Before the 2020 presidential primary season got underway, Republican Donald Trump was dismissive of Democrat Joe Biden’s chances, saying he was a “weak, old man.” Trump was more concerned about Massachusetts US Senator Elizabeth Warren, who he thought had a better populist message.
Trump commented on the race to former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, who recounted the episode to a pair of New York Times political reporters, Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns, whose new book, “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future,” was released this week.
The book, which covers the period of American politics from the beginning of the 2020 campaign through the first year of the Biden administration, includes a number of mentions of New England politicians as it portrays a turbulent time marked by intense political division and the COVID-19 pandemic.
As it turned out, Warren’s campaign ended after Super Tuesday, but Biden, who would eventually win the nomination and the presidency, apparently recognized the power of Warren’s voice and support within the party. After she dropped out, Biden called Warren at her Cambridge home to talk about endorsing some of her bolder policy proposals, particularly on bankruptcy.
“I’ve decided I want to adopt your approach on bankruptcy,” Biden told Warren, she recalled.
“I’m over the moon,” she replied.
This was at a time when Biden still technically was in a primary tussle with Vermont US Senator Bernie Sanders, who was more ideologically aligned with Warren. It was also the beginning of a complicated courtship by Biden and top aides of the progressive left - even if many of them wanted the left to be defeated.
The book recounts another scene in which Biden was wrapping up a speech in Pittsburgh and heard the news that Massachusetts Democratic US Representative Richard Neal, a long-time friend of Biden’s, had defeated Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, in a highly controversial race. Morse had been endorsed by Justice Democrats, the group aligned with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“Biden called Neal with fulsome congratulations. This will calm the storm, Biden told him,” the authors reported.
The book recounts tension during Biden’s first year between the Biden camp and Maine Democratic US Representative Jared Golden. Golden particularly irked Steve Ricchetti, a top Biden aide. He was tasked with having Congress pass both an infrastructure bill but also a sweeping domestic spending bill called Build Back Better. Golden was part of a small group of House moderates that led the charge and ultimately stymied Build Back Better, along with moderate Democrats in the Senate.
The book captures Ricchetti calling Golden, a 39-year-old Marine, basically a Republican. He even looked into getting a primary challenger against Golden, the book said. Golden doesn’t have a significant primary challenge this year but stands out in the country as having the most pro-Trump Congressional district of any Democratic incumbent.
Maine Republican US Senator Susan Collins was basically just trying to keep her head down ahead of her 2020 reelection campaign. Democrats were incensed with her after her vote to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and recruited a top candidate, Sara Gideon, who was Maine House speaker at the time, and poured money into the contest.
Trump wasn’t exactly a big fan of Collins, either, after she refused to endorse him both times he ran for president. Knowing this, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, in reviewing Senate contests with Trump, would try to skip Maine, hoping to not spark Trump’s ire, Martin and Burns report.
Trump also remarked on Gideon’s looks. In one meeting, a source told the authors, Trump commented that Gideon was “very attractive” before joking, “Not that I’ve looked at a woman that way in five years—five years at least.” The authors noted that by then Trump had been married to Melania for 15 years.
A few other tidbits from the book:
– Connecticut Democratic Governor Ned Lamont was among those willing to say anything privately to the Trump administration to help his state get more resources to address COVID. But when Lamont tried to get assistance in lobbying a pharmaceutical production factory to select a site in his state instead of in Canada, he recalled, Trump adviser Peter Navarro told him, “I don’t want to get involved with blue-state politics.”
– While it had been previously known that Maine Democratic Governor Janet Mills came under attack by Trump during a COVID-related phone call with all governors, Mills recalled for the authors that at one point she told a member of her security team, “You gotta sit here and listen to this because I think the president of the United States is having a nervous breakdown or something, and it’s scary.”
– Inside a different capitol a state over, during the Jan. 6 attack, New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu asked his security team for ”another bunch of cruisers here at the statehouse,” the book reports.
– In the aftermath of a 2020 presidential election that was much closer than Democrats expected, New Hampshire US Senator Jeanne Shaheen had questions for the party, the book said. During a meeting of Senate Democrats, Shaheen stood up to uncomfortably address Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, asking, “When are we going to talk about what happened?”
When Schumer didn’t immediately act, Shaheen helped form a working group to solve the question herself, along with Connecticut’s Chris Murphy, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown.
The new book, published by Simon & Schuster, went on sale Tuesday.