical Trump victory also are negative overall, but less so, 56-43 percent. Part of the reason is that Biden loses slightly more of his base – 26 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would be unhappy if he were re-elected, compared with 20 percent of Republicans and GOP leaners who'd feel that way about a Trump win.

Trump occupies somewhat more space at the emotional extremes. Seventeen percent would be enthusiastic about his winning another term; 36 percent would be angry about it. Given a Biden re-election, fewer would be enthusiastic – 7 percent – but also fewer would be angry, 30 percent.

DOCUMENTGATE – For all his woes, Biden outpoints Trump on another measure – their apparent mishandling of classified government documents. Forty-five percent of adults think Trump intentionally did something illegal in his handling of classified documents after he left office as president. Many fewer, 27 percent, say the same about Biden after his vice presidency.

That doesn't mean Biden is fully off the hook in terms of public attitudes on the issue. Forty-eight percent think he acted wrongly, but not intentionally, in handling classified documents. Just 16 percent think he did nothing wrong. Twenty-nine percent think Trump was unintentionally wrong; 20 percent see no wrongdoing on his part.

BETTER OFF? – Inflation peaked at 9.1 percent in last June, a 40-year high; it's eased since but remained a still-high 6.5 percent in December. That's produced widespread economic pain. Nearly two years into Trump's presidency, 25 percent of Americans said they'd gotten better off since he took office. As noted, fewer, 16 percent, now say the same about life under Biden.

After Trump's first year, just 13 percent felt worse off financially. That spiked to 35 percent under Biden a year ago, and its level now, 41 percent, is the most measured in 33 ABC/Post polls since September 1986. The previous high was 36 percent among registered voters in September 2011, amid a plethora of economic troubles including 9 percent unemployment.

Economic sentiment is subject to partisan influence; 72 percent of Republicans say they've gotten worse off under Biden (more than any other group), while just 12 percent of Democrats say the same. The trouble for Biden is that it's 39 percent among independents, vs. 11 percent worse off among independents in 2018.

Biden's approval rating is vastly lower among worse-off Americans than others – unsurprising given the disproportionate number of Republicans in their ranks. Perhaps more telling, given independents' usual swing-voter role, is this: Among worse-off independents, Biden has a mere 12 percent approval rating and Trump leads him in vote preference by 82-8 percent. Among independents who are in the same shape or better off financially as when he took office, by contrast, Biden's approval vaults to 67 percent and he leads Trump by 62-29 percent.

Worse-off independents disproportionately lean Republican and better/same independents largely lean Democratic. Nonetheless, because independents are less firmly rooted in partisan predispositions, they can be movable – making their economic sentiment a measure to watch as the 2024 campaign heats up.

NOMINATION NATION – Just 31 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the party should nominate Biden for re-election; 58 percent say it should pick someone else. That's no better than it was for Biden last September, 35-56 percent.

Two Democratic groups stand out as most opposed to Biden for the nomination – younger adults and Democratic-leaning independents. Among 18- to 39-year-olds, 69 percent would like to see the party choose someone other than Biden, who already is the nation's oldest president. Anti-Biden sentiment on this measure reaches 72 percent among independents.

Still, even among mainline Democrats, just 39 percent would like to see Biden as the nominee; 50 percent think not. Indeed, the only group in which he's even numerically above water in support for the nomination is Black Democrats, who divide 47-41 percent on the question. The sample size for that group is small and the difference is within the margin of error.

On the Republican side, overall 44 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents would like to see Trump as the party's nominee, similar to 47 percent in September; these compare with 67 percent support for him to be the nominee heading into the 2020 contest. Forty-nine percent now would like to see the party pick a different candidate.

The most pro-Trump group among Republicans and GOP leaners is those who call themselves very conservative – 55 percent back him for the nomination, the only group to do so by a statistically significant margin. His other best groups, at 52 percent support, are non-college graduates, rural residents and those with lower household incomes. Most opposed to Trump in the GOP ranks are college graduates (67 percent), people with higher incomes (66 percent), GOP-leaning independents (61 percent) and moderates (56 percent).

APPROVAL and VOTE – Among other results, Biden's approval rating remains highly polarized; 81 percent of Democrats approve of his work, compared with 6 percent of Republicans; it's 45 percent among independents. Compare to Trump at this point in his presidency – 78 percent from Republicans, 12 percent among Democrats.

A key difference is independents, who gave Trump a 32 percent approval rating, 13 percentage points lower than Biden's from independents now.

That said – and while it's very early in the cycle – independents today support Trump over Biden by 50-40 percent, a slight difference, meaning it's significant at the 90 percent confidence level rather than the customary 95 percent confidence. There are miles to go before November 2024, but it's worth keeping in mind that in nine of the last 12 elections, whoever won independents won the presidency.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 26-25-40 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Lawmakers praise successful downing of suspected Chinese spy balloon while concerns linger

Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The downing of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon by the U.S. military was met by lawmakers with a mix of praise for the safe and successful operation, criticism for it not happening sooner and concern over what intelligence may have been gathered and how to prevent something like this from happening again.

The balloon was shot down by a U.S. fighter aircraft off the coast of South Carolina on Saturday afternoon after traveling across the continental U.S. since Tuesday, according to officials. The Pentagon has said the high-altitude balloon was being used for surveillance, disputing China's claim that it was a civilian aircraft used for meteorological purposes.

President Joe Biden told reporters on Saturday that he ordered the Pentagon to shoot the balloon down "as soon as possible" on Wednesday. However, the operation was held off until the balloon -- carrying a payload described as being the size of three buses -- was off the coast, where threats to civilians were limited.

"They decided -- without doing damage to anyone on the ground -- they decided that the best time to do that was when it got over water within our 12-mile limit," Biden said. "They successfully took it down and I want to compliment our aviators who did it."

A senior defense official told reporters there was value in waiting to shoot down the balloon aside from just the safety of people on the ground.

"The surveillance balloon's overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us," the official said during a briefing on Saturday. "We were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable."

Lawmakers across the aisle applauded the military for successfully taking down the suspected surveillance balloon, though some said it took too long.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries thanked Biden and the U.S. military for "putting the safety of the American people first."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer commended Biden's "leadership in taking down the Chinese balloon over water to ensure safety for all Americans."

Tennessee Republican Rep. Mark Green, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said he was "pleased" that the "espionage tool" won't be returning to China.

At the same time, several lawmakers, including Green and fellow members of his party, reiterated criticisms that the balloon should have been brought down sooner -- before it crossed the continental U.S. -- and that the situation called for a more forceful response.

Green said that "damage to U.S. national security and American sovereignty was already done." Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said Biden "refused to stop China," while Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., called it a "dereliction of Biden's duty."

"We still don't know what information was collected and where it was sent," Scott tweeted.

On Sunday talk shows, Republicans kept up the questions over the timing of the military's decision to down the balloon.

"I can assure you that if we fly a balloon over China, they're going to shoot it down, and probably a lot sooner than we did," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's "This Week."

"What began as spy balloon has become trial balloon, testing President Biden's strength and resolve, and unfortunately the present failed that test," Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., added on CNN's "State of the Union."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" that while he commended Biden for ordering the balloon to be shot down, "he didn't do that until a week aft it entered U.S. airspace."

Even Biden's defenders among congressional Democrats said the balloon's mere presence in the U.S. indicated broader issues in the relationship between Washington and Beijing.

"We should not have had this kind of incursion into the United States and we have a real problem with China on a number of issues, from their human rights violations to their violations of international business law to even the challenges we've had with them on overt spying. So I'm grateful that the military took decisive action when they and how they did, but we, obviously, have issues here," Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said Sunday on "Face the Nation."

Senior administration officials have told ABC News that shooting down the balloon safely sent the message that the U.S. protects American lives while responding "effectively" to the violation of U.S. sovereignty.

Amid the security concerns, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the balloon didn't pose a physical or military threat and, once it was detected, the U.S. took steps to protect against foreign intelligence collection of sensitive information.

A senior military official told reporters Saturday that the balloon was deemed unlikely to provide much more to China from flying over than could already be gained from its satellites.

"Nevertheless, this balloon was clearly crossing over sensitive sites, including sensitive military sites. And so we took additional precautions to make sure that whatever additive intel value would be minimized," the official said.

The eventual shoot-down then served to "neutralize any intelligence value it could have produced" by preventing it from returning to China, the official said.

In the wake of what he called China's "inexcusable" and "incompetent" spying, Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine said this incident will be a "major focus" of a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing this week.

As the balloon debris retrieval is underway, Michigan Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin called for all Congress members to be briefed on the situation in the coming week and as more is learned, while urging stronger steps against China beyond Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponing his planned travel in the country this weekend.

"Whether through new sanctions or tighter restrictions on U.S. exports to China, the message needs to be loud and clear," Slotkin tweeted.

Chinese surveillance balloons have previously been spotted over countries across five continents, including in East Asia, South Asia and Europe, according to a senior defense official. In the U.S., they transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times during the Trump administration, senior administration officials said Saturday.

Following the resolution of this latest balloon, Missouri Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt said, "We need ensure that this never happens again."

ABC News' Justin Gomez, MaryAlice Parks and Matt Seyler contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


171 Republican lawmakers join effort to stop student loan forgiveness program

Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- One hundred and twenty-eight House Republicans and nearly all Republican senators on Friday filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court opposing the Biden administration's federal student debt cancellation plan, which has been halted as tens of millions of Americans await the justices' ruling on its legality.

While White House officials have been adamant that the president is within his authority to wipe out hundreds of billions in government-backed loans to provide "breathing room to tens of millions of working families," Republicans challenging it take the opposite view.

The forgiveness plan that could relieve up to $20,000 for eligible loan recipients is an unconstitutional breach of the separation of powers and a violation of the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 (HEROES Act), according to the House GOP brief.

"The Biden administration's student loan bailout is a political gambit engineered by special interest groups; abusing the HEROES Act for such a ploy is shameful," House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in a statement.

The House GOP brief included 25 members on Foxx's committee and roughly 100 other lawmakers. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not sign it, though Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Majority Whip Tom Emmer and House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan did.

Separately, 43 Republican senators signed their own brief in support of the challenge to the loan forgiveness program. Led by Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, they also call the president's plan unlawful and claim it exceeds his office.

The White House has pushed back.

"While opponents of our plan are siding with special interests and trying every which way to keep millions of middle class Americans in debt, the President and his Administration are fighting to lawfully give middle-class families some breathing room as they recover from the pandemic and prepare to resume loan payments in January," spokesman Abdullah Hasan said in October.

However, the House Republicans say they believe Biden is exploiting the language of the HEROES Act, which the administration argues vests the education secretary with expansive authority to alleviate financial hardship for federal student loan recipients as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Indeed, the entire purpose of the HEROES Act is to authorize the Secretary to grant student-loan-related relief to at-risk borrowers because of a national emergency -- precisely what the Secretary did here," Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in a Supreme Court filing defending the proposed debt cancellation.

After legal challenges last year saw the forgiveness program halted by lower courts, the Supreme Court announced in December that it will hear oral arguments on the issue at the end of February.

A decision on the program is then expected by June.

The moratorium on loan repayments, which was first put in place under President Donald Trump earlier in the pandemic, is now set to expire 60 days after the decision or 60 days after June 30 -- whichever date comes first.

A vocal opponent of Biden's plan, Foxx also accused the administration of "bypassing Congress" to implement loan forgiveness.

"Congress is the only body with the authority to enact sweeping and fundamental changes of this nature, and it is ludicrous for President Biden to assume he can simply bypass the will of the American people," she said in her statement.

Foxx told ABC News in an interview last month that she believes it is an "injustice" for taxpayers to fund the administration's "scheme." The plan would cost $400 billion, according to an estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and its nearly half-a-trillion-dollar price tag worries Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.

Despite the White House saying the cancellation would give needed economic relief, Duncan said it would be sending the U.S. further into a "debt spiral."

"The Court should invalidate the Secretary of Education's sweeping student loan forgiveness program since it trespasses on Congressional authority and violates the separation of powers," he said.

The U.S. Education Department has said the president's decision to cancel up to $10,000 for some loan recipients -- those who made less than $125,000 on their 2020 or 2021 taxes or $250,000 filing jointly -- or $20,000 for low-income recipients who received Pell grants could impact roughly 43 million Americans who owe $1.6 trillion in student loans.

That was particularly important in light of how COVID-19 upended the economy, according to the White House.

"This is why we took this action -- to make sure that tens of millions of Americans are able to deal with a time that was very difficult, especially in the last couple of years," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told ABC News' Karen Travers last week. "That's been the important priority of the president: to make sure folks … who felt the pinch if you will, who felt the hurt the most these past couple of years due to what COVID did to the economy, got a little extra help."

After the cancellation program launched last year, 26 million people signed up online before it was halted by the courts.

Of that group, 16 million were approved before the department's website stopped accepting applications to let the legal process play out. However, no loan forgiveness has been discharged.

Last month, over a dozen advocacy groups like the NAACP filed briefs in support of the president's plan.

"Student loan borrowers from all walks of life suffered profound financial harms during the pandemic and their continued recovery and successful repayment hinges on the Biden Administration's student debt relief plan," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in response to the coalition of groups joining in support of the plan. "We will continue to defend our legal authority to provide the debt relief working and middle-class families clearly need and deserve."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu 'definitely thinking about' 2024 presidential run

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said Sunday that he is considering a run for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

"I'm definitely thinking about it and having those conversations," Sununu told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

The governor, who was just overwhelmingly reelected to a fourth term, said "the message is new leadership" and touted his own track record running what he called the "most efficient" state government in the U.S.

"But at the end of the day, you're going to have a lot of Republicans that get in that race," he said. "They're all really good people. They're really good candidates. ... And you got to have that discussion about where we're going to go, both as a party and make sure we're going there as a country."

The field of 2024 GOP contenders already includes former President Donald Trump while former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is expected to announce her own bid later this month, sources have told ABC News.

Sununu, a vocal Trump critic, is skeptical of his general election chances. "He could get the nomination, but he can't get it done," Sununu said.

He pointed to the 2022 midterm elections, where several major Trump-backed candidates fell short, as a sign of Trump's electability concerns. Sununu, a self-described "free-market principled Republican," said the party should focus on finding a conservative candidate who isn't too divisive.

"What I've tried to espouse to with Republicans is, 'Look, we want to vote for the most conservative candidate that can win in November and get stuff done in '25,'" he said.

Sununu said that his personal vision was this: "I believe government has to get out of your way. And we've done it really, really well here in New Hampshire. We're sharing that model across the country."

Good leadership is what is lacking out of President Joe Biden's White House, Sununu argued, faulting Biden both for his response to a Chinese reconnaissance balloon flying over the country last week and what Sununu said was a disingenuous picture of the economy.

"Go into a grocery store and just talk to people in the cereal aisle. What are they feeling? You know, do they feel confident about this leadership that the president? No," Sununu said. He cited a new ABC News/Washington Post survey that four in 10 Americans feel financially worse off under Biden.

"The best leadership is one that looks inside, says, 'What are we doing right? What are we doing wrong, right?' If we don't acknowledge the problem, we can't fix it," Sununu said, adding, "You need to see more of that out of Washington."

The Biden administration's approach to the Chinese balloon, revealing its presence days after it entered the U.S. and then shooting it down over the Atlantic Ocean on Saturday, was "too little, too late," Sununu said.

U.S. officials have said they delayed any military response to prevent hurting civilians and took steps to limit any intelligence risk.

"Again, you have to have leadership. You have to be transparent. You have to be fast-acting," Sununu said.

When asked about Biden's State of the Union address on Tuesday, Sununu contended that the commander-in-chief will wrongly take credit for current economic progress as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought widespread job loss.

Sununu said he expects Biden to tout the unemployment rate, at a decades-low, but "after a pandemic, that wasn't very hard."

Boasting about declining inflation, which is now at a year-over-year rate of 6.5%, would be similarly self-serving, Sununu said. "Inflation was at a record high -- of course it's coming down," he said. "It couldn't have gotten any higher."

"The prices are not going to go back to where they were. I know the Biden administration likes to pretend that," Sununu said, predicting that the economy would be headed for years of so-called "stagflation," in which rising costs limit growth.

Despite his sharp criticisms of Biden, Sununu said he still doesn't think Trump can win against him in a 2024 rematch.

"Trump is going to be seen as a very extreme candidate," Sununu said. "The country is going to push back against it."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Buttigieg defends 'extraordinary' economy as polling suggests significant discontent

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- With President Joe Biden preparing to deliver his second State of the Union address on Tuesday, a new ABC News/Washington Post shows many people feel their finances are worsening -- but Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg on Sunday said the president can "make the case" that the economy is back on track.

"You make that case by pointing to the reality and recognizing that the story won't tell itself," Buttigieg told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl. He touted the latest employment numbers, including 517,000 jobs added in January, and an unemployment rate of 3.4% that is the lowest since 1969.

"What we're seeing is extraordinary. Record job creation, as the president has pointed out, more created in two years on his watch than four years on any other president's watch, and usually, when you have unemployment go down like this, you have inflation go up. But right now, inflation is going down as well," the secretary said.

Buttigieg also touted Biden's "economic track record" in creating manufacturing jobs, lowering the cost of insulin for seniors and projects that will soon be starting due to the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.

The ABC News/Washington Post poll shows 41 percent of Americans say they're not as well off financially as they were when Biden took office -- the most in almost 40 years of ABC News/Washington Post polling.

Pressed by Karl on the survey showing only 16% say that they feel better off today than they were two years ago when Biden took office, Buttigieg said the country has "been through a lot" recently.

"The president and the entire administration recognize that there continue to be headwinds, challenges, problems facing this economy," he said, invoking the COVID-19 pandemic. "After all, the president took office under some of the most challenging circumstances facing any president in modern times."

Buttigieg highlighted rising wages and more Americans participating in the labor force as a signal of economic strength and said that "we can expect continued improvement" if the administration continues "successful policies."

"Part of what I think you're going to see on Tuesday when the president's addressing the nation and the Congress in the State of the Union is a reminder that this successful approach stands in stark contrast to a strategy that would focus on things like preserving tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Buttigieg argued.

The House's new Republican majority, however, contends that Biden and congressional Democrats have been reckless and wasteful in their government spending, citing the national debt and historic inflation that only began to cool in recent months.

With the country approaching the deadline to increase the nation's debt limit by June or risk defaulting on its obligations, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said there will be no default -- but that the White House must negotiate on spending in exchange for a debt ceiling increase.

The White House said raising the limit, which is currently about $31.4 trillion, has long been done without preconditions under both presidents. The ceiling allows the government to borrow money to pay for debts it has already incurred rather than for new spending. Biden's predecessor Donald Trump reportedly grew the national debt by approximately $7.8 trillion, which included an enormous government response to COVID-19.

Buttigieg on Sunday wouldn't comment on talks between the White House and GOP but made clear that raising the debt limit was not up for debate -- insisting that the administration viewed negotiating spending levels as a separate discussion with Republicans.

"The president's been very clear that the full faith and credit of the United States is not negotiable. Remember, this is not a decision or a negotiation about how much to spend or even how much to borrow, this is about whether the United States pays its bills, and we always do," he said.

He told Karl that there are "always negotiations going on" when it comes to spending, which House Republicans are hoping to curb now that they have control of the chamber.

But because Republicans haven't "put pen to paper on what they want," Buttigieg said, it makes it "hard to understand" where they want to make cuts.

Karl asked if it was then possible that there could be parallel legislation to raise the debt limit without conditions -- while a second bill reflected a compromise on spending.

"Yeah, because one is not appropriate for negotiation; the other one is," Buttigieg said.

As President Biden prepares for a likely 2024 reelection campaign, the ABC News/Washington Post poll also showed that less than a third of Democratic voters want to see him re-nominated.

Buttigieg gave no indication on when Biden could make his announcement but said he has been an "absolutely historically successful president and I want to see that continue."

When Karl followed up to ask if Buttigieg wanted Biden to run in 2024, he said, "When I'm appearing in this capacity, I can't talk campaigns and elections. But let me say this: I'm incredibly proud to be part of this team that he has built and to be part of the results that he is delivering."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rubio says China flew balloon over US to send 'a message': They think America is 'in decline'

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that despite China's claims otherwise, they sent a balloon into the U.S. to send a message about the country's sway across the globe.

"The key part here is they knew exactly what they were doing and there was a message behind it," Rubio told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

"They understood that it [the balloon] was going to be spotted, they knew the U.S. government would have to reveal it, that people were gonna see it over the sky. And the message they were trying to send is what they believe internally, and that is that the United States is a once-great superpower that's hollowed out, it's in decline," Rubio said.

The balloon's presence over Montana caused the Federal Aviation Administration to issue a ground stop for the Billings airport on Wednesday. But U.S. officials only announced the vessel was over the country late Thursday, after it had already flown down from Alaska. The military chose to wait to strike the balloon until the risk to civilians was minimized, defense officials have said.

China saw value in that delay, Rubio said on "This Week."

"The message they're trying to send the world is, 'Look, these guys can't even do anything about a balloon flying over U.S. airspace. How can you possibly count on them if something were to happen in the Indo-Pacific region? ... How are they going to come to the aid of Taiwan or stand with the Philippines or Japan or India when the Chinese move on their territory?'" he said.

Rubio's comments come after bipartisan outrage over what the Biden administration described as a Chinese surveillance balloon that was first detected on Jan. 28 crossing Alaska, Canada and then the continental U.S., including flying over sensitive military sites that house intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The balloon was ultimately shot out of the sky on Saturday over the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of South Carolina.

As vice chairman of the Senate's intelligence panel, Rubio will be one of eight lawmakers who will be briefed sometime this week behind closed doors on the circumstances around the balloon.

Rubio said on "This Week" that "first and foremost," he wanted to know what information the balloon was able to collect. He pointed to China's repeated use of such craft.

"Obviously, look, countries spy on countries. ... What was the value of this platform? Because it's one we've seen them use now for a handful of years here. But what's the value of it?" he said, adding, "What are we going to do about it in the future?"

Rubio dismissed China's public statements that the balloon was a civilian weather vessel that had accidentally flown to the U.S. He also said he wanted specific answers as to why the military chose to act when it did.

"When was it spotted? Why was it not brought down sooner over other areas? I'm open-minded to listening to the arguments they make about why it wasn't dealt with sooner," Rubio said.

The administration has said President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered the balloon to be taken down once it was feasible, with the threat of harm to civilians ultimately delaying military action.

Whether the Pentagon would now glean useful intelligence from the balloon "depends [on] what they're able to retrieve," Rubio said. "When you shoot something out of the sky and it goes into the ocean, you don't always get it back in a neat package," he added.

Mike Mullen, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, concurred with Rubio in a separate interview on "This Week."

"I think I know enough about the system that you actually can navigate this system," Mullen said. "It has propellers on it, if you will. So, this was not an accident. This was deliberate. It was intelligence."

Both Rubio and Mullen said that Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the right move in delaying a planned trip to China, in light of this incident, but the senator also criticized Biden for not addressing Americans directly on what was unfolding.

"I don't know why they waited so long to tell people about this," he said.

Mullen approximated that China's balloon program is 10 years old and echoed some of the administration's rationale.

"It's very clear to me that the intelligence value of this, from the standpoint of what it was getting, was not worth the risk of killing an Americans on the ground," Mullen said. "And it's a substantial package in terms of its size, and even in the least dense areas of the country, there was that possibility, and I know that's why we waited to this point to take it down."

Mullen said this was the first time that he knew of a Chinese vessel "[coming] over the country like this," and he suggested it was possible that elements in the Chinese military had acted on their own to disrupt Blinken's diplomatic trip.

"There's no way that he could have a meaningful visit, and we have a host of issues that we need to address. ... Strategically, this really damages a relationship between us and China, which was deteriorating," Mullen said. "And I think that's really the big part of this."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats approve new primary calendar for 2024

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Democratic National Committee near unanimously approved a reconfigured presidential primary calendar rubber-stamped by the White House at the group's winter gathering on Saturday.

A few nay votes were drowned out by a sea of "ayes," followed by cheering from inside the Sheraton Hotel ballroom in Philadelphia.

Under the new calendar, the 2024 Democratic presidential primary begins in South Carolina -- the state that revived President Joe Biden's campaign in the 2020 contest -- on Feb. 3.

That primary would be followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.

Modernization and representation were two key guiding pillars for the DNC as they strategized changing their early nominating window. The committee debated for months over what sort of voter coalition could win Democrats votes.

"This calendar reflects who we are as a nation," party chair Jamie Harrison said at Saturday morning's meeting.

During Saturday's session, members of the New Hampshire and Iowa caucuses protested the changes to the primary calendar.

"We are creating a situation of continued uncertainty that will drag on until 2023," said Iowa DNC member Scott Brennan. "We will leave here with absolutely nothing settled."

Rita Hart, Iowa party chair, argued this calendar "feeds the narratives" that Democrats have "turned their backs" on the rural Midwest.

"Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party," Hart said.

Joanne Dowdell, a DNC member from New Hampshire, says the DNC is punishing them because they cannot change their law.

"And we are frustrated because as many times as we say it, no one seems to listen when we tell you that this will only hurt President Biden in our purple, battleground state," said Dowdell.

Dowdell added: "If President Biden doesn't file for the New Hampshire primary, it will provide an opening to an insurgent candidate to rise in the state and potentially win the first presidential primary of 2024- something that no one in this room wants to see."

Former 2020 candidate author Marianne Williamson is teasing a Democrat challenge to Biden and will be visiting New Hampshire in the coming weeks.

"No one state should have a lock on going first," responded Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, met with a round of applause.

Leah Daughtry also argued that other states are going to have to "shift" to make space for Black and Latino voters, saying that they are all not urban voters, asking the body to dispel with the idea non-White voters are somehow not rural and suburban.

Georgia election official Jordan Fuchs told ABC News back in December that there's little appetite to move their primary up unless both parties can do so, without either receiving penalties from their respective national parties – another unlikely parameter.

"Our legal team has continuously stated that both party primaries are going to be on the same day and we will not cost anyone any delegates," said Fuchs.

Both states will lose their early-state waiver if they are unable to meet compliance – and if they run their primary anyway, they risk losing convention delegates.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Florida schools directed to cover or remove classroom books that are not vetted

Courtesy Don Falls

(MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.) -- A new state guidance in Florida is directing school districts to cover up or remove books in classrooms that have not been approved under a law restricting instruction and books on race and diversity and making it a felony for teachers to share pornographic material to students.

The directive instructs schools to "remove or cover all materials that have not been vetted" in classrooms, according to a copy of the guidance reviewed by ABC News.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in April signed the "Stop WOKE" act, which restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race, or whether someone “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” due to U.S. racial history. WOKE in the bill stands for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees."

A judge in November temporarily blocked the law from restricting race-related curriculum and conversation in colleges and universities, which is still being battled out in the courts.

Michael Barber, communications director of Manatee County schools, told ABC News on Friday that teachers could be charged with a third-degree felony if they share a book that’s considered pornographic or obscene under Florida law. But many teachers misinterpret the law as meaning they could be indicted for simply sharing any unvetted material, he said.

Manatee County acted under an abundance of caution when they asked teachers to cover all their books, which could have been an overreaction, according to Barber. The county official explained that teachers have an online link to a list of books that have been approved for their grades and if they make sure their class collections are on the list then they would be fine.

Barber admits that this is a tough time as teachers are preparing their students for national state accountability tests and don’t have much time to vet their reading material. Manatee County schools are planning to ask volunteers to help them with the vetting process, he said.

"Each school district is tasked with ensuring that the materials offered in school libraries and classrooms offer educational value and comply with Florida law," DeSantis' press secretary Bryan Griffin tweeted on Tuesday.

But Don Falls, a history teacher at Manatee High School in Florida, says the new law limits the kind of information that can be given to students.

According to Falls, if a student feels uncomfortable about the content that is being presented, then that would be a violation of the law by the teacher.

"Last week, I was doing a couple of lessons on civil rights, looking at the Albany movement, Birmingham in 1963. And, of course, some of those images of those periods can be quite upsetting: dogs turned on little girls, fire hoses," Falls said in an interview on ABC News Live Prime. "I'm showing them some of these images, in the back of my mind, I was saying, 'Well, if a student here gets upset about these, have I violated the law?' But the information to me is too important to deny students. And so I'm still going to continue to do it."

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote in a tweet last month, "A teacher or any adult faces a felony if they knowingly distribute egregious materials such as images which depict sexual conduct, sexual battery, bestiality or sadomasochistic abuse. Who could be against that?"

Falls believes that rule is unnecessary because schools were already operating under those standards.

"We have a set of ethical guidelines that we agree to. State guidelines that go along with our contract that would prohibit any of that. And those have always been there in all my years of teaching," Falls said. "So, this attempt to try to convince the public that there is this kind of cabal of woke people that are out there distributing this stuff is just ridiculous because that just doesn't happen."

Earlier this week, the College Board released an updated version of the AP African American course framework after the Florida Department of Education rejected the course on Jan. 12.

Falls compared the law to McCarthyism, the controversial campaign by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to repress and persecute communists in the U.S. government.

"How ridiculous this was that in 2023 that we are covering books, that we are looking to ban books, that we are at a point that sounds like McCarthyism in our society," Falls said. "I guess it's frustrating as a long-time educator. I have been in the classroom for 38 years and I've never seen anything like this where this kind of widespread attempt to silence students, silence teachers to control the information in the classroom."

DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin on Friday directed ABC News to a tweet he wrote in response to a video shared online that seemed to show empty bookshelves in a Florida library.

"This is the latest lie from the crowd who believes they should be able to subject children to their preferred political agenda in public schools without any accountability to parents or the taxpayer," Griffin wrote.

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin and Brianti Downing contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Republicans paint Biden as soft on China as surveillance balloon soars over US

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- As what U.S. officials call a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China continued to fly over the continental United States, President Joe Biden faced growing pressure Friday to address the situation as Republicans said he needed to take stronger action against Beijing.

In his first chance to comment Friday, after touting the January jobs report, he instead told reporters he wouldn't answer questions on anything but the economy.

While Biden has, so far, decided against ordering military action, a U.S. official said late Thursday that the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation and "keeping all options open."

Montana GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who served as interior secretary under former President Donald Trump, is among a chorus of Republicans calling for the balloon to be shot down, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., saying Trump would have done so already. But government officials have said they are concerned doing so would pose a risk to civilians below.

Still, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted Friday, "It was a mistake to not shoot down that Chinese spy balloon when it was over a sparsely populated area. This is not some hot air balloon, it has a large payload of sensors roughly the size of two city buses & the ability to maneuver independently."

Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted for Biden to "stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists." He also asked whether the ballon was detected over Alaskan airspace as questions swirl.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney added a warning against Tik Tok, too: "A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let's shut them all down."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, has called for the congressional "Gang of Eight" top members to be briefed. Such a meeting would bring together the top House and Senate leaders and the heads of the intelligence committees in each chamber.

"China's brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent," McCarthy tweeted.

The criticism comes as newly-empowered House Republicans have formed a House Select Committee on China to investigate threats from the foreign power as the GOP argues the administration has not done enough on its own.

As officials weigh what to do next, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed his visit to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week, with an official noting that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his visit but also did not want the balloon to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials.

A senior U.S. official said talks with Beijing would continue across multiple levels of government and that Blinken had been in touch with his Chinese counterpart this morning.

"We are committed to maintaining open lines with the PRC at all times, including during this incident," the official said. "We will maintain open lines of communication with the PRC to address our concerns about this ongoing incident and to responsibly manage the competition between our countries."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier Friday that the balloon is civilian in nature and used for scientific research, "mainly meteorological."

"The airship is from China," the foreign ministry said. "Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

"Force majeure" refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.

ABC News' Luis Martinez, Shannon Crawford, Gabe Ferris and Karson Yiu contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Confidence in police practices drops to a new low: POLL

amphotora/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Americans' confidence in how police are trained and their treatment of Black people both have fallen to new lows in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Following the death of Tyre Nichols after he was beaten by Memphis, Tennessee police on Jan. 7, just 39 percent of adults in the national survey are confident that the police in this country are adequately trained to avoid the use of excessive force. And just 41 percent are confident the police treat Black and white people equally.

Both are lows since first asked in ABC/Post polls nearly a decade ago.

The decline has been striking. In 2014, 54 percent of adults expressed confidence that the police are adequately trained to avoid excessive force; that's since tumbled by 15 percentage points. Fifty-two percent said the police treat Black and white people equally; that's 11 points lower now.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Indeed, this poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 38 percent are "not confident at all" that the police treat Black and white people equally, while just 15 percent are very confident of this. On avoiding excessive force, 34 percent are not at all confident, vs. 12 percent very confident.

These polls were conducted across a long period of police killings of Black people and subsequent protests, from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 to the murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020 and now the death of Nichols, in which five Memphis officers were fired and have been charged with murder. His funeral was Wednesday.

An ongoing analysis by the Washington Post finds that police officers fatally shot at least 1,096 people in 2022, with Black people more than twice as likely as white people to be killed.

RACIAL/ETHNIC GAPS – While confidence in the police is down overall, wide gaps across racial and ethnic groups remain. Forty-six percent of white people think the police are adequately trained on excessive force, compared with 34 percent of Hispanic people and only 20 percent of Black people.

On equal treatment, the gap in perceptions between Black and white people is wider: While 48 percent of white people think the police treat Black and white people equally, just 12 percent of Black people say so. It's 33 percent among Hispanic people.

That said, the biggest shift in these views has come among white people. The sense among white people that the police are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force has dropped by 16 points since 2014, compared with 10 points among Hispanic people and 9 points among Black people, both within the margin of error for these groups.

Similarly, the share of white people who say the police treat Black and white people equally has fallen by 15 points, compared with 9 points among Black people and 7 points among Hispanic people which is again, within sampling error in the latter two groups. This is the first time fewer than half of white people (48 percent, as noted) say the police treat Black and white people equally.

Notably, while 33 percent of white people and 32 percent of Hispanic people are not confident at all that the police treat Black and white people equally, this soars to 72 percent among Black people.

OTHER GROUPS – There also are wide partisan and ideological differences in these views. On treating Black and white people equally, 72 percent of Republicans are confident in the police, falling to 40 percent among independents and just 14 percent of Democrats. On avoiding the use of excessive force, confidence in the police runs from 60 percent of Republicans to 39 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats.

One reason is that 29 percent of Democrats are Black people, dropping to 9 percent of independents and 3 percent of Republicans.

Attitudes divide similarly on the basis of ideology. Confidence in the police to treat Black and white people equally ranges from 68 percent of conservatives to 38 percent of moderates and 9 percent of liberals. Confidence on excessive force is 55-40-15 percent across these groups, respectively.

Among other groups, on equal treatment, confidence is far lower in urban areas, 35 percent, as opposed to rural areas, 57 percent; it's 42 percent in the suburbs. Gaps are similar on avoiding the use of excessive force.

Women are 10 points less confident than men on the question of equal treatment by the police, 36 vs. 46 percent. And confidence on this item is a slight 7 points lower in the Midwest and South than in the Northeast and West.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 26-25-40 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats rally without 'any reservation' around Biden's expected 2024 campaign

Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- As hundreds of Democrats gather in Philadelphia this weekend for their annual winter meeting, the party is primed to create a smooth on-ramp for Biden to gear up for his reelection campaign, which a source says is expected to launch within months.

The main business of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) winter meeting will go down at a Saturday session where the full body will finally green light a reconfigured -- and somewhat controversial -- primary calendar boosted by the White House that cuts the famed Iowa causes and all but guarantees the loss of the typically first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary as part of the official early window.

Many Democrats see the proposed changes -- adding Georgia and Michigan to the lineup while tapping South Carolina to kick-off the entire schedule -- as hyper-advantageous to Biden, who owes much of his 2020 campaign reinvigoration to key voting blocs in those states after early setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Supporters of the calendar shuffle also say it will allow a more diverse group of Democratic voters, including Black people in the South, to have a larger and earlier role in selecting primary candidates.

But others, like Sen. Bernie Sanders' senior adviser Faiz Shakir, critiqued the newly proposed calendar as a "fatal mistake" because, he wrote in a December New York Times op-ed, South Carolina "is not trending in any way toward the Democratic Party."

This week, the DNC is set to resolve the matter, with the Biden-backed calendar likely to get unanimous support at the same time the party is officially declaring their support for his likely reelection campaign.

The president has repeatedly said he intends to run in 2024 but that he hasn't definitively decided.

One DNC member familiar with discussions around timing, who like others in this story was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his reelection announcement would occur within a few months. (The White House declined to comment.)

Outgoing White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Biden on Wednesday, at a transition ceremony, that he "look[s] forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024."

And while Republicans recently saw internal fissures over their leadership on public display in the elections for Republican National Committee chair and House speaker, several DNC members tell ABC they are preparing to stand firm, despite Biden's middling approval numbers and the Democratic base's stated preference for another standard-bearer in the next cycle.

One member called their strategy "controlled unity" as Biden is scheduled to appear at the winter meeting on Friday along with Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday morning, a resolution was unanimously passed supporting Biden running for reelection.

While the president is expected to stop short of making any formal announcement in his remarks to the group on Friday, DNC members believe the newly configured primary speaks for itself.

If approved, the line-up would begin with South Carolina on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire hosting their contests concurrently on Feb. 6, then Georgia on Feb. 13 and ending with Michigan on Feb. 27.

"Look, if you start to read the tea leaves here, you'll see that the president is running. The first and most obvious signal of that is the calendar," said one DNC member.

"The top line is Biden's going to come there, he's going to make it clear that he and Harris are running [in 2024], that's going to soak up the interest level on Friday," another DNC member said, predicting that the entire committee will then "rubber stamp" the new nominating calendar which was previously agreed upon by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

"This is not a calendar for an open primary. This is a calendar for reelect," a third DNC member said. "I do think this will be the calendar for '24. I do not think it will be the calendar for 2028.

Biden's presumptive bid will result in an almost certain nomination, which makes some Democrats indifferent about the timing of his announcement.

The third DNC member noted that Biden faces "no pressure" to announce a 2024 campaign as no other establishment Democrat is planning to oppose him.

Other DNC members predicted that Donald Trump's fairly low-key campaign kickoff so far could be contributing to Biden taking his time, having said last year that he would confer with his family over the winter holidays.

"I have heard from no one within the DNC or other power brokers within the Democratic Party any reservation about Joe Biden," one of the DNC members said.

Another of the members who spoke with ABC News theorized the timeline for Biden's announcement has more to do with the future of his presidential agenda with a divided Congress and related factors that might influence his candidacy -- like the recent discovery of classified documents retained while at of office at an old office in Washington, D.C., and at his Wilmington, Delaware, home -- than any threat of a primary challenger.

This member said that the narrative and media attention will change around Biden when he is "encumbered" by running a campaign at the same time that he is running the federal government.

"There's no perceived opposition on the Democratic side. So why not just continue to do events, and you get all the free media and are spending money to do it?" one of the DNC members said.

However, one potential challenger to Biden from the left has made herself known: author and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. In the last few weeks, she's teased possible trips to the early nominating states of New Hampshire and South Carolina to explore the option of running.

But many DNC members brushed that aside, given Williamson is without party backing, comparable funds and comparable support from the party's base.

"My expectation is that after President Biden announces that there won't be any substantive, well-funded, well-known people running against him," South Carolina DNC member Carol Fowler said.

One of the DNC members said that attempting to primary Biden would only serve to weaken the party's ultimate chance to keep the White House.

"You undermine him in the campaign. You don't make him stronger," this member said.

New Hampshire DNC member Ray Buckley, however, cited the chance of a Williamson campaign as an example for Democratic leaders of an "insurgent candidate" who could optimize the state's anger at losing its nominating slot, suggesting the angst over the calendar shakeup had electoral ramifications.

The new nominating calendar will "create an opening for an insurgent candidate — serious or not — who can garner media attention and capitalize on Granite Stater's anger about being passed over by [Biden's] campaign," Buckley wrote in a letter published last week.

"Some of her supporters have made that very clear, that that is something that they are heavily thinking about," Buckley said in an interview with ABC News.

New Hampshire Democrats will use their time at the DNC winter meeting to engage in conversations with members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the White House about the "predicament" they've found themselves in: where their secretary of state will not breach state law, which mandates New Hampshire be the first in the nation to hold a primary election.

Opposition from New Hampshire -- along with hesitation in Georgia about working to change its laws to accommodate a new calendar -- forced a DNC committee to vote last week on an extension for the two states so that they might meet the requirements of their spots in the restructured early state schedule.

But Buckley maintains that New Hampshire Democrats do not have the power to break the law instituted by state leaders, even if they are punished by the DNC and are at risk of losing delegates.

"We want to make sure that we are successful: that we carry the state for the Biden-Harris ticket and that we pick up the governor's race so we gain it, we hold onto our congressional seats and gain the majorities in the legislature," Buckley said. "That's what our focus is."

He said they'll continue to fight for their spot at the front of the primary line with little expectation that the DNC at large will vote for anything other than the new early nominating calendar.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden meets with Congressional Black Caucus on pushing policing reform

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss pushing policing reform in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols.

As the group gathered in the Oval Office, Biden said it was his hope that the "dark memory" of Nichols' death "spurs some action that we've all been fighting for."

"We got to stay at it, as long as it takes," the president said.

Attendees included CBC chair Rep. Steven Horsford, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Raphael Warnock, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Joe Neguse -- all Democrats.

Calls for legislative action have grown in the weeks following the fatal encounter between Nichols and Memphis police. Graphic footage of the Jan. 7 confrontation showed officers striking and kicking Nichols after a traffic stop. He died three days later. According to a preliminary independent autopsy commissioned by the family, he suffered from "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."

Nichols' parents, attorney Ben Crump and Rev. Al Sharpton all pushed for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as they delivered remarks at Nichols' funeral on Wednesday. Harris, too, demanded Congress pass the legislation, calling it "nonnegotiable."

"The death of Tyree Nichols is yet another example of why we do need action," Horsford said as the caucus sat down with the president and vice president.

"We need your help to make sure we can get the legislative actions that are necessary to save lives, and to make public safety the priority that it needs to be for all communities," he told them.

The group did not elaborate on any specific policies they planned to discuss as they entered the otherwise closed-door meeting.

But any policing reform faces an uphill battle in the now-divided Congress.

ABC News' Justin Gomez pressed President Biden on whether police reform will be possible this Congress just before his meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I hope so," Biden said as he held up his hands and crossed his fingers.

In advance of Thursday's meeting between the Congressional Black Caucus and Biden, Republican Sen. Tim Scott poured cold water on the idea of using the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a starting point in negotiations.

"Resurrecting the House progressives' police reform bill is a non-starter," Scott wrote in a Twitter thread.

The legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate, with impasse occurring primarily over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.

Scott has been at the center of police reform negotiations in the Senate in recent years, and he worked with Booker in 2021 to try to get a deal on the issue. His sign approval of any policing reform bill would likely be essential in garnering the necessary Republican support in the Senate.

"I've been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing," he tweeted. "Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha.Here's the truth: We can get something meaningful done. We can pass a bill that the majority of Congress--and the majority of Americans--would agree on."

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters at his weekly press conference Thursday he'd spoken to Congressional Black Caucus leaders ahead of their meeting at the White House.

Jeffries declined to say when exactly Democrats would put forward a policing bill, saying he wouldn't get ahead of the meeting.

"We do need to have a real, genuine, authentic, and bipartisan conversation about dealing with police reform in America, and figuring out how do we strengthen the relationship between the police and the community," Jeffries said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

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(WASHINGTON) -- The funeral for Tyre Nichols was filled with tributes for the 29-year-old who died after a violent encounter with police, and a call to action for reform.

Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells, who addressed the mourners gathered in Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church through tears, said she needed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act bill to be passed.

“We need to take some action because there should be no other child that should suffer the way my son [did] and all the other parents here who’ve lost their children,” Wells said. “We need to get that bill passed because if we don’t, that blood -- the next child that dies -- that blood is going to be on their hands.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump all pushed for lawmakers to revive talks on the legislation, which was crafted in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," Harris said at the funeral. "Joe Biden will sign it. We should not delay, and we shall not be denied. It is nonnegotiable."

The bill, which would’ve sought to address racial profiling and use of deadly force, was passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.

Here’s what was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:

Accountability for police misconduct

The bill would have lowered the legal standard for prosecuting officers from willfulness to recklessness, and would've limited qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against an officer.

It also mandated the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry to collect data on complaints and records of police misconduct. The registry would've been designed to keep track of termination records, lawsuits against officers, discipline records and more at the federal, state and local level.

The Department of Justice would've also been granted administrative subpoena power in pattern-or-practice investigations -- reviews the agency says are a central tool to accomplish police reform and restoring police-community trust.

Framework for addressing racial profiling

The bill would have banned racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels. It would also have required officers to complete training on racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

It would also have required procedures for investigating and "responding meaningfully" to complaints alleging racial profiling.

Limit use of force

The bill would also have banned no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. The use of no-knock warrants in such cases was highly scrutinized after police killed Breonna Taylor when entering her Louisville home on a no-knock warrant in March 2020.

It would also have incentivized local and state agencies to ban chokeholds by tying the prohibitions to federal funding.

Federal officers would also have been required to wear and activate body cameras except in narrow circumstances when stopping to activate it would endanger their life.

The bill would have prohibited federal officers from using deadly force unless all “reasonable alternatives to the use of the form of less lethal force have been exhausted” -- including verbal warnings, de-escalation tactics and nonlethal force. The attorney general would also be mandated to establish a clear duty for federal officers to intervene in cases where another law enforcement officer is using excessive force against a civilian.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


The external campaign grows for a DeSantis 2024 bid

James A. Jones Jr./The Bradenton Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has not made any significant public movements toward a presidential run, but his supporters are gearing up for one.

While former President Donald Trump is so far the most prominent candidate to have announced a 2024 campaign for the White House, much attention has also been on DeSantis. At the same time, DeSantis has begun to build the foundation to explore a potential presidential run, according to recent reports.

And as DeSantis' profile continues to grow, and even as he has played down the constant questions about his political ambitions, committees and organizations are coming together to urge him to run.

One of the groups already doing that is Ready for Ron, a draft committee created in May of 2022 to encourage DeSantis to run for president.

Gabriel Llanes, the committee's executive director, told ABC News that this year the organization is doing several grassroots events in several states to raise DeSantis' national profile. Recently, the group announced that it plans to spend millions through television, phone, mail and digital promotion.

"We think that our efforts have kind of helped propel him to be that person to generate that chatter across the country," Llanes said.

Llanes attributed DeSantis' popularity among conservatives to his actions as governor of Florida and his "ambitious legislative session" last year, where he signed into law the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, which critics call "Don't Say Gay," and took on the Walt Disney Corporation by eliminating its special district which allowed it to self-govern.

Ready for Ron has attracted different groups of people energized by the possibility of DeSantis' launching a presidential campaign, including Bob Carey, part of Vets for Ron. The committee approached Carey, a retired Navy officer, to help on the veteran side.

Carey told ABC News that part of the reason he supports DeSantis' is his ability to get things done, which he sees as a reflection of the veteran and military mentality. DeSantis is also a former Navy officer.

"I think that the veteran community finds in Gov. DeSantis a kindred spirit to whom they can relate and to whom they can believe in," Carey said.

Dan Backer, counsel at Ready for Ron, told ABC News that in addition to DeSantis' broad appeal is the importance of winning for the Republican Party.

"It is clear to us I think, and more and more people, that Ron DeSantis has the best chance to beat Joe Biden [in 2024] and turn this country around," Backer said.

The possibility of DeSantis' presidential run has spurred excitement in Republican circles, even having some of Trump's supporters switch over to support the Florida governor, believing he can help the party regain power throughout the country.

Ed Rollins, a prominent Republican adviser, left his position as chairman of the Great American PAC, which supported Trump's candidacy, to be the chief political strategist at Ready for Ron. Following Republicans' surprisingly lackluster results in the 2022 midterm elections -- in many parts of the country except Florida -- Rollins has publicly said that he believes DeSantis is the "complete package" and can win the White House.

This sentiment seems to be shared by other groups supporting the Florida governor, with many believing that the Republican Party can't win a major election cycle if Trump is at the helm. Since the 2018 elections, the GOP has faced tough losses. The party lost the House in 2018, lost the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020 and although they retook the House in 2022, it was by a slim number of seats and the Senate was retained by Democrats.

John Thomas, the chief political strategist at Ron to the Rescue, a federal super PAC, told ABC News that while Trump was heavily involved in the 2022 midterms, it did not "make the winning difference" for the party.

"What struck me was after the midterm elections, when we were promised a red wave, [was] at best we got a red mist and in large part I think what we saw was a lot of the Donald Trump-endorsed candidates failed," Thomas said.

Republicans did see the red wave they were hoping for in Florida, where DeSantis won reelection by nearly 20 points -- changing Florida's status from a longtime swing state to a ruby red one.

"I think there's this thirst for a MAGA agenda that has become so popular in the Republican Party, but they're ready for Donald Trump to move from a party leader to a party elder," Thomas said.

And while Trump remains a hugely popular figure in the Republican Party, it's clear that DeSantis is gaining momentum ahead of 2024. A recent University of New Hampshire poll showed that DeSantis led Trump among likely voters in the state's 2024 Republican presidential primary 42%-30%.

Last week, the New Hampshire GOP held its annual meeting, where Trump served as the keynote speaker, kicking off his presidential campaign events. At the meeting, Ron to the Rescue had a presence there, talking to voters about DeSantis and they were pleased with the conversations they had with attendees at the meeting.

"Everybody was cordial and polite, but throughout the whole day, even self-identified Trump supporters that would come up were all saying essentially the same thing: 'We're supporting President Trump, [but] we really like Ron DeSantis, and we'll see how the primary plays out. Maybe we change our mind,'" Thomas said.

"That's not where you want your base to be if you're former President Trump, so that actually was really great."

Earlier this week, DeSantis seemingly swiped at Trump for criticizing his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking how, unlike the former president, he won reelection.

"You take a crisis situation like COVID -- you know, the good thing about it is when you're an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you got to steer that ship," DeSantis said during a press conference on education. "And the good thing is is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not."

"I'm happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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