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POLITICO's Off Message

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POLITICO takes you behind the scenes with Washington's power players to uncover what's really driving politics and policy in the nation’s capital.

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POLITICO takes you behind the scenes with Washington's power players to uncover what's really driving politics and policy in the nation’s capital.

iTunes Ratings

572 Ratings
Average Ratings
411
68
36
24
33

Vocal Fry

By B9090 - Jun 21 2018
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Good interview with Durkan but the host has way too much vocal fry by the host.

Each of your shows are great..

By 527kevin - Jun 05 2018
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And thanks for the intro to Delaney (did I get the name right?😀)

iTunes Ratings

572 Ratings
Average Ratings
411
68
36
24
33

Vocal Fry

By B9090 - Jun 21 2018
Read more
Good interview with Durkan but the host has way too much vocal fry by the host.

Each of your shows are great..

By 527kevin - Jun 05 2018
Read more
And thanks for the intro to Delaney (did I get the name right?😀)
Cover image of POLITICO's Off Message

POLITICO's Off Message

Updated 1 day ago

Read more

POLITICO takes you behind the scenes with Washington's power players to uncover what's really driving politics and policy in the nation’s capital.

A new tone from some in GOP on climate change -- but mostly behind closed doors

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We're bringing you an episode of POLITICO's Global Translations, a show about big global problems that will take a certain amount of creativity to solve. 

Driven by a public clamoring for action and pressure from corporate CEOs, lawmakers are noting an evolution in attitudes toward climate action among some of their Republican colleagues – a subtle but significant shift in tone that could pave the way for modest legislation this year. Guests include:
  • Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
  • Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL)
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)
  • Catherine McKenna, Canada’s first foreign minister for climate and the environment
  • Dan Byers, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
If you like the episode, check out the show wherever you listen.

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Aug 23 2019
34 mins
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Which 2020 Democrat should Donald Trump most be afraid of?

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To get the inside view from the only people in the world who know what it’s like to run in a primary field so large -- and do so in the shadow of Donald Trump -- we invited the strategists for four of the top GOP primary campaigns of 2016 into a Washington cigar bar, a literal smoke-filled room, to talk shop. Which Democratic candidate has the most raw political talent? What weaknesses of Donald Trump's would they exploit in 2020? And why is everybody still so ticked off about the Virginia primary?

Guests Danny Diaz (from the Bush campaign), Beth Hansen (Kasich), Jeff Roe (Cruz), and Terry Sullivan (Rubio).
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Jun 26 2019
39 mins
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This is what Kirsten Gillibrand hates about running for president

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Kirsten Gillibrand is a U.S. Senator with a soaring national profile, but her presidential campaign has yet to take flight. She’s even at risk of failing to have enough donors to make the debate stage under DNC rules, leading her to ask people for just a dollar, to boost her numbers. But that’s not what bothers her most about running for president.

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May 31 2019
25 mins
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Is John Hickenlooper too normal to be president?

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In a crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper makes an impression on voters as a genuine candidate, even if he's a bit quirky. He colors outside the lines of the political conventions -- a geologist by training, a brewer and restauranteur by profession, and a politician only later in life. 

In this episode, he talks about his temper as a child, his pragmatic approach to politics, and how he's managed to succeed in a people-driven business despite a condition commonly known as face blindness, a condition that keeps him from recognizing familiar faces.

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Mar 29 2019
23 mins
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How it feels to win (and lose) a House majority

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For our post-midterms edition of Off Message, we talked to Corry Bliss and Charlie Kelly, the two men who led the largest House campaign organizations in 2018. This election, Bliss led the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund, and Kelly led its Democratic counterpart, the House Majority PAC. They talk about what went on behind the scenes, their biggest regrets of 2018, and where things go from here.

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Nov 08 2018
58 mins
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David Axelrod: Voters don't want a ‘Democratic version of Trump’

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The strategist behind Obama's presidential campaigns gives his midterms predictions, shares his lightning-round thoughts on 2020 candidates and tells Tim whether he thinks any politician can recapture the Obama magic.

David Axelrod doesn’t like the path the country—or the Democratic Party—is on. 

The chief strategist who steered Barack Obama’s winning White House campaigns worries that President Trump has laid a trap—and that his party is walking right into it. “Escalation breeds escalation,” Axelrod said in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast. “And within the Democratic Party, I think there is a big debate about how to deal with Trump because he has no boundaries. He’s willing to do anything and say anything to promote his interests. It’s a values-free politics; it’s an amoral politics. And so, there is this body of thought that you have to fight fire with fire and so on. But I worry that we’ll all be consumed in the conflagration.” 

Stressing that “civility actually is a really important element of politics,” Axelrod criticized Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder for recent comments they’ve made, and described the backlash he has faced for urging Democrats to avoid confrontation. The best way to defeat Trump, Axelrod argued, is by nominating someone who can appeal to an exhausted electorate. 

“I don’t think people will be looking for a Democratic version of Trump,” he said. “I don’t think they’ll be looking for people who can go jibe for jibe and low blow for low blow. I think people are going to be looking for someone who can pull this country out of this hothouse that we’re in.” 

At his offices in Chicago, where he directs the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, we discussed Axelrod’s predictions for the midterm elections, the risk of overreach with a new House majority, and the strengths and vulnerabilities of the top-tier 2020 Democratic hopefuls. 

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Oct 30 2018
59 mins
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Meet the next Ted Cruz

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When Chip Roy was a top staffer for Ted Cruz, he was an architect of the Texas senator’s strategy to shut down the government over Obamacare.

Now, in all likelihood, he’s heading for Congress with a House seat of his own, and top Republicans worry he’s going to make Cruz look like a squishy moderate.

Roy is ready to play hardball with GOP leaders in Congress. He has pledged to support House Freedom Caucus founding chairman Jim Jordan for speaker, and is expected to quickly establish himself as one of the House GOP’s most outspoken and combative members.

As with so many conservatives, however, Roy is treading lightly when it comes to Donald Trump. Once a fierce critic—described by friends as a committed “Never Trump” advocate in 2016, when he was working in support of Cruz’s presidential campaign—the congressional hopeful now talks fondly of the president, praising his assault on “the swamp” and sharing his concern about a “deep state” acting as a shadow government.

And while most Republicans campaigning for Congress this November are touting the accomplishments of President Trump and his GOP majorities: tax reform, regulatory relief and a soaring number of federal judicial appointments. In the deep-red 21st congressional district of Texas, Chip Roy is running on a different message: Republicans haven’t done nearly enough.

“If there is a thousand miles to go, we’ve gone maybe 50 miles,” Roy tells POLITICO’S “Off Message” podcast. “So now, we’ve got to focus on the things that the people really want to see done. We’ve got to have healthcare freedom, we’ve got to balance the budget and we’ve got to secure the border.”

POLITICO's "Off Message" podcast is hosted by Tim Alberta, produced by Zack Stanton and executive produced by Dave Shaw. Intro/outro music by Podington Bear.

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Oct 23 2018
48 mins
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Steve Scalise thinks he knows who'll be the next House Speaker

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Steve Scalise was nearly killed last summer when a gunman opened fire at the Republican congressional baseball team’s practice. Last September, after months of surgeries and intensive rehabilitation, the Louisiana congressman was met with a thunderous ovation when he returned to work at the Capitol. The emotional scene—cathartic for Scalise and so many colleagues who were on the baseball field with him—might have obscured just how far he has to go. He’s still undergoing regular physical therapy and walks with the assistance of a cane; the wounds to his pelvis, hip and left leg were so severe that Scalise still doesn’t know whether he will ever be able to run again.

Mentally, however, he claims to have fully recovered. Scalise says he was able to process the incident and put the trauma behind him, by reconstructing the events of the day with the help of his teammates and security detail. That included a trip back to the baseball diamond with David Bailey, one of the two U.S. Capitol Police officers who saved his life.

“We went back to second base, and he showed me where the shooter was,” Scalise told me in an interview for Politico’s “Off Message” podcast. “We’re looking at first base, where [U.S. Capitol Police officer Dave Bailey was] in a gunfight with the shooter. And he [was] standing just kind of isolated on an island at first base with no protection, and the shooter is kind of hiding, pigeonholed behind this cinderblock dugout behind third base.”

Of course, Scalise doesn’t want to be defined by that event. And he’s a fascinating character for other reasons.

Control of the House of Representatives isn’t the only thing at stake in the Nov. 6 midterm elections—it’s the future of the House speakership. Paul Ryan is retiring, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi faces an uprising among younger Democrats and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has not demonstrated the ability to collect the requisite 218 votes needed to become speaker. That makes Scalise, the House majority whip, a popular dark-horse pick to become speaker of the House—that is, if Republicans hold the majority.

Scalise, one of Washington’s most reliably on-message lawmakers, is even more cautious than usual these days. He’s spending the home stretch of the election season traveling the country with his House Republican colleagues, raising money and collecting favors while hugging President Donald Trump at every turn. Right now, with a career-climaxing promotion potentially awaiting him next month, Scalise can’t afford to alienate Republicans on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The internal dynamics are fragile: McCarthy’s allies have eyed Scalise warily for months, worried that he is undermining his superior’s bid for speaker. Scalise, for his part, promises not to run against McCarthy for the top spot if Republicans hold the House, and moreover, he tells me, “I think Kevin would have the votes.”

Politico's "Off Message" podcast is hosted by Tim Alberta. Zack Stanton is producer. Dave Shaw is executive producer. Intro/outro music by Podington Bear.

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Oct 16 2018
51 mins
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John Kerry on 2020, Trump and why we need to ask ourselves "what did you do?"

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Isaac's last episode: The former secretary of state has led a Forrest Gump-like life, from his high-school days playing hockey with Bob Mueller to introducing John Lennon at a Vietnam protest to running for president and almost winning. Some people think he should run again in 2020.

He probably isn’t, but says he wants to be part of the future of the Democratic Party, and the country, no matter what. 

He’s sticking to his insistence that any White House talk distracts from 2018. But there’s clearly still an ember of desire to run again. “I’ve only done it once, unlike a lot of people who’ve been out there, and came pretty close,” he said in our interview. It was a conversation he ended with a standard-politician four-point list of priorities, some 40 minutes after delivering a standard-politician evasive answer about a 2020 candidacy: “I haven’t eliminated anything in my life, period, anything—except perhaps running a sub-four [minute] mile.” 

But that is not the point for Kerry, whose public life stretches across modern political history, from the day in 1971 when, as a young Vietnam veteran, he testified before the Senate in opposition to the Vietnam War, to walking out of the State Department for the last time in 2017. He’s already done fundraising, and endorsed several Democratic candidates in 2018—including a few of his former State Department aides running for House seats. He says he’ll be out campaigning for the midterms. And he says he’ll keep proselytizing in speeches on college campuses from the example of his own life, about how activated young people have always been the ones to change the course of political history. 

“I’m engaged, man, I’ve done this my whole life. I’m not going to suddenly stop and say I’m not going to be involved in these choices, you know,” Kerry said. “You know that old question that sometimes was asked [after] World War II or Korea: ‘Daddy, what did you do in the war?’ Well, people are going to ask, ‘Daddy, Mommy, kid, what did you do in this moment in our history, where our democracy is threatened, where the challenges are as great as they’ve ever been, and where the world is not coordinating very effectively?’ That’s a big challenge.” 
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Oct 09 2018
49 mins
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Elijah Cummings is ready to investigate Trump

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If Democrats retake the House, Maryland congressman Elijah Cummings will likely become the new chair of the Oversight committee. Here, a preview of what to expect from their coming investigations of the Trump administration.

Cummings says President Donald Trump “is a person [who] calls a lie ‘the truth’ and the truth ‘a lie.’” He thinks the president violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause daily, and sees an abnormal tolerance for corruption and misconduct emanating straight out of the Oval Office. And, in the eyes of the 67-year-old Democrat, just as troubling is the notion that Congress has fallen flat on its Constitutional duty to check the administration’s whims.

Expect that to change if Democrats retake the House in November. Then, Rep. Cummings will likely become the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, giving him subpoena power and the ability to call as many hearings as he wants on whichever topics he chooses. In light of everything he’s learned about Trump—and especially after Senate testimony last week by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which Cummings saw as dishonest—the congressman doubts he’ll be able to believe any denial from anyone in the administration, regardless of whether or not they’re under oath, he said in an interview for POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

POLITICO's Off Message podcast is hosted by Isaac Dovere and is part of the Panoply network. Produced by Zack Stanton. Executive Producer is Dave Shaw. Theme music by Podington Bear. Get more at politico.com/podcasts/off-message
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Oct 02 2018
50 mins
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