Happening this Friday: Israeli troops push deeper into Gaza, as PM Netanyahu says Israel doesn’t seek to occupy Gaza… House Republicans nix votes on two funding bills as shutdown looms… Sen. Joe Manchin announces he won’t seek re-election in West Virginia… VP Harris speaks at Biden campaign event in Columbia, S.C… Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott stump in Iowa… And Chris Christie travels to Israel this weekend.
But FIRST… It was a seesaw week in politics for Democrats and Republicans.
The ups for Dems: Tuesday’s election wins in Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia, plus affirmation of just how powerful the issue of abortion remains a year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The downs for the party: President Biden’s rough poll numbers (they’re more perilous than Barack Obama’s in 2011), Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision not to seek re-election (which endangers the Democrats’ Senate majority after 2024) and Manchin now flirting with a possible independent presidential bid (which won’t help Biden and the Democrats).
Republicans looking toward a future without Donald Trump also had their ups and downs.
The highs for these Republicans: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis picking up the endorsement from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley standing out at Wednesday’s GOP debate in Miami, where Trump (once again) wasn’t on the stage.
Their downs: Trump commanding attention at a rally just miles away from the debate site, and the debating Republicans (often) ducking questions about Trump.
Oh, don’t forget Trump taking the stand in that civil fraud case in New York — which promises to be a familiar sight over the next several months.
And there’s that possible looming government shutdown — again.
Add them all up, and they represent what was an eventful and turbulent week in American politics.
Headline of the day
The number of the day is … 4
That’s the number of hours per day that Israel has agreed to pause fighting in parts of the northern Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military said this was not a cease fire, but rather, “tactical, local pauses for humanitarian aid for Gazan civilians,” per the Israel Defense Forces.
Israel and Hamas are still negotiating about the 200-plus hostages that Hamas captured during its Oct. 7 attack on Israel. NBC’s Keir Simmons reported Thursday that there have been some “signs of movement” with hostage negotiations. But one official familiar with the talks also told him, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Eyes on 2024: Manchin deals a blow to Democrats
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision not to run for re-election to the Senate deals a major blow to Democrats defending their narrow majority next year.
Manchin’s exit means Republicans will have a clearer path to winning his Senate seat in a state former President Donald Trump carried by 39 points. Manchin would have been vulnerable even if he had run.
But a race against an incumbent who has defied political gravity before would have been a much tougher fight for the GOP.
Democrats “do not have a viable alternative” in West Virginia, write NBC’s Sahil Kapur and Julie Tsirkin.
Manchin did say in a written and video statement that he does plan on “traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together,” stoking more speculation that he could mount a third-party presidential bid as an independent or as part of the No Labels effort.
A source with direct knowledge of Manchin’s plan told Kapur and Tsirkin that “nothing is off the table” for the West Virginia Democrat.
Meanwhile, another third-party candidate jumped into the race on Thursday. Jill Stein launched another run for president as a Green Party candidate, reprising her failed 2016 run.
In other campaign news …
Dem divide: The White House cheered Tuesday’s election results as a sign of Biden’s strength, but otherDemocrats don’t think the president should be taking credit for the victories, per NBC’s Katherine Doyle, Sahil Kapur and Julie Tsirkin.
Biden on the road: Biden traveled to Illinois on Thursday, where he met United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain and stressed his support for unions after the auto workers strike, per NBC’s Megan Lebowitz.
Getting personal: NBC’s Sakshi Venkatraman examines the personal animosity between former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy.
Just kid-ing: DeSantis criticized Ramaswamy’s comments about Haley’s adult daughter using TikTok, saying “kids are out of bounds.” But DeSantis also criticizes Biden’s adult son Hunter “on a weekly basis,” write NBC’s Alec Hernández and Alex Tabet.
Sununu weighs in: New Hampshire GOP Gov. Chris Sununu has not yet endorsed in the Republican primary, but he did say Thursday that Ramaswamy “would be a poor choice” for president.
Heading abroad: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced Thursday that he is planning to travel to Israel, per NBC’s Emma Barnett, Kelly O’Donnell and Shaquille Brewster.
Battle for the House: A liberal donor group known as the Democracy Alliance is focusing on House races in New York and California next year, with plans to spend $10 million in New York alone, per the New York Times.
ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world
Four members of the Trump family, including former President Donald Trump, testified on the stand this week in a $250 million fraud case. NBC News’ Dareh Gregorian, Adam Reiss and Chloe Atkins highlight some of the memorable moments from the courtroom this week.
The FBI is investigating letters containing suspicious powder that were sent to election workers in California, Georgia, Nevada, Oregon and Washington this week.
Russian hackers cut power and caused outages in parts of Ukraine last year, a Ukrainian government official said for the first time Thursday.