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Playbook Deep Dive


Welcome to Playbook Deep Dive, the stories behind the power. From Congress and the White House to bar stools and back rooms, POLITICO's top reporters and Playbook authors bring you the most compelling and confounding stories that explain what’s really going on in Washington.

Welcome to Playbook Deep Dive, the stories behind the power. From Congress and the White House to bar stools and back rooms, POLITICO's top reporters and Playbook authors bring you the most compelling and confounding stories that explain what’s really going on in Washington.


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Welcome to Playbook Deep Dive, the stories behind the power. From Congress and the White House to bar stools and back rooms, POLITICO's top reporters and Playbook authors bring you the most compelling and confounding stories that explain what’s really going on in Washington.






Pelosi vs. everybody: Dems’ high-wire health care act

As Democrats' massive reconciliation bill makes its way through the machine, one item is getting all the attention right now: health care. It’s a fight that basically boils down to Nancy Pelosi versus … everyone else — with the legacies of Pelosi, Sanders and Biden at stake. Playbook co-author Rachael Bade and POLITICO's Alice Miranda Ollstein take us to Capitol Hill, where the knives are coming out: leaders fighting behind closed doors about policies they've agreed on for years — or thought...


Biden’s abortion clash with the Catholic Church

What does it mean to be the nation’s second Catholic president? Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza talks with senior staff writer Ruby Cramer about how Joe Biden balances a very public role with the “private matter” of his faith at a time of deep division over abortion, and among the bishops in his own church. Ryan Lizza is a co-author of POLITICO Playbook. Ruby Cramer is a senior staff writer at POLITICO magazine. Adrienne Hurst is a producer for POLITICO audio. Annie Rees is a producer for...


These Republicans are going...big government?

There's an intra-party fight on the right — and it's not (all) about Trump! For decades, conservatives have called for the government to take a hands-off approach to the economy. But now, a group of self-styled “common good capitalists” — like Sen. Marco Rubio — want to change that. And, they’re gaining power. It’s a divide not only over what policy approach is best, but what the most effective political strategy is for the GOP in the 21st century. Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri talks with...


How Kamala Harris is embracing — and changing — the system

Kamala Harris entered law school as the daughter of activists and came out as a prosecutor — an evolution that shaped the politician she is today. Now, as the vice president grapples with some of the thorniest issues in politics and builds relationships with a wide array of Democratic allies — which she could leverage in both the administration and a future presidential campaign — even some of her closest allies admit she needs help fending off incoming fire. POLITICO Magazine’s Jesús A....


The first true foreign policy test of Biden's presidency

The Taliban's return to power marks the first real foreign policy crisis of the Biden administration — and a rare moment of bipartisan criticism of Joe Biden. But will the bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan scramble American politics, or merely deepen long-building fissures across the political spectrum? On the right, attempts to save America's Afghan allies have resurfaced fierce divides over immigration and diversity. On the left, the pullout is reigniting a debate over the US's "forever...


Vote-a-rama drama and the national debt

Nobody on Capitol Hill got much sleep this week. The Senate passed its infrastructure bill, stayed up all night in a vote-a-rama and provided foreshadowing for the set of fights yet to come. As Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza put it this week: “Threat of a government shutdown? Possibility of America defaulting on its loans? Dust off that Blackberry, fire off a manual RT, and put on some LMFAO. It’s feeling very 2011.” Ryan and POLITICO’s Jennifer Scholtes break down what’s ahead for Congress....


The Democratic ‘civil war’ in Ohio

The Democratic establishment dealt a crushing blow to the progressive movement this week in Ohio, where tensions, bad blood and intraparty allegiances were on full display. What can we learn from a special congressional primary that quickly became a national spectacle? And what does it say about the direction of one of the most powerful political forces in Washington: the Congressional Black Caucus? POLITICO's Ally Mutnick performs an autopsy with Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza. Ryan Lizza is...


Strange but true: Bernie's pragmatic turn

Bernie Sanders is behaving a lot like a pragmatist (just don’t say it to his face). As the Senate Budget chair and a member of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s leadership team, the 79-year-old progressive is one of the most powerful people in Washington and finally has the opportunity he’s been waiting for his whole career: to pass a reconciliation bill with sweeping social reforms. If successful, the $3.5 trillion bill would be the biggest ever passed by Congress. The trick: Can he get it past the...


Inside Biden’s slow-walk on Cuba

Cuba’s sweeping protests — and sweeping crackdown — are historic. But the situation is a political hot potato for Biden, whose sanction orders came nearly two weeks after the unrest began. His go-it-slow approach has emboldened Republicans, while Florida Democrats fear the president could blow an opportunity to reorient U.S.-Cuba policy and improve the party’s political chances in a former swing state. POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodríguez and Marc Caputo unpack the political minefield with...


Biden’s student debt promise comes due

$1.6 trillion — that's how much student loan debt there is in the United States. Progressives want to cancel student loan debt. Republicans say that's wildly unfair. And President Joe Biden is....waiting. Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri and education reporter Michael Stratford discuss the fight on Capitol Hill over student loans and whether Biden could tackle the problem through executive action. Tara Palmeri is a Playbook co-author for POLITICO. Michael Stratford is an education reporter...


How the 'burbs turned blue

Michigan’s Oakland County, once a Republican stronghold, is turning blue. Playbook's Eugene Daniels and Zack Stanton (also a Michigan native — he's from the "knuckle"), talk about whether shedding these suburbs is a warning light for Trumpism. Plus: Former Michigan GOP leader Jeff Timmer on what he thinks losing this stronghold says about the strength of a Republican electoral map. Eugene Daniels is a Playbook co-author for POLITICO. Zack Stanton is Playbook deputy editor for POLITICO. Jeff...


Weed is popular. So what's the holdup in Congress?

Eight — that’s how many states have passed some form of cannabis legalization since November. And even though marijuana is gainingpopularity in conservative states, that's not breaking through with GOP senators on Capitol Hill. Cannabis reporter Natalie Fertig and Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri discuss the growing cannabis dissonance between Republican senators and voters in their home states, and why Chuck Schumer shouldn’t be optimistic about passing federal legislation. Tara Palmeri is a...


‘It’s a clusterf*ck’: The college kid who cracked the election industry

Matthew Caulfield was a college senior when he was given a seemingly simple assignment that took him more than five years and 3,000 emails to start to answer: How much did a voting machine cost? And how big, precisely, was the U.S. elections industry? Playbook co-author Eugene Daniels and reporter Ben Wofford dive into the mysterious world of voting technology companies and the voting rights debate happening right now in Congress. Eugene Daniels is a Playbook co-author for POLITICO. Ben...


The drama-filled race for 'America's mayor'

It’s one of the top jobs in politics, period: mayor of the Big Apple. In a heavily left-leaning town, Tuesday’s crowded Democratic primary will essentially decide who will become the 110th mayor of New York City — an election that will determine who has the ear of powerful figures on Capitol Hill. POLITICO New York’s Sally Goldenberg and Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri unpack the race while producer Olivia Reingold pounds the pavement to find out what New Yorkers really think. Tara Palmeri...


The Capitol rioter next door

Imagine learning that someone you've known for 18 years is alleged to have been responsible for some of the worst violence on Jan. 6. How do you square that? Playbook co-author Rachael Bade and journalist Melanie Warner dive into the story of Jeffrey Sabol, one man whose alleged activity on Jan. 6 left many in his life confused and grappling for answers — about how a highly educated, middle-aged man with so much to lose could participate in what FBI Director Christopher Wray called “domestic...


McConnell, Oklahoma and the education culture war

A century ago, a violent white mob razed the heart of Tulsa's thriving Black community. Now, Oklahoma — and Republicans on Capitol Hill — are swept up in a national culture war over how schools teach kids about racism and sexism. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has inserted himself into that battle. POLITICO's education editor Delece Smith-Barrow and Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza delve into the tug-of-war, its implications for 2022, and how McConnell is turning what was once the...


Why UFOs are crashing into Congress

Talking about UFOs was once kryptonite for your political career. Now, senators are openly talking about UFOs, and the Pentagon is set to deliver a long-awaited report in June detailing what it knows — and what it doesn’t. So why the sudden change? POLITICO’s Bryan Bender and Playbook co-author Rachael Bade dissect why lawmakers including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are concerned about national security and forcing UFOs into the political...


Is Hill oversight dead? Inside the Jan. 6 commission fight

This week's vote on a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection exposed some serious rifts on the Hill — rifts that could get even wider as the bill heads to the Senate. POLITICO's Marianne LeVine and Playbook co-author Rachael Bade dig into the dynamics playing out among congressional leadership, from Mitch McConnell's 2022 calculations to Kevin McCarthy's quest to become speaker. Rachael Bade is a Playbook co-author for POLITICO. Marianne LeVine is a congressional...


A GOP civil war? Don’t bet on it

If you’ve paid any attention to the news lately, you’ve probably heard this line: There’s a “civil war” raging within the GOP. Republican leadership is duking it out in the open after losing the White House, the House and the Senate; just this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ousted his No. 3, Rep. Liz Cheney. On this Playbook Deep Dive, political analyst Jeff Greenfield digs into a contrarian argument with Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza: There is no civil war. This is a purge of...


The Black correspondents at the White House

White House reporters have access to the highest seat in the country — and they’re a small group. An even smaller group? Reporters of color. On today’s episode of Playbook Deep Dive, Eugene Daniels gets honest with fellow Black White House correspondents April Ryan (TheGrio) and Ayesha Rascoe (NPR) about everything from microaggressions to death threats. “Covering the White House from Bill Clinton to now, race touches everything,” says Ryan. “Everything.” Plus, a look at the first Black...