POLITICO Playbook: Dueling veeps in Wisconsin

TODAY … DUELING VEEPS ON THE TRAIL — Both VP MIKE PENCE and his would-be successor, Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.), are visiting Wisconsin, and their schedules are pretty revealing about how each political team sees the state.

HARRIS IS TOURING an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers training facility and meeting with labor leaders, then speaking with Black business owners in Milwaukee. PENCE is due to deliver remarks on the topic of “A Stronger American Workforce” at Dairyland Power Cooperative, an electric utility in La Crosse, a city of 50,000 along the Mississippi River.

WISCONSIN, FAMOUSLY, was the state HILLARY CLINTON neglected in 2016. She lost the state by fewer than 28,000 votes, but she did win La Crosse County by more than 9 percentage points — while badly underperforming elsewhere in the surrounding southwest corner of the state, stunning Democrats. In the 2018 midterms, Dems won back some of those areas, which helps explain why PENCE is visiting La Crosse.

IT’S EASY TO FORGET, but the Democratic ticket won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, then by 7 points in 2012. As of now, polling averages put JOE BIDEN ahead of President DONALD TRUMP in the state by about 7, but that could easily change. In 2016, TRUMP was able to excite rural white voters enough to overwhelm Democrats’ advantage in urban areas like Madison and Milwaukee, where turnout tanked. So the task for BIDEN and HARRIS in Wisconsin is a microcosm of their challenge nationwide: boost their margins in the cities, make new inroads in the suburbs, and hold down their losses everywhere else. More on this Badgerland duel from NYT’s Jonathan Martin

BIDEN is in Harrisburg, Pa., where he’ll “join a virtual event from the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO headquarters to speak with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, take questions from union members, and recognize America’s working families on Labor Day,” according to a campaign release.

THE PRESIDENT has no events on his public schedule.

A CHINK IN BIDEN’S SUBURBAN ARMOR? … DAVID SIDERS: “In swing state suburbs, local party officials are meeting the Labor Day start of the fall campaign with an undercurrent of uneasiness about how quickly Trump shifted the focus of the campaign to public safety — and away from the more damaging discussion of his erratic response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Interviews with more than two dozen Democratic Party officials and strategists in the suburbs reflect confidence in Biden’s ability to compete with Trump on issues surrounding this summer’s civil unrest, but also widespread concerns about the political volatility — and potential allure — of the president’s law-and-order message. …

“Two Democratic strategists who recently viewed focus groups of suburban voters described high-propensity voters increasingly concerned about unrest in urban centers, though both strategists said it was unclear whether that concern would push them to Biden or to Trump.

“One of the strategists described a focus group in which white, college-educated women reacted to the protests by discussing their own property values and, in one woman’s case, her family’s mortgage. ‘White women who have college degrees are starting to really get sick of this,’ the strategist said.” POLITICO

Good Monday morning. Jake and Anna will be back Tuesday.

CALIFORNIA BROILING … L.A. TIMES: “As a historic heat wave left Southern California broiling, Woodland Hills on Sunday recorded an all-time high of 121 degrees, which the National Weather Service said was the hottest temperature recorded at an official weather station in Los Angeles County. …

“The California Independent System Operator, which runs the electric grid for much of the state, declared a Stage 2 Emergency on Saturday night and warned it could order utilities to institute rotating power outages.

“But shortly after 9 p.m., the body announced the emergency had been lifted with no outages necessary, crediting consumer energy conservation. Still, the ISO said that rolling blackouts could be necessary Sunday, most likely between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The body was forecasting peak demand to outpace supply by about 4,000 megawatts.That could force utilities to cut off power to 2.5 to 3 million customers statewide, Eric Schmidt, vice president of operations for California ISO, said Sunday in a press briefing.” LAT

— @CALFIREBDU: “CAL FIRE Law Enforcement has determined the El Dorado Fire, burning near Oak Glen in San Bernardino County, was caused by a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party.”

JOE DUNFORD SPEAKS … KIND OF: “Last year, he was the country’s top military officer. Now, he is retired on the South Shore,” by The Boston Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie: “During a lengthy interview at his home, whose location he requested the Globe not identify for privacy purposes, [former Joint Chiefs Chair Joe] Dunford spoke in detail about the challenges facing the military, the U.S. role in a changing geopolitical landscape, and the growing military threat posed by China and Russia.

“But Dunford did not wish to discuss his personal or professional feelings about President Trump, whom he advised during much of his tenure as Joint Chiefs chairman from 2015 to 2019. He also declined to comment on Trump’s reported disparagement of slain U.S. service members as ‘losers’ and ‘suckers,’ characterizations the president has denied making.

“Dunford said his philosophy is to ‘behave in public the same way I did while on active duty. … I feel I should not engage in any partisan politics.’ The implications of any public comment on the president and his administration, he said, could complicate the job of Army General Mark Milley, his successor as Joint Chiefs chair and another Massachusetts native.

“‘I’ve got to let the chairman be the chairman, and there can be only one chairman,’ Dunford said.” Globe

CRACKDOWN — “FBI Sweep of China Researchers Leads to Cat-and-Mouse Tactics,” by WSJ’s Kate O’Keeffe and Aruna Viswanatha: “FBI agents have questioned dozens of researchers this summer about their work and military affiliations. In recent weeks, the widening operation has triggered efforts by some suspects to evade authorities and led to the arrest of at least two researchers whose work is allegedly tied to China’s military development, according to court filings by prosecutors.

“In one case, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles studying artificial intelligence is accused by federal prosecutors of destroying evidence sought by the FBI in an investigation into potential technology theft. The researcher, Guan Lei, threw a damaged computer hard drive in a dumpster days after he was stopped from leaving the U.S. at Los Angeles International Airport, prosecutors allege.” WSJ

CORONAVIRUS RAGING … JOANNE KENEN: “The United States has a narrow window to force the coronavirus into a partial retreat before the one-two punch of school openings and colder weather brings a widely feared rebound. It’s blowing it, again.” POLITICO

WSJ: “Mexico is running out of death certificates due to the high death toll brought by the coronavirus pandemic and federal bureaucratic snafus, authorities say, delaying burials.”

MEGAN CASSELLA: “As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles”: “The path toward economic recovery in the U.S. has become sharply divided, with wealthier Americans earning and saving at record levels while the poorest struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.

“The result is a splintered economic picture characterized by high highs — the stock market has hit record levels — and incongruous low lows: Nearly 30 million Americans are receiving unemployment benefits, and the jobless rate stands at 8.4 percent. And that dichotomy, economists fear, could obscure the need for an additional economic stimulus that most say is sorely needed.” POLITICO

HERE’S SOMETHING ELSE TO WORRY ABOUT — “In Year of Voting by Mail, a Scramble to Beef Up In-Person Voting, Too,” by NYT’s Nick Corasaniti and Michael Wines: “Against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s relentless criticism of voting by mail, the breakdowns at the Postal Service and the relatively high rate of rejections of mailed-in ballots, election officials and activists in both parties are amping up efforts to hire and train poll workers; integrate stadiums, arenas and malls into their voting options; and come up with contingency plans if there’s a surge in coronavirus cases in the fall.

“A major area of concern is finding younger people who are able to replace older ones most susceptible to the ravages of Covid-19 at a time when 58 percent of the nation’s poll workers are 61 or older.

“‘Everyone’s focusing on the rate of voting by mail, which is going to easily double what it was in 2016 — somewhere north of 80 million ballots,’ said Paul Gronke, an expert on in-person voting at Reed College in Portland, Ore. ‘But people aren’t paying attention to what might happen if there’s a spike in the pandemic or a shortage of poll workers and there’s a last-minute reduction in in-person voting.’

“‘In some of our minds, the nightmare scenario isn’t about voting by mail,’ he said. ‘It’s a meltdown at the polling places.’” NYT

DEEP DIVE — “Joe Biden’s China Journey,” by Edward Wong, Michael Crowley and Ana Swanson for the NYT’s “The Long Run” series: “Mr. Biden’s 20-year road from wary optimism to condemnation — while still straining for some cooperation — is emblematic of the arc of U.S.-China relations, which have deteriorated to an unstable, potentially explosive state. But as Mr. Trump denounces the Washington establishment’s failures on China, Mr. Biden, an avatar of that establishment, is not recanting his past enthusiasm for engagement.” NYT

— WHITE HOUSE AIDE @PeterNavarro45, tweeting this political hot take from his official account: “NYT panda hug of Beijing Joe Biden. Not a SINGLE mention of HUNTER Biden is the tell in this con game. As soft as this puff piece is, it still EXPOSES Biden as a pawn in Xi Jinping’s Great Global Game. Read it and weep. C’mon Man…”

THEY’RE STILL MARCHING IN MINSK … AP: “100,000 march in Minsk to demand Belarus leader resigns”

ACROSS THE POND — “Sir Kim Darroch: how Donald Trump and Boris Johnson led our man in Washington to quit,” by The Times’ Charlotte Edwardes: “He’s spent it penning a book about his final five days in the Foreign Office, writing in a tearing fury about the ‘monster’ experience, ‘The worst of my life. Like being trapped in a nightmare.’ … He draws similarities between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, using the same words to describe their appeal: ‘charm’; ‘charisma’; ‘stardust’.

“What about the so-called special relationship? He pulls a face. ‘President Macron [of France] made a big bid to be Trump’s main man in Europe,’ he says. ‘I think that’s all gone sour.’ So who? ‘I’m not sure Trump feels he needs a single close friendship in Europe. There’s no evidence that’s important to him.’

“He pauses. ‘But I do think that if Trump wins the election, then he would hope that it would develop with Boris. I think he sees Boris as a sort of kindred spirit. How Boris sees him is another question.’” The Times … With an excerpt from ‘Collateral Damage: Britain, America, and Europe in the Age of Trump’

BIG IN BELFAST … FT: “U.K. plan to undermine withdrawal treaty puts Brexit talks at risk,” by Peter Foster in Brighton, Sebastian Payne in London and Jim Brunsden in Brussels: “The UK is planning new legislation that will override key parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement, risking the collapse of trade negotiations with Brussels.

“Sections of the internal market bill — due to be published this Wednesday — are expected to ‘eliminate the legal force of parts of the withdrawal agreement’ in areas including state aid and Northern Ireland customs, according to three people familiar with the plans.

“The move would ‘clearly and consciously’ undermine the agreement on Northern Ireland that Boris Johnson signed last October to avoid a return to a hard border in the region, one person with knowledge of the plans said.” FT

ANOTHER MICHAEL COHEN BOOK NUGGET, FWIW: “In his book, Mr. Cohen says Mr. Trump personally approved the payment to [Stormy] Daniels in 2016, saying $130,000 ‘is a lot less than I would have to pay Melania.’ Mr. Cohen also recounts Mr. Trump musing that, if it got out, his supporters might ‘think it’s cool that I slept with a porn star.’” (via WSJ’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus)

WELL, THIS IS DIFFERENT — “Julian Assange’s fiancée, Stella Moris, on their secret family,” by The Times’ Kirsty Lang: “We meet in a park so her sons have somewhere to run around. Given that it’s not easy to conduct an interview with kids in tow, she’s accompanied by her brother’s wife, who is clearly close to her nephews, providing regular snacks and apple juice with an easy familiarity. The children appear happy and are well behaved. Gabriel proudly shows me the dinosaurs on his shirt. Max, who has his mother’s big brown eyes, is more contemplative and loves picture books, including the ones with Australian animals that were sent by Assange’s mother.

“The timing of this interview is linked to Assange’s extradition battle. The hearing is due to open at the Old Bailey this week (although given the chaotic state of the British legal system during Covid-19, a last-minute delay is highly possible).

“Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer, says Moris has gone ‘to extraordinary lengths to protect her privacy and that of her children, the fact she is coming forward now and talking in public is a big decision for her.’ Assange’s legal team are keen to show that he has a young family who would be deprived of a father if he is sent to prison in America. He won’t be able to phone Moris and the children every day as he does now, and they won’t be able to visit him.”

ICYMI — “Louis DeJoy’s rise as GOP fundraiser was powered by contributions from company workers who were later reimbursed, former employees say,” by WaPo’s Aaron Davis, Amy Gardner and Jon Swaine: “Louis DeJoy’s prolific campaign fundraising, which helped position him as a top Republican power broker in North Carolina and ultimately as head of the U.S. Postal Service, was bolstered for more than a decade by a practice that left many employees feeling pressured to make political contributions to GOP candidates — money DeJoy later reimbursed through bonuses, former employees say.

“Five people who worked for DeJoy’s former business, New Breed Logistics, say they were urged by DeJoy’s aides or by the chief executive himself to write checks and attend fundraisers at his 15,000-square-foot gated mansion beside a Greensboro, N.C., country club. There, events for Republicans running for the White House and Congress routinely fetched $100,000 or more apiece.

“Two other employees familiar with New Breed’s financial and payroll systems said DeJoy would instruct that bonus payments to staffers be boosted to help defray the cost of their contributions, an arrangement that would be unlawful.” WaPo

— North Carolina A.G. Josh Stein, on Twitter: “It is against the law to directly or indirectly reimburse someone for a political contribution. Any credible allegations of such actions merit investigation by the appropriate state and federal authorities. Beyond this, it would be inappropriate for me as Attorney General to comment on any specific matter at this time.”

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

TRANSITIONS — Julia Savel is now comms director for Al Gross’ Senate campaign in Alaska. She most recently was comms director for Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.). … Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, Felix Ortiz and Adam Blum are launching EmPath, a skills intelligence software technology company.

BIRTHDAYS: Anthony Tata is 61 … BuzzFeed’s Zoe Tillman … Peggy Noonan … Stuart Holliday, president and CEO of Meridian International Center and proud Hoya (h/t Ben Chang) … Joe Klein is 74 … former Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.) is 44 … Mark Whitaker is 63 … Chris Padilla, VP of government and regulatory affairs for IBM … WaPo’s Michael Duffy is 62 … Kate Andersen Brower (h/ts Tim Burger) … WaPo photojournalist Bill O’Leary … Gayle Tzemach Lemmon … Meredith Raimondi … Robert Blizzard, partner at Public Opinion Strategies … Sam Iacobellis … photojournalist Katie Orlinsky … John Catsimatidis is 72 … Laura Edwins, director of social media at CNBC … Gregory Zuckerman … Jack Oberg of Charles River Associates … NYT’s Shawn McCreesh … CBS’ Melissa Quinn … David Grant … Erin Mendelsohn, senior director at PhRMA (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Alex Wolff … Merritt Corrigan … POLITICO Europe’s Zoya Sheftalovich … Elizabeth Fox …

… Maralee Schwartz … Rob Engel … Brandon Rettke … Glenn Carlson … Sheila Cochran … Cheryl Parker Rose (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Stefanie Cargill, senior producer at MSNBC … Robin Reck, senior director of public affairs at Emerson Collective … California GOP’s Bryan Watkins is 36 … Craig Higgins … Eric Kanter, legislative director for Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine), is 3-0 … Matthew Grill … Caroline Chambers of Catalist … Miguel Head of Milltown Partners (h/ts Jon Haber) … Johan Propst … VOA’s John Walker … Ren Zheng … The Economist’s Matthew Holehouse … Houda Nonoo … Scott Pascoli … Mary Jeka … Rafael Lemaitre, comms director for Harris County, Texas, Judge Lina Hidalgo … Rachel Braun … Nick Ciarlante … Sam Stefanki … Meg Peterson … Gregory Petzold … Jeff Schrade … UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is 72 … East Timorese President Francisco Guterres is 66 … Fentress Boyse (h/t sister Natalie)

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