​​Playbook: The debate stage is set. The mayhem is just beginning.

​​Playbook: The debate stage is set. The mayhem is just beginning.

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

THE ART OF THE BAIL — One of the big questions hanging over the week was answered last night when former President DONALD TRUMP announced that he will turn himself in to law enforcement in Fulton County, Ga., on Thursday. Or, as Trump phrased it: “going to Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday to be ARRESTED by a Radical Left District Attorney, [FANI WILLIS].”

The Thursday timing is no accident. Between the surrender and his interview with TUCKER CARLSON (which will air online on Wednesday as counterprogramming to Fox News’ presidential debate), the goal is to cut off other Republicans’ hopes of a post-debate earned media bump. More from the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Related news: “Trump’s bond set at $200,000 in Georgia election-related case,” by Kyle Cheney: “Donald Trump’s attorneys have signed an order … binding Trump to a set of rules that explicitly limit his ability to use social media to attack witnesses or co-defendants in the case.”

WHO’S IN — The debate stage is set. Late last night, the RNC made it office that these eight candidates will hit the stage: RON DeSANTIS, VIVEK RAMASWAMY, MIKE PENCE, NIKKI HALEY, TIM SCOTT, CHRIS CHRISTIE, DOUG BURGUM and ASA HUTCHINSON.

WHO’S OUT — PERRY JOHNSON, FRANCIS SUAREZ and LARRY ELDER did not make the cut. All three “claimed to have met the donor and polling threshold,” the NYT notes. “But they now face an even more uncertain future.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — INSIDE THE DEMS’ DEBATE RESPONSE — While all eyes are on Wisconsin for the GOP debate, DNC officials have been flying into Milwaukee in preparation for their own version of counterprogramming during the RNC’s big week. Just as the next few days offer a preview of the GOP’s message in 2024, it gives us a preview of the Dems’ message, too.

Tomorrow at noon, DNC Chair JAIME HARRISON, Biden campaign co-chair CEDRIC RICHMOND and a slate of Democratic officials will hold a press conference where the message will be two-fold: our folks are good; the folks you are about to see are extreme.

Here’s what else the Dems have planned — shared exclusively with Playbook:


One Biden official said the campaign’s “top surrogates” will be hitting television over the “next couple of days,” including on Fox News.

— Three different billboards will be going up near Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum, where the debate is being held. One has photos of President JOE BIDEN and Vice President KAMALA HARRIS, trumpeting four accomplishments: “Record number of new jobs; Lowering costs; Updating our nation’s roads and bridges; Protecting a woman’s right to choose nationwide.” The other two billboards feature photos of Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Pence, Haley and Scott alongside a banner reading “2024 Republicans’ MAGA Agenda,” hitting the candidates on three issues: “Higher costs for working families; Tax giveaways for the rich; [a] National abortion ban.” A sneak peek of the pro-Biden billboardand the anti-GOP billboard

— There’ll also be a mobile billboard driving near the venue “highlighting the records of the Republican candidates.”


— The DNC has booked a plane to fly around Milwaukee on Wednesday night dragging a banner reading: “GOP 2024: A Race for the Extreme MAGA Base.”

— A DNC “war room” will push back in real-time on Twitter and will contact reporters when they feel like the record needs to be corrected. “We’re not going to take the bait at every turn, because that’s not a recipe for success,” one Biden campaign official tells Playbook. “You’ll see us chime in if we feel like we need to respond directly to something that is egregious.”

— There are also inchoate plans to respond to the Trump-Carlson interview.


— This is the boring one: the campaign and DNC will have surrogates on television on Thursday morning.

BIG PICTURE: There are a couple of things going on here that explain the flurry of activity.

— Dems (including donors) have complained for years that the party lacks messaging discipline. The DNC is trying hard to convince supporters that that’s a thing of the past.

— Team Biden’s messaging strategy is to paint the entire Republican candidate pool as Trumpian and extreme. (It’s not unlike the Dems’ approach in the 2022 midterms, as they successfully portrayed any number of GOP candidates in competitive House and Senate races as MAGA devotees.)

“We see very little difference between the candidates on stage,” a Biden campaign official tells us. “We know they all have to stake out positions far to the right to win. … Our primary objective will be reminding voters just how out of touch they are. The things that they say on the debate stage will not help them in a general election.”

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

‘THE MOST INTERESTING CANDIDACY’ — The most fascinating read of the day is a big POLITICO Magazine story from Michael Kruse in South Miami, Fla., on the politician Chris Christie was and is. The former New Jersey governor’s emergence as Trump’s top critic in the primary has made his “the most interesting candidacy” in the race, Michael writes — not least because it comes after Christie spent the early part of Trump’s rise either supporting him or declining to lambast him. Christie says he was wrong, but an apology is not forthcoming. That leaves him in a bit of a no man’s land, too critical for most GOPers but not contrite enough for Never Trumpers.

“Even many who are the most receptive to his message remain skeptical of not just his choices but his motives, according to more than 50 interviews,” Michael writes. “He did what he did then, no shortage of them suspect, for the same core reasons he’s doing what he’s doing now — attention, opportunism, unsatiated ambition.”

DEBATE BINGO — Are you watching the GOP debate tomorrow at 9 p.m.? Join POLITICO for live analysis and bingo! Whoever gets bingo first and posts a screenshot of it to their X/Twitter account (with #politicobingo) or Instagram Story (tag us @politico) will get a shoutout in the next day’s Playbook — and we’ll even send you some POLITICO swag. Get a preview of your board at politico.com/bingo.



THE TRIALS — In addition to Trump, four more defendants in the Fulton County case were granted bond yesterday in advance of surrenders, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jozsef Papp reports. JOHN EASTMAN and KENNETH CHESEBRO, alleged key architects of the scheme to overturn the 2020 election, each had their bond set at $100,000; it was $50,000 for RAY SMITH III and $10,000 for SCOTT HALL. Judge SCOTT McAFEE signed off on all the bond terms.


DISASTER ZONES — The Bidens visited Maui yesterday to mourn the terrible toll of recent wildfires and laud the community’s resilience, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. “The country grieves with you, stands with you and will do everything possible to help you recover,” Biden said. “We will rebuild the way the Maui people want to rebuild.” In addition to his remarks, Biden toured some of the devastation, remarked upon the symbolism of a famous banyan tree whose roots didn’t burn, and met with survivors.

Meanwhile, the next natural disaster was hitting Nevada and California, as Tropical Storm Hilary gave the Southwest a rare lashing. Massive impacts included flooding, power outages, debris flows and mudslides, but the most intense fears — about deaths and significant property destruction — don’t seem to have come to pass, the L.A. Times’ Alexandra Petri, Grace Toohey and David Zahniser report. Though areas like Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley saw significant floods, rain that fell more slowly than expected spared the region from the worst.

On the other side of the country, Vermont is still struggling to recover after major flooding six weeks ago, CBS’ Scott MacFarlane reports. One town, for instance, needs a majority of its roads replaced before winter. Residents and local leaders say they need Congress to authorize the $12 billion supplemental for disaster relief funding, but its prospects remain uncertain on the Hill.


VIRGINIA IS FOR WORRIERS — As Virginia Gov. GLENN YOUNGKIN seeks to flip the state Senate this fall — and eyes potential higher office down the line — Democrats in his state are warning that they’re not getting enough national firepower to counter him, NBC’s Ryan Nobles and Gary Grumbach reports. With both state legislative chambers in play, Youngkin’s state PAC “has become a financial engine the likes of which Republicans have not seen since 2011.” Dems are falling behind in the money game. And Democratic Sens. MARK WARNER and TIM KAINE want national donors to take Youngkin more seriously — or suffer up and down the ballot, with GOP policy victories to follow.

BATTLE FOR THE HOUSE — “GOP lawmaker Heidi Kasama to run for Congress, challenge Susie Lee,” by The Nevada Independent’s Tabitha Mueller

THE NEW GOP — “Hispanic Republicans vie to oust Democrats in diverse districts,” by Roll Call’s Daniela Altimari: “Members of the group span the ideological spectrum, from the far right to the moderate middle, but all hail from racially diverse districts that were won by Democrat Joe Biden … In addition to [MARIA MONTERO in Pennsylvania], the group includes KEVIN LINCOLN, the mayor of Stockton, Calif., who is Mexican American and Black; JOHN QUIÑONES, a Puerto Rican-born former legislator in Central Florida’s 9th District; and MAYRA FLORES, who was born in Mexico and won a special election in South Texas in June 2022, then lost the seat five months later.”

2024 WATCH

MAJOR SHIFT — “Fox News Fully Pivots to Vivek Ramaswamy,” by The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona: “The network had already grown increasingly tough on DeSantis over the summer, but the change has been remarkable: Over the past week, Fox News has mentioned Ramaswamy at least 200 times … Fox & Friends has seemingly set the tone for the network’s shift away from DeSantis in its quest for an electable GOP hopeful who isn’t the quadruply indicted Trump.”

DIALING FOR DOLLARS — “Legislators Raise $500K For DeSantis in Telethon, But Presidential Campaign Hopes For More: ‘Let’s Go Guys!’” by The Messenger’s Marc Caputo: “37 of the 98 lawmakers who endorsed the governor dialed for dollars on his behalf at the event. The telethon, part of a renewed push by DeSantis’s campaign to get ‘more meat off the bone’ in Florida from donors, was billed as a friendly competition to see who would travel to [the] Wednesday presidential debate in Milwaukee with the candidate.”


HUNTER GATHERING — “House panels subpoena IRS, FBI officials in key meeting with Hunter Biden prosecutor,” by the N.Y. Post’s Josh Christenson: “House Republicans have subpoenaed four senior Internal Revenue Service officials and FBI agents who reportedly overheard Delaware US Attorney DAVID WEISS say last year he would not be able to charge first son HUNTER BIDEN outside the First State.”

CLOCK’S TICKING — “Child care facilities need an infusion of local cash to stay afloat,” by Mackenzie Wilkes: “A windfall of Covid-19 relief money helped states boost the child care sector. Now state and federal officials are scrambling to support working parents as the cash peters out. … With much of the federal funding for child care drying up in the fall, lawmakers are racing to build local, sustainable revenue streams. And congressional Democrats are betting on supplemental appropriations as a last ditch effort.”


SCOTUS WATCH — Could Northern Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson High School produce the next big Supreme Court case on race and education? The Pacific Legal Foundation law group yesterday asked the high court to weigh in on whether the magnet school’s admissions discriminate against Asian Americans, NYT’s Stephanie Saul and Adam Liptak report. A ruling could help clarify what high schools — and universities — are allowed to do to achieve racially diverse student bodies without expressly considering race, “the next frontier” for tackling affirmative action, says a lawyer for the group.

POLITICAL VIOLENCE WATCH — “Chicago woman arrested on federal charges she threatened to kill Donald Trump and son Barron,” by the Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner


PAGING MERRICK GARLAND — “Whistleblower to DOJ: You’ve left the door open for more fraud,” by Hailey Fuchs: SARAH FEINBERG tells POLITICO, she believes the government did not go far enough in recovering money from Booz Allen, and that government contractors continue to be incentivized to defraud the government because of the Justice Department’s weakness.”

SHOTS IN THE DARK — “CDC, pharmacies try to speed up Covid vaccine program for the uninsured,” by Adam Cancryn and David Lim


DEVELOPING OVERNIGHT — “U.S. tells Americans to leave Belarus immediately,” by WaPo’s Bryan Pietsch

NEW THIS MORNING — Commerce Secretary GINA RAIMONDO will travel to China for a few days at the end of the month, the administration just announced. Raimondo will be in Beijing and Shanghai to meet with Chinese officials and American businesspeople.

ACCOUNTABILITY READ — “Has the U.S. Campaign Against Uyghur Forced Labor Been Successful?” by Foreign Policy’s Lili Pike: “A recent report on the solar industry’s connections to Xinjiang shows mixed results.”


BIG DEPARTURE — Jezebel editor-in-chief LAURA BASSETT left her role over concerns with management — or, as The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Cartwright puts it, “staffers say [G/O Media] CEO JIM SPANFELLER has become unhinged and impossible to work for.” She’s the seventh top editor of a G/O Media property to leave in just the last eight months. “I have reluctantly resigned from Jezebel, because the company that owned us refused to treat my staff with basic human decency,” Bassett posted on X.


CLOSER EVERY DAY TO UNUSABLE — “Elon Musk plans to remove headlines from news articles shared on X,” by Fortune’s Kylie Robison: “X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter, is planning a major change in how news articles appear on the service, stripping out the headline and other text so that tweets with links display only an article’s lead image.”

TIKTOK ON THE CLOCK — “A Draft Of TikTok’s Plan To Avoid A Ban Gives The U.S. Government Unprecedented Oversight Power,” by Forbes’ Emily Baker-White

Patrick McHenry saved Mike Lawler’s 15-month-old daughter from choking.

Vlad Kliatchko and Jean-Paul Zammitt are the new leaders of Bloomberg LP.

Casey DeSantis is the focal point of new Never Back Down ads.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Bullpen Strategy Group is adding George Hartmann as VP of comms (previously deputy comms director for the Senate Budget GOP), Valerie Chicola as senior director of comms (previously at Targeted Victory), Evan Gassman as VP of digital, and Alex Koch and Ryan McDowell as directors of research.

MEDIA MOVES — Ursula Perano will be a reporter with POLITICO’s Congress team. She previously was a politics reporter at The Daily Beast and is an Axios alum. … Tasha Diakides will be executive producer for newscast at NPR. She previously was an executive producer for “Inside Politics” and “Inside Politics Sunday” at CNN. … Alexandra deMatteo is now a booker for Newsmax’s “The Record with Greta van Susteren.” She most recently was a booker for Fox News’ “Fox and Friends.”

WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Latifa Lyles is now senior adviser for the Commerce secretary, focused on women in construction. She most recently was special assistant to the president for gender policy. … Alicia Molt-West will join Emerson Collective as director of policy and government affairs. She is leaving the White House, where she served as special assistant to the president in the Office of Legislative Affairs. … Ara Omotowa will be special assistant to the counselor for racial equity at the Treasury Department. She previously was staff assistant for the front office and strategy/operations in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

TRANSITIONS — Jake Settle is now rapid response director for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). He most recently worked for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). … Richard Cappetto is joining electronics group IPC as senior director for North American government relations. He previously was chief customer officer in the U.S. House. … Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions is elevating Tiffany Koch to chief of staff and adding Sarah Geary as media and comms manager. Geary previously worked in government and public affairs at LKQ Corp.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Randon White, ad sales manager at Amazon and a POLITICO alum, and Caitlin McFall, a world news reporter for Fox News Digital, welcomed Victoria “Tory” Elizabeth White on Friday. PicAnother pic

— Erica Sackin, who works at Meta, and Dave Stroup, a Howard University professor and Mark Warner alum, welcomed Noah Alexander on Friday. He joins big brother Sebastian. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: NBC’s Steve Kornacki … The Hill’s Alex GangitanoKen Farnaso … National Review’s Rich Lowry … FGS Global’s Jennifer Loven … POLITICO’s Rishika Dugyala and Alysha Kurani …WaPo’s Michael Cadenhead … NewsGuard’s Steven Brill and Gordon CrovitzTom Edsall Steve Kroft … Meta’s Jen Nedeau Helm and Sabrina Siddiqui Luke RussertBill Miller of the American Gaming Association … Natalie ApsellNick Mildebrath of Convergence Targeted Communications … Scooter Libby … Axios’ Gigi Sukin and Stef Kight … AP’s Nebi Qena … former Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Thad McCotter (R-Mich.) and Bud Cramer (D-Ala.) … Sward Tondoneh … Chevron’s Bill Turenne Jr.Thomas Midanek … CBS’ Nancy ChenAnnaMaria Di Pietro … Mother Jones’ Pema LevyJordan GoldesRob BordenAlyssa PalisiBrystol EnglishHailey ArendsPaul Singer Jessica Dean Ashley Grace Novak of the NRSC … Robin Wright … Crooked Media’s Shaniqua McClendon Chris Lapetina

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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