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Mara Liasson

To a growing number of Democrats, the filibuster is a giant barrier to the things they want to accomplish. At the funeral last year for congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis, former President Barack Obama listed some of them: ending partisan gerrymandering and making Election Day a national holiday, as well as statehood for Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.

President Biden is continuing his victory lap this week after passing the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which addressed the most immediate crises Biden has faced coming into office: a pandemic still spreading and an economy still millions of jobs short of where it was a year ago.

Joe Biden ran on competence and experience, and he chose a chief of staff known for both: Ron Klain.

"We're seeing a functioning White House. Go figure," says Chris Whipple, who wrote The Gatekeepers, a book about White House chiefs of staff. "That's a tribute to Klain."

In the first 49 days of the administration, Klain has had a big win and also a notable loss, but he entered the role with broad experience and a good relationship with the president.

Taking the win

Joe Biden's first full week as president has been a gusher of executive orders, some big legislative proposals — and a very different model of presidential leadership than his predecessor.

Traditionally, the first week is when new presidents set the tone. For Biden, that's all about taking down the temperature and trying for "unity." But unity means different things to different people.

In a matter of hours on Jan. 6, the Republican Party went from shrugging off its loss of the White House to a party in crisis.

It was becoming clear just before the violent insurrection at the Capitol that the party had lost two Senate runoff elections in Georgia, making President Trump the first president since Herbert Hoover whose party lost the White House, the House and the Senate in one term. And plenty of Republicans blamed Trump for the Democrats' success in Georgia.

Democrats are trying to figure out what the voters were trying to tell them this year, because it was kind of confusing.

President-elect Joe Biden won the popular vote by 4.5 percentage points — a 7 million vote margin — and got 306 electoral votes, which President Trump once called "a massive landslide victory" when he got the same number in 2016.

But Biden had no coattails.

Progress on the COVID-19 relief bill, as a lame duck President Trump continues to spread falsehoods about the election amid the continuing COVID-19 crisis and now an alleged Russian cyberattack.

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In the two weeks since it became clear that President Trump lost the election to Joe Biden — a period bookended by befuddling press conferences from his longtime lawyer, Rudy Giuliani — the president has made it clear that he will spend his remaining days in the White House in the same way he spent much of his term in office: fighting.

In the hours before President Trump began to realize that he may not get to "Make America Great Again, Again," the former reality television star who stunned the world in 2016 with his improbable leap to the White House allowed for a moment of candor.

"You know, winning is easy. Losing is never easy. Not for me, it's not," Trump told reporters on Election Day, his voice hoarse from an unforgiving three-week marathon of rallies.

Now, the world is seeing just how difficult it is for a man who built his brand on winning to lose.

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Yesterday at a drive-in rally in Flint, Mich., a tag-team pitch from former running mates.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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The White House is struggling on Monday to show that it has a burgeoning public health and political crisis under control as President Trump enters his third day of aggressive and experimental treatment for the coronavirus.

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Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

Mike Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and onetime Democratic presidential candidate, has committed $100 million of his own money to help the party's nominee, Joe Biden, win the state of Florida.

Bloomberg's investment is a potential game changer in Florida, a swing state with expensive media markets.

The last three American presidents all won reelection, and they all knew voters would reward them, not for their accomplishments, but for their future plans.

Bill Clinton promised to build a "bridge to the 21st century" in 1996. George W. Bush offered safety and prosperity in 2004, built on conservative economic and national security policies. For Barack Obama in 2012, it was all about protecting the middle class as the country continued recovering from the Great Recession.

In a recent campaign ad, Joe Biden is behind the wheel of a 1967 Corvette Stingray, in his trademark aviator sunglasses.

"I love this car, nothing but incredible memories. Every time I get in, I think of my dad and Beau," Biden says, referring to his late son. "God, could my dad drive a car."

It's pure nostalgia. But then Biden pivots to his pitch to restore American manufacturing.

Updated at 10:58 a.m. ET

When a billionaire with a history of investing generously and strategically in campaigns promised to spend whatever it takes to defeat President Trump, it made Democrats sit up and take notice.

And how did they interpret that pledge from former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg?

Nearly a month after the killing of George Floyd while in police custody and the launch of massive protests against police brutality across the country, President Trump was asked what part of his response would he have handled differently.

"I think that tone is a very important thing and I try to have a very good tone, a very moderate tone, a very sympathetic — in some cases — tone, but it's a very important tone," Trump said.

Though when pressed on what he would change, the president said, "I would say if I could, I would do tone."

The COVID-19 crisis has brought significant challenges for American women, increasing their burden of care and raising unemployment levels to greater numbers compared to men.

As the general election inches closer, new polling shows that a subset of American women remain a wildcard, and they could be a crucial swing vote if the race for president gets close.

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Just like the coronavirus pandemic could permanently change daily life in America, from hand washing habits to telework, it also has the potential to transform the country's politics in profound ways.

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More than anything, this election is about President Trump.

For most incumbent presidents running for reelection, approval ratings really matter. With Trump, there are several different striking ways to look at those numbers. He's historically unpopular — the most unpopular incumbent ever to stand for reelection.

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NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson has been listening along with us and is on the line. Mara, good morning.

MARA LIASSON, HOST:

Good morning.

INSKEEP: What struck your ear?

Updated at 12:30 p.m. ET

A foreign service officer detailed to work in the office of Vice President Pence testified behind closed doors on Thursday in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Jennifer Williams was assigned to work on European and Russian issues with the vice president's team in the spring. She is the first person from the vice president's office to testify in the probe of whether the president withheld military aid from Ukraine while seeking a political favor.

Updated at 11 a.m. ET

Investigators in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump hoped to talk to Charles Kupperman on Monday. But the former White House official failed to show up.

President Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, is known as a conservative foreign policy hawk. But he is turning into a key figure in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of Trump.

"All administrations are tempted to do bad things and have people who have bad instincts or wrong instincts," said Danielle Pletka, who oversees the conservative American Enterprise Institute's work on foreign policy and defense.

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