Happy Tuesday! Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is putting that age-old Beatles maxim to the test, hoping to dig his way out of dismal approving ratings in the high-20s with a tax rebate. So far, it seems like the Japanese people “want the kind of things that money just can’t buy.”
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Israeli military continued its advance into Gaza City on Monday, and though the exact position of its forces remains unclear, Israeli officials said the army is currently destroying Hamas tunnels found in the area. President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday and pushed for “tactical pauses” in the war to allow for more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, continue negotiations for the release of additional Hamas-held hostages, and permit additional civilians to flee the area. The Gazan Health Ministry, which is controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, claimed yesterday that more than 10,000 Gazans had been killed and 25,000 had been injured in the war thus far; Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesperson, said on Monday that the number of civilian casualties thus far is “in the thousands” but did not provide a more precise figure. Meanwhile, rocket attacks launched from Lebanon continued to target towns and cities in northern Israel on Monday.
- Pentagon officials disclosed on Monday that 46 American troops—more than double the number the Defense Department previously reported—were injured in drone, mortar, and rocket attacks carried out by Iranian proxy groups against United States military installations in Iraq and Syria last month. Officials said that the revised figures owed mainly to an increased number of self-reported traumatic brain injuries. The attacks reportedly ratcheted up this weekend, and there have now been 38 such incidents targeting U.S. troops since October 17. One attack in late October came incredibly close to killing troops when a drone filled with explosives struck military barracks but did not detonate. U.S. Central Command made a rare public announcement over the weekend that the USS Florida, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, has been deployed to the Persian Gulf in an apparent show of force to deter Iran from continued attacks.
- With his five-year term drawing to a close in 2024, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday evening that “now is not the right time for elections.” Under normal conditions, Zelensky’s five-year term would expire in March—but the nation’s elections remain suspended while the country is under martial law as a result of its war against Russia. Zelensky had previously not ruled out holding elections next year, but some of his political opponents—as well as Ukrainian civil society groups—have vocally opposed such a plan.
- Former President Donald Trump took the witness stand in his New York civil fraud trial yesterday, at times lashing out at the court and delivering long winding answers unrelated to the questions posed to him. “It’s a terrible thing you’ve done,” Trump said directly to the judge overseeing the case. “He called me a fraud, and he didn’t know anything about me.” Engoron told Trump’s attorney Christopher Kise to “control [Trump] if you can,” adding, “If you can’t, I will.” After the proceedings concluded, Kise told reporters, “In my 33 years, I have not had a witness testify better.”
- Peter Meijer, a former GOP congressman from Michigan who voted for Trump’s second impeachment, launched his bid for retiring Democrat Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s Senate seat on Monday. Meijer lost his House seat in 2022 to Trump-endorsed primary challenger John Gibbs, who went on to lose to Democrat Hillary Scholten in the general election. Two other Republicans are already in the Senate race—former Rep. Mike Rogers and Detroit police chief James Craig—and the National Republican Senatorial Committee quickly came out against Meijer’s bid, saying he “isn’t viable” and wouldn’t turn out the base. “[We] are confident we have the best chance of taking back this seat for the Republicans and fighting hard for a conservative future,” Meijer said in his announcement on Monday.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
As this newsletter hits your inbox, there are now 364 days until the 2024 presidential election—and if that sentence gave you slight heart palpitations, President Joe Biden probably feels that way, too, considering the steady drumbeat of less-than-stellar polling he’s seen in the last few weeks.
Even some Democrats have recently been forced to admit that the math isn’t looking great for a Biden reelection victory in 2024, with his age a legitimate concern for voters of all political persuasions and different parts of his agenda alienating various factions of his Democratic coalition. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump—far and away the frontrunner in the GOP primary—has remained fairly stable in general election polling, despite his increasingly radical rhetoric on the campaign trail and ever-mounting legal trouble.
Over the weekend, a New York Times/Siena poll of battleground states Biden won in 2020—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—struck fear into the hearts of Biden-friendly Democrats. These states helped deliver Trump and Biden their respective wins in 2016 and 2020, making them crucial for both campaigns in order to put together a total of 270 electoral college votes come November 2024. The topline poll numbers had Biden trailing Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup in five of the six purple states—by 4 points in Pennsylvania, 5 points in Arizona and Michigan, 6 points in Georgia, and by a whopping 10 points in Nevada—not necessarily because Trump is making big gains, but because Biden is bleeding support among key constituencies. Trump has a “modest, but meaningful” lead in those five states, Times pollster Nate Cohn said Monday, referring to the fact that Trump’s advantage is outside the poll’s margin of error.