Democrats hope Biden can ride the party’s special election wave: From the Politics Desk

Welcome to the online version of From the Politics Desk, an evening newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In today’s edition, national political reporter Ben Kamisar explains why Democrats’ success in special and off-year elections won’t necessarily give Biden a boost. Plus, Garrett Haake, who covers the ins and outs of Trump world, interviews new RNC co-chair Lara Trump.

Democrats notch another special election win, riding momentum that has eluded Biden so far

By Ben Kamisar

Democrats are celebrating the results of another special election that drew national attention — this time an almost 25-point victory in a swingy state House district in Alabama, where Republicans have faced backlash over a recent court case that put access to IVF at risk in the state.  

The party’s success there, along with other recent special and off-year elections in competitive and even red-leaning areas, suggests there is a sizable well of enthusiasm for President Joe Biden to tap into this fall. But so far, it’s not clear if he will be able to ride the same wave of momentum as these down-ballot Democrats.

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The 81-year-old Biden remains unpopular as concerns over his age persist. At best, national and swing-state polls look like a coin-flip for the president, even as he seeks to emphasize issues like abortion rights that have led to Democratic gains elsewhere. Biden’s support with key segments of his coalition, particularly voters of color and young voters, remains soft. 

Democrats point to the scoreboard as evidence Biden is in better shape than the polls suggest. After a better-than-expected 2022 midterm election showing, the party held onto the governorship in red Kentucky last year, all while the abortion-rights-supporters side swept key ballot measures. More recently, Democrats won pivotal special elections for the U.S. House in New York and the state House in Pennsylvania

But it’s difficult to draw a straight line from special and off-year elections to a presidential contest. Special elections are typically low-turnout affairs: Less than 6,000 votes were cast in Tuesday’s Alabama state House contest. So while abortion and IVF may have been an animating issue there, it’s unclear exactly how it will play out after billions of dollars are spent on further defining Biden and Donald Trump.

Plus, as 538’s Nathaniel Rakich wrote last month, while Democrats had a string of strong special election showings in most of 2023, Republicans have broadly done better in recent months. 

Aside from these election results, Democrats are waiting for other positive indicators to catch up to Biden. He just embarked on a multimillion-dollar post-State of the Union advertising and travel blitz aimed at shoring up his 2020 coalition, there are signs that Americans’ views of the economy are improving, and a similarly unpopular Trump will be the first former president to go on trial in a matter of weeks, further shining a light on his wide-ranging legal woes. 

With more than 200 days until Election Day, no matter what anyone says, the outlook for Biden — and for Trump — remains muddy.

The RNC’s answer to uniting the fractured party: Biden

By Garrett Haake

NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake interviews RNC co-chair Lara Trump.
NBC News correspondent Garrett Haake interviews RNC co-chair Lara Trump.Frank Thorp V / NBC News

With less than a month on the job as a Republican National Committee co-chair and de-facto face of the national party, Lara Trump has a lot on her plate. But in our wide-ranging interview, what she seemed least troubled by was how she plans to unite a coalition of voters behind a deeply polarizing candidate in Donald Trump.

Her response? Joe Biden will do it for them. 

Lara Trump’s answers to questions about outreach — to voters of color and the millions of Republicans who backed Nikki Haley and other candidates in the primary — revolved around Biden pushing, rather than Trump pulling, them back into the MAGA tent.

Asked about appealing to Haley’s supporters, she presented a binary choice. 

“The option is Joe Biden or Donald Trump. And so whether you like his personality or not, should not have any bearing on anything. They are welcome to come back,” Lara Trump said. “We would love to have them come back.”

She also argued that gas prices, the situation at the southern border and America’s place on the world stage will motivate these voters to return. 

When asked about expanding her father-in-law’s appeal to Black voters, where cutting into Biden’s major advantage in 2020 could swing key states, Lara Trump appeared more open to pursuing voters where they are, but around the same general theme. 

“When you’re talking about reaching out to minority communities, these are the people oftentimes who have been hardest hit by some of the bad policies of Joe Biden,” she said. “So we certainly are going to be doing a lot of outreach.” 

She went on to say that Trump would campaign in Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit and New York City — only two of which are in battleground states, but all of which have large Black populations. 

The push-not-pull strategy makes a certain amount of sense in this historic battle between two unpopular candidates who are essentially incumbents. If you can’t make yourself more popular, it’s a race to destroy the other guy first. Trump’s campaign and allies believe that his loyal supporters provide him with a higher floor than Biden, who faces doubts across the various flanks of his party. 

Watch the full interview here →

🗞️ Today’s top stories

  • 🩺 Obamacare deadline: The next president will decide the fate of Affordable Care Act subsidies. Biden has said he wants to extend them, but it’s not clear what Trump would do. Read more →
  • 🏃 Battle-ground game: The Associated Press delves into the Trump campaign and the RNC’s ground game in key swing states — or lack thereof. Read more →
  • 👀 Trump watch: Trump is expected to attend the wake Thursday of the New York police officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty this week. Read more →
  • ↗️ Impeachment off-ramp: With Republicans lacking the votes to impeach Biden, House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer, R-Ky., is floating sending criminal referrals to the Justice Department instead. Read more →
  • ⚖️ Decline to defend: Arizona Republican Senate candidate Kari Lake opted not to mount a defense against allegations that she defamed Maricopa County election officials following the 2022 elections. She will try to dispute damages instead. Read more →
  • ☀️ The sun’ll come out tomorrow: Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., announced that she will not run for re-election, opening up a potentially competitive House seat. Read more →
  • 📖 A $59.99 Bible: Trump released a “God Bless the U.S.A. Bible” priced at $59.99 (plus shipping and other fees) with country music singer Lee Greenwood. Read more →

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at

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