UK, France, US – Ukraine’s uneven effect on domestic politics

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The U.S. isn’t the only country where Ukraine is an issue in domestic politics. Let’s go abroad!

The Daily 202 looked in late March at the prospects the war in Ukraine could provide a lasting “rally-’round-the-flag” effect for President Biden and concluded it probably wouldn’t, in large part because such polling bumps tend to be brief, quickly eclipsed by voters’ domestic worries.

For pete’s sake, President Barack Obama got just a six-point bounce from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — and even that melted away in six weeks.

We shouldn’t neglect that Biden’s job approval ratings have crept up. But maybe polarized America isn’t the best proving ground on which to test how Ukraine is reshaping politics in major Western democracies. Let’s look abroad!

First stop, the United Kingdom, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has gone all-out to show public support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s expanded war, now in its third month. Today’s the day for local elections in England, Scotland and Wales. Results start coming in Friday.

Johnson, who visited Kyiv back in April, has provided Ukrainian forces hundreds of millions of pounds of weapons, including antitank weapons and armored vehicles. On Tuesday, he poured on the praise in a virtual address to Ukraine’s parliament.

“Ukraine will win, Ukraine will be free,” the victors in a war of “good vs evil,” he said, and Ukrainian soldiers have “fought with the energy and courage of lions.”

As my colleagues William Booth and Karla Adam reported Wednesday, Johnson got multiple standing ovations, Ukrainians are renaming streets and landmarks for him, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has promised his country “will always be grateful to Boris and Britain.”

  • “But while the prime minister continues to tweet photos of himself walking with Zelensky through Kyiv last month, he isn’t being hailed as much of a hero back in Britain. His Conservative Party is expected to take a big hit in local elections across the country on Thursday, in what’s seen at least partly as a referendum on Johnson,” William and Karla reported.

British voters still number covid among their worries, though it’s lost the top spot to inflation, which “has risen to 7 percent, its highest rate in more than three decades.” (That should sound familiar. This is, after all, a global phenomenon.)

“But how the government handled the pandemic remains a looming issue, and these elections are the first chance for voters across the country to have their say since the Partygate scandal first broke in the fall.” (The scandal involves “a dozen boozy bashes that took place during strict coronavirus lockdowns.”) Labour has an eight-point polling edge over Johnson’s Conservatives.

We may know as early as late Thursday, Washington time, how it shakes out.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s April 24 victory offers a more complex lesson. He beat far-right candidate Marine Le Pen easily, 58.5 percent to 41.5 percent to be the first incumbent French president to get a second term in 20 years.

But she posted her best-ever result and narrowed the gap from when he beat her in 2017, 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent. Moreover 28.2 percent of French voters abstained, the highest number since 1969.

Ukraine featured prominently in the campaign. In a hard-fought debate, Macron memorably told Le Pen she could not criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin because he was her “banker,” a reference to her party borrowing millions from a Russian institution. And Le Pen played down decades of warm remarks about Putin.

How much did Ukraine sway French voters? It’s a little hard to say, because the usual dynamic in the decisive second round of presidential voting is what’s called the “barrage,” in which parties across the spectrum line up behind the candidate whose last name is not Le Pen.

If history is any guide, that’ll happen again in the legislative elections on June 12 and June 19, when France picks the 577 members of its lower chamber, the Assemblée Nationale.

Macron’s party is expected to win a majority — every winning French presidential candidate has done so for two decades — and go on to pick a new prime minister and cabinet.

  • While French voters are more focused on inflation, notably high energy prices, as well as profound anger at the political system writ large, Macron did mention the war in his election-night remarks, a victory speech that also served as a call to arms ahead of the legislative elections.

“The war in Ukraine reminds us that we are going through tragic times, in which France must speak with a clear voice and build up its strength,” he said.

Both the U.K. local elections and French legislative elections are, by their nature, more likely to focus on domestic concerns than on Ukraine. The war may have transformed relations between Russia and the United States and its allies, but it’s too soon to say what it has done to politics at home.

Romney says Trump ‘very likely’ to be GOP nominee in 2024 if he runs

“Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), hardly a cheerleader for Donald Trump, conceded in an interview published Thursday that the former president is ‘very likely’ to become the GOP White House nominee in 2024 if he decides to run,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report for Post Politics Now.

“It’s hard to imagine anything that would derail his support,” Romney, the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, told Politico. “So if he wants to become the nominee in ‘24, I think he’s very likely to achieve that.”

Louisiana Republicans advance bill that would charge abortion as homicide

“The legislation, which passed through a committee on a 7-to-2 vote, goes one step further than other antiabortion bans that have gained momentum in recent years, which focus on punishing abortion providers and others who help facilitate the procedure,” Caroline Kitchener reports.

Musk lines up $7.1 billion in investor financing for Twitter bid

“Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, Sequoia Capital, Binance and 16 others have collectively chipped in more than $7.1 billion in financing toward Elon Musk’s planned takeover of Twitter, according to a security filing,” Taylor Telford and Douglas MacMillan report.

Mariupol steel plant situation ‘critical’

“The situation at the embattled Mariupol steel plant is ‘critical’ as the last Ukrainian fighters in the port city face ‘constant storming’ by Russian forces, despite Moscow’s promises for a cease-fire, a police chief inside Azovstal Steel and Iron Works told The Washington Post,” David L. Stern, Adela Suliman, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit and Ellen Francis report.

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Oligarch’s effort to broker peace falters even as it shields him from sanctions

[Roman] Abramovich, who built a fortune in Russian oil and owns England’s Chelsea soccer club, is now entering his third month serving as mediator between the Kremlin and Kyiv,” Greg Miller and Shira Rubin report.

So far, that arrangement has worked out better for Abramovich than the people of Ukraine, according to U.S. officials and experts. Peace talks have foundered amid ongoing attacks and mounting evidence of Russian atrocities. And yet Abramovich’s involvement has shielded him from the barrage of sanctions the United States has unleashed on other Russian elites, U.S. officials said.”

Draft abortion opinion puts new spotlight on confirmation hearings

“That apparent contrast between [Kavanaugh’s] testimony before senators and his current reported willingness to overturn the landmark decision legalizing abortion access is prompting fresh scrutiny of the Supreme Court confirmation process, in which nominees say as little as possible and senators are left to parse their language on how they would rule,” Seung Min Kim reports.

  • “It is not just the increasingly predictable and evasive answers of nominees that are prodding some senators to conclude that Supreme Court hearings have become empty theater. More and more, the confirmation votes themselves seem a foregone conclusion, with senators hewing to the party line and many using their allotted time to launch political broadsides rather than seek information.”
Over the past 30 years, conservative Supreme Court nominees testified about abortion rights during their Senate confirmation hearings. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

A Biden-Trump rematch is increasingly likely. But neither side wants to move first.

“As each camp gears up for a rematch of the bitterly contested 2020 contest, there remains a small hiccup: Neither is inclined to take the plunge first,” Politico‘s Jonathan Lemire and Meredith McGraw report.

It’s a game of political chicken that — as described by more than a half dozen advisers to the two men — has largely frozen the field among Democrats and Republicans alike, raising questions about the future health of two parties being led by a pair of candidates who, by that Election Day, would have long ago celebrated their 75th birthdays.”

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito argued abortion isn’t an economic issue. Is that true?

[Alito’s] argument doesn’t account for the significant limitations of the protections he lists and the persisting truth that the United States holds some of the worst records in the world in terms of pregnancy and birth-related workplace benefits, experts say. Some of the elements Alito describes in the opinion are still a work in progress. In other cases, they are leaving out some of the most vulnerable Americans,” the 19th‘s Chabeli Carrazana reports.

Nearly 15 million deaths related to covid-19, WHO estimates

The coronavirus pandemic led to nearly 15 million excess deaths worldwide, according to a new estimate by the World Health Organization, including people who died from covid-19 and others who died from indirect causes such as health care shortages as the virus surged and overwhelmed hospitals,” Katie Shepherd reports.

Biden administration launches plan to refill emergency oil reserve

“The Biden administration plans to seek bids this fall to buy 60 million barrels of crude oil as the first step in a years-long process aimed at replenishing America’s shrinking emergency oil reserve,” an Energy Department official told CNN‘s Matt Egan.

Fed, Biden administration float new lending rules for lower-income areas

“Top U.S. banking regulators are poised to overhaul how banks lend hundreds of billions of dollars annually in lower-income communities, after scrapping a Trump-era revamp that had divided regulators and industry officials,” the WSJ’s Andrew Ackerman reports.

Biden approves disaster declaration for wildfire-hit New Mexico

“Biden on Wednesday approved a disaster declaration for parts of drought-parched New Mexico hit by wildfires and ordered federal aid be made available for recovery efforts, the White House said,” Reuters’s Eric Beech and Andrew Hay report.

Biden: MAGA is the ‘most extreme political organization’ in recent U.S. history

“President Joe Biden on Wednesday escalated his rhetorical attacks on the Republican Party and rebuked former President Donald Trump’s enduring grip on the GOP,” Politico’s Quint Forgey reports.

With Roe under threat, Biden is an unlikely abortion rights champion

“For President Biden, the threat to the landmark Roe decision represents a singular challenge as he attempts to put aside a long history of evident discomfort with the issue of abortion to transform himself into a champion of the constitutional right that may soon be erased from the law books,” the New York Times’s Peter Baker reports.

White House scrambles for ways to protect abortion

“In marathon meetings and phone calls among White House officials, government lawyers, outside advisers and federal agency officials, a sobering reality settled in: There’s little the White House can do that will fundamentally alter a post-Roe landscape. While officials have spent months planning for the possibility the court would overturn the landmark ruling, the leaked document caught the White House off guard,” Yasmeen Abutaleb and Tyler Pager report.

“Trigger” laws, visualized

“Red states have been preparing for when the Supreme Court might end abortion protections in the United States. In more than a dozen states, most abortions could be banned immediately by trigger laws already in place.” Here’s how that works.

Of course the Constitution has nothing to say about abortion

It doesn’t have anything to say about women either, Jill Lepore writes for the New Yorker.

“As it happens, there is also nothing at all in that document, which sets out fundamental law, about pregnancy, uteruses, vaginas, fetuses, placentas, menstrual blood, breasts, or breast milk … Most consequentially, there is nothing in that document—or in the circumstances under which it was written—that suggests its authors imagined women as part of the political community embraced by the phrase ‘We the People.’

“There were no women among the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. There were no women among the hundreds of people who participated in ratifying conventions in the states. There were no women judges. There were no women legislators. At the time, women could neither hold office nor run for office, and, except in New Jersey, and then only fleetingly, women could not vote. Legally, most women did not exist as persons.”

Republicans, on cusp of abortion win, seek to change the subject

“Few Republicans have openly celebrated, even though Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s opinion would, if adopted by the court, fulfill what is perhaps the conservative movement’s single most enduring policy goal,” Mike DeBonis reports.

“Instead, many GOP lawmakers — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, an architect of a conservative revolution in the federal courts — said they were more concerned about the leak and its implications than the substance of the opinion. Many ascribed the subdued reaction to mere wariness over celebrating a decision that has not actually been handed down.

“Several other Republicans said they saw no advantage in engaging in the debate over abortion rights that Democrats have been eager to spark in recent days.”

At 4:15 p.m., the Bidens will host a Cinco de Mayo celebration with Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller de López Obrador, the wife of the president of Mexico.

Long live the Postal Museum

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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