The TAKE with Rick Klein
Attempting to control the narrative is easier when outside events don't intrude.
It's also easier when your own party agrees on an approach. Democrats now find themselves in the awkward position of having a firm sense of their political liabilities but broad dissension about what should be done about them.
Gas prices? President Joe Biden's plan for an ethanol waiver has environmental groups seething about missed opportunities and misplaced priorities, and the "Putin price hike" label only goes so far.
COVID? The border? The CDC has put the Biden administration in the awkward position of extending mask mandates on planes and trains for a few more weeks while being on track to eliminate Title 42 provisions that have brought quick deportations to migrants during the pandemic.
Inflation? The economy? Old predictions from Larry Summers can now be paired with new diagnoses from Sen. Joe Manchin -- "the Administration failed to act fast enough" -- to undercut White House messaging and limit possible policy-making.
Crime? To the dismay of some on the left, Biden has come down squarely against "defund the police," and now a horrific subway attack in New York and a police shooting in Michigan are squeezing policy-makers from conflicting directions.
Democrats were shaken last year when they saw a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia steal a cornerstone issue of education and run with it to victory. Now fears are extending to other areas where their own different perspectives mean they need don't a Republican to make the case against them.
The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper
Despite the resignation of former New York Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin amid a host of federal charges, Gov. Kathy Hochul could be stuck with her embattled deputy on the state's primary ballot.
Benjamin, who has been charged with bribery, fraud and conspiracy related to campaign contributions, can only be removed from the ballot if he were to die, move out of state or be nominated for another office.
Hochul, who assumed office after Andrew Cuomo's sexual misconduct scandal and subsequent resignation, pledged to clean up corruption in the state capital. Hochul's opponents on both sides of the aisle have pounced on Benjamin's resignation as indicative of her judgment. Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who is running for governor as a centrist, accused Hochul of fostering "a culture of continued corruption." Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin said Hochul's administration has been in "constant disarray."
In a radio interview with WNYC on Wednesday, Hochul downplayed the possibility of Benjamin's indictment negatively affecting her gubernatorial run.
"I'm not worried at this time," Hochul said. "I feel confident that, and the voters will understand, I need some time to let this flush out, get a new candidate if we're allowed to do that. If not, we'll just move on."
If Benjamin remains on the ballot and loses, Hochul could have to run with one of the other Democratic candidates vying for a chance in the general election. Ana Maria Archila, a progressive immigration activist, and Diana Reyna, the former Brooklyn deputy borough president, are in the race.
The TIP with Alisa Wiersema
The policies Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last week aiming to address undocumented immigration at the border continue to put him at odds with the Biden administration both within his home state and in the nation's capital.
At the Texas border, Abbott's requirement of secondary inspections of commercial vehicles had caused traffic jams that in some cases stalled drivers for as long as 30 hours. Those delays affected already strained supply chain issues and significantly held up produce distribution. On Wednesday, the White House slammed the policies as "unnecessary and redundant."
"The continuous flow of legitimate trade and travel and CBP's ability to do its job should not be obstructed. Governor Abbott's actions are impacting people's jobs and the livelihoods of hardworking American families," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.
During a press conference later that day, Abbott said he would ease the inspection practices on vehicles crossing over from the Mexican state of Nuevo León because the region's governor, Samuel Alejandro García Sepúlveda, committed to stronger security measures at the border. It remains to be seen how trade relations will play out between the other three Mexican states bordering Texas -- Chihuahua, Coahuila and Tamaulipas.
Abbott's political agenda also extended to Washington, D.C., where the first groups of willingly transported migrants were dropped off Wednesday as part of the Texas governor's promise to force Washington "to respond and deal with the same challenges that we're dealing with." According to Abbott, more migrants are on the way.
"These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP and are free to travel, so it's nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination," Psaki said.
NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight
43. That's the number of Big Lie-endorsed candidates who have run in Texas's congressional and gubernatorial races, according to FiveThirtyEight's analysis of primary races thus far. But as FiveThirtyEight's Kaleigh Rogers writes in her deep dive of the bizarre story of election fraud in Mesa County, Colorado, there are likely hundreds of Big Lie-believing candidates seeking office, both big and small, this year.
ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Thursday morning with ABC's Josh Margolin on the latest from the New York City subway attack. Then, ABC's Anne Flaherty explains the CDC's mask mandate extension for planes, trains and public transportation. And, ABC's Mireya Villarreal details the new Texas truck inspection policy that has prompted delays at the border. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
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