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Biden faces public opinion contradictions on Ukraine and Russia

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Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. Please join me in welcoming Leigh Ann Caldwell to the Early 202 team! She’s the new co-author, taking over for Jackie Alemany, and joins us from NBC News, where she spent the past seven years reporting on Congress and politics. 

Leigh Ann was born and raised in Las Vegas and had a side job as a yoga instructor for many years. Between that and covering Congress, she’s very familiar with contortions! In the very recent past she has taken up the Chinese tile game mahjong. She accepts mahjong tips, good book recommendations and easy dinner recipes. And sign up here for the Early to get all the Washington news you need — fast and first thing in the morning.

Biden’s Ukraine conundrum: Most Americans favor escalating the U.S. role in Ukraine, but they also fear the war will escalate

Most Americans favor escalating the U.S. role in the war in Ukraine. Most Americans also fear the war in Ukraine will escalate. And a very small (but deeply unsettling) number of Americans want direct military action against Russia — even if that might mean nuclear war.

These are some of the findings from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that took the temperature of public opinion about the largest conflict in Europe since World War II and how President Biden has managed the two-month-old conflagration triggered by Russia.

  • In all, 14 percent of Americans say the United States is doing too much for Ukraine, 37 percent say too little, and 36 percent say Biden is doing the right amount. The president’s handling of the war gets a thumbs up from 42 percent, while 47 percent disapprove.

Biden’s numbers have gotten better than they were in February, when 33 percent approved of his handling of the conflict, 47 percent disapproved, and 20 percent expressed no opinion.

We both favor and fear escalation, apparently

Healthy majorities of Americans support providing more military support to the government in Kyiv (55 percent), increasing retaliatory sanctions on Russia (67 percent) and providing more humanitarian aid to Ukraine (76 percent).

  • In a fairly dramatic shift over the past month, Biden has obliged those who support sending more potent weapons to Ukraine as well as stepping up training for Kyiv’s forces. He’s now pushing a $33 billion package of military and economic aid and talks in terms of long-term commitments.

“The cost of this fight is not cheap,” Biden said last week, “but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters “we need to be in this for the long term.”

More guns, more sanctions, more aid but: 66 percent of Americans worry economic sanctions on Russia will inflate food and energy prices in the United States.

About 8 in 10 worry the war could expand into other countries beyond Ukraine, that U.S. forces might get involved in the fighting, and that Russia might use nuclear weapons.

My colleagues Ashley Parker, Emily Guskin and Scott Clement note a slight partisan split here, with more Democrats concerned about this (86 percent) than Republicans (72 percent).

Let’s talk about nuclear weapons

Twenty-one percent of Americans say they favor direct military action by the United States against Russian forces in Ukraine. Biden’s repeated warnings that such a confrontation might escalate to the point of triggering “World War III” have apparently not completely sunk in.

A little more than a fifth of Democrats and about the same proportion of Republicans favor direct military action. But the number of Americans who support that drops to 14 percent when they’re asked whether their position would change if such conflict could trigger nuclear war.

Sure, 72 percent oppose direct military confrontation with Russia. But 14 percent are apparently okay with courting nuclear annihilation! 

Here’s your partisan split

Biden’s numbers have improved over the past month, but partisanship still very much colors matters.

Among Democrats, 73 percent approve of his handling of the crisis, 21 percent disapprove and 6 percent have no opinion. Among Republicans, it’s 14 percent approval, 76 percent disapproval and 9 percent no opinion.

  • Who thinks the United States is doing too little for Ukraine? Twenty-nine percent of Democrats and 47 percent of Republicans. Who thinks the U.S. is doing too much? Ten percent of Democrats and 18 percent of Republicans. Just right? Fifty-one percent of Democrats, 22 percent of Republicans.

Ashley, Scott and Emily note: “Biden’s support of his handling of Ukraine and Russia has improved markedly with independents since February, when 30 percent approved.” It’s now 41 percent.

And, they reported: “The Post-ABC poll finds that age is a much greater source of division about U.S. involvement in Ukraine, with younger Americans less supportive of additional actions.”

“While 69 percent of those aged 65 and older support increasing military support, that drops to 54 percent among those aged 40-64 and 47 percent among adults younger than 40. Support for increasing military support is particularly low among younger adults who identify or lean Republican: 38 percent support boosting military support to Ukraine, while 52 percent are opposed.”

The Post-ABC poll was conducted April 24-28 among a random national sample of 1,004 adults, reached on cellphones and landlines. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for overall results and is larger for subgroups.

The next frontier for the antiabortion movement: A nationwide ban

“Leading antiabortion groups and their allies in Congress have been meeting behind the scenes to plan a national strategy that would kick in if the Supreme Court rolls back abortion rights this summer, including a push for a strict nationwide ban on the procedure if Republicans retake power in Washington,” Caroline Kitchener reports.

Vote tally begins in 2nd Amazon union election in NYC

“A federal labor board on Monday will count ballots cast by warehouse workers in a second Amazon union election on Staten Island. The National Labor Relations Board is overseeing the election and expects to finish tallying the votes by Monday evening,” the Associated Press’s Haleluya Hadero reports.

Judge rejects RNC bid to block email, fundraising data from Jan. 6 panel

A federal judge late Sunday rejected the Republican National Committee’s bid to block its mass email marketing vendor from releasing records to the House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack as it probes whether President Donald Trump’s campaign spread false claims of fraud after the 2020 election through fundraising appeals that also stoked violence,” Spencer S. Hsu reports.

Nancy Pelosi meets Polish president Duda

“Following a surprise visit to Kyiv, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) met with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw, offering ‘America’s deep gratitude to the Polish government and Polish people’ for its aid to Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s ‘brutal and unprovoked war,’” Isabelle Khurshudyan, Bryan Pietsch, Rachel Pannett, Adam Taylor, Jennifer Hassan and Julian Mark report.

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

For Patrick Lyoya, the American Dream became the American nightmare

Patrick Lyoya had just moved into a place of his own — a home with three bedrooms, he proudly told those close to him. He invited friends to drop by for a barbecue and his mom to stay overnight. At 26, he told his dad, he was ready to settle down,” Brittany Shammas reports.

“But if he was striving for the American Dream, it would become an American nightmare. On April 4, Lyoya was shot to death by a Grand Rapids police officer who had stopped him after noticing his license plate didn’t match the car he was driving; the Detroit Free Press reported it belonged to his onetime roommate. Video of the encounter showed a foot chase and a struggle over a Taser. Lyoya was facedown in the grass when the officer, later identified as Christopher Schurr, fired a single shot into the back of his head.”

They built the wall. Problems remain after founder’s guilty plea.

Brian Kolfage arrived in Texas three years ago pledging to help fulfill President Donald Trump’s promise of a ‘big, beautiful’ wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. After pleading guilty to federal fraud charges last month, Kolfage leaves behind two small stretches of fencing that are mired in legal, environmental and permitting fights,” ProPublica‘s Jeremy Schwartz and Perla Trevizo report.

Virus mutations aren’t slowing down. This new omicron subvariant proves it.

“The coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has had billions of chances to reconfigure itself as it has spread across the planet, and it continues to evolve, generating new variants and subvariants at a clip that has kept scientists on their toes,” Joel Achenbach reports.

Six months before crucial midterms, Biden faces many challenges

“Biden entered office with a historic set of challenges, punctuated by a deadly pandemic and a shuttered economy. Now, six months before midterm elections that could dramatically alter his governing ability in the final two years of his term, the list of issues has seemingly only grown longer,” Tyler Pager reports.

  • What’s on the table: “Gas prices across the country are soaring. Inflation has broken 40-year records. Prospects for Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending package appear dim. Crime rates are high. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. Just last week, a report showed the economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter, while Vice President Harris’s coronavirus case highlighted the stubbornness of the pandemic.”

Bidenworld wants to make the midterms more about Trump and hopes Elon Musk helps

“President Joe Biden and his team are hoping to spend the spring and summer months drawing sharp distinctions with Republicans, one in particular. They still plan to push forth revived pieces of stalled agenda. But they’re also eagerly awaiting potentially explosive findings from the Jan. 6 select committee and hope those discoveries can inflame a battle brewing within the GOP over former Trump’s legacy and power,” Politico‘s Jonathan Lemire reports.

Biden received early warnings that immigration and inflation could erode his support

A “series of confidential polling data and weekly memos presented to Mr. Biden’s inner circle from April of last year to January of this year provides a road map of the declining support of a president whose initial legislative proposals spurred comparisons to the New Deal or the Great Society,” the New York Times‘s Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report.

Jill Biden to meet with displaced Ukrainians on Mother’s Day in Slovakia

“The first lady will depart the United States on Thursday evening, arriving at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania on Friday — a base for NATO response force troops — where she will meet with U.S. service members,” Rachel Pannett reports.

Biden pays tribute to friend and mentor Walter Mondale

“In a 30-minute speech that was at times humorous and other times emotional, Biden called former vice president Walter Mondale ‘one of the great giants in American history — and that’s not hyperbole,’” Sheila Regan and Matt Viser report.

Artillery ranges, visualized

“The Western artillery flooding into Ukraine will alter the war with Russia, setting off a bloody battle of wits backed by long-range weapons and forcing both sides to grow more nimble if they hope to avoid significant fatalities as fighting intensifies in the east, U.S. officials and military analysts predict,” our colleague Dan Lamothe reports.

More money for Ukraine? How about having the Pentagon cover It?

“There’s certainly a viewpoint that this is a worthwhile price to pay to uphold democratic values and resist the aims of an authoritarian aggressor. That point has been made on this site, even as I would rather see more effort put toward a diplomatic settlement for peace. But whatever your views, I hope one point could be shared by liberals and progressives on both sides of that question: Why should we spend additional money to achieve these goals in Ukraine, after breaking the bank year after year on our own military spending?the American Prospect‘s executive editor David Dayen writes.

In other words, if you want to offer another $20.4 billion for military purposes for the Ukraine war, why not dip into the existing $776 billion military budget for this fiscal year? That would still leave 97.4 percent of our Pentagon budget untouched, at a time when the U.S. military is waging no other (formal) wars anywhere on the planet.”

The GOP senator who faulted Trump for Jan. 6 — and lived to tell about it

[Todd] Young is one of only four Senate GOP incumbents without the golden ticket of a Donald Trump endorsement this year. He has a record of taking some decidedly non-MAGA friendly positions and said Trump bore responsibility for Jan. 6 — in a state Trump carried twice by double-digits,” Politico‘s Adam Wren reports.

The endorsement game: “At the end of last week, one by one, Trump blasted out endorsements for every House Republican incumbent up for reelection from Indiana, including Rep. Greg Pence, Mike Pence’s brother. Young was not among them.”

  • “Despite the frostiness from Mar-a-Lago, the cerebral former Marine, a disciple of the late moderate Sen. Dick Lugar and one who has called Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene ‘nutty,’ will skate to the Republican nomination unopposed on May 3.”

At 1:45 p.m., Biden will present the Presidential Rank Awards.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host a reception to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, at 4 p.m. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will also attend.

Trump’s killer tomatoes and the history of food as protest projectile

“Donald Trump is now adding to the story of politicians and the airborne food that haunts them. And in a manner that befits the former Republican president, he has taken the story into a surprising and hyperbolic direction: Trump, we learned on Wednesday, actually feared for his life at the other end of a major food group, or at least claimed to,” Emily Heil writes.

“Trump’s worries might have been a bit misplaced … For starters, there are no prominent accounts of politicians being assassinated, or even maimed, by flying food. And why did he bring up pineapples? The bulky tropical treats would make terrible projectiles — and how many of them would one need to lug around, anyway, to ensure a successful attack? Bananas, too, are an unlikely missile.”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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