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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.






Meet D.C.'s 'Lobbyist Hunter'

“Somebody’s gotta do it. It might as well be me.” So says Ivan Adler, the “lobbyist hunter” who plucks D.C.’s most idealistic Hill staffers and turns them into K Street top dogs. POLITICO’s Hailey Fuchs and Playbook co-author Ryan Lizza pry open the revolving door between the Hill and K Street — one of the most controversial but everlasting features of Washington’s underbelly. Ryan Lizza is a co-author of POLITICO Playbook. Hailey Fuchs is a reporter at POLITICO covering money & influence in...


Push it to the (debt) limit

What actually happens if the nation defaults on its debt? Planes fall out of the sky, the streets run red with blood — OK, not literally. But the reality could be economic catastrophe: "Market chaos, economic chaos, all for absolutely no good reason," explains POLITICO’s Ben White. After a week of debt-ceiling drama in D.C., Ben joins Playbook co-author Eugene Daniels to unpack the partisan fights, doomsday hypotheticals and one of the most absurd twists so far: a trillion-dollar coin....


The Biden family's secrets

After seven Senate terms and three runs for president, Joe Biden has mastered his folksy image. But behind "the Delaware way" are secrets in Joe's family tree and son Hunter's foreign deals. National political correspondent Ben Schreckinger tells Playbook's Ryan Lizza about what he uncovered while investigating his book, “The Bidens: Inside The First Family’s Fifty-Year Rise to Power.” Ryan Lizza is a co-author of POLITICO Playbook. Ben Schreckinger is a national political correspondent for...


Regulating crypto: The $2 trillion Rubik's Cube

Crypto trading! Bitcoin! Dogecoin! Stablecoin! Even if lawmakers don't understand blockchain, Capitol Hill is finally waking up to digital currency — Congress has introduced more than a dozen bills on crypto and blockchain this year alone — as both sides of the aisle go head to head over the best way to regulate the $2 trillion market. Economics reporter Victoria Guida joins Playbook co-author Tara Palmeri to talk about lobbying around crypto and the time her dog ate her Bitcoin. Tara...


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...