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Jon Favreau's Summer Wedding in Maine

The host of "Pod Save America" and his bride said "I do" on the coast of Maine

jon favreau speechwriter dating

Photo by Rachel Buckley Weddings

Although Jon Favreau and Emily Black now call Los Angeles home, they have Washington, D.C. , to thank for their major milestone moments. The couple—he's the cofounder of Crooked Media and cohost of "Pod Save America" and she's an account executive at Sunshine Sachs—met at a D.C. bar in June 2012, when he was writing speeches for President Obama and she was working on the hill for Senator Sherrod Brown. Their engagement took place in D.C., too. On July 5, 2016, after dinner at their favorite restaurant from their D.C. days, Jon proposed on the Georgetown waterfront, where they had their first date five years earlier. "We were lucky that a stranger was taking a panoramic video of the Potomac River sunset and happened to capture Jon’s proposal on camera," Emily remembers.

For their wedding, the couple again headed to the East Coast. This time, on June 17, 2017, they invited 250 guests to Biddeford Pool, Maine, where the bride has always dreamed of marrying. Keep reading to see how Emily and Jon hosted a beautiful backyard bash, complete with plenty of personalized details.

The ceremony took place at the bride's family vacation home. "My family has been going to Biddeford Pool every summer since my dad was a child, and it always felt like such an amazing place to relax and enjoy the incredible, classic Maine views," she says.

The bride went dress shopping in her hometown of Cincinnati with her mom, sister, and best friend. "I live in L.A., so the idea of buying my dress in Cincinnati was confusing to a lot of people, but it felt right," she says. Emily (and her crew!) fell hard for a strapless white gown by Justin Alexander. She says,"I figured this was the only time I was allowed to wear a white ball gown, so why not go all out!"

Emily's bridesmaids wore blue dresses by Lula Kate, while her sister and best friend wore a striped variation. "I realized after I got my dress that since it had such a big skirt, I wanted my bridesmaids to also have bigger, more structured dresses, rather than the more flow-y dresses I had been initially considering," she says.

The girls carried bouquets of coral charm peonies and pink ranunculus, with eucalyptus accents.

The bride walked down the aisle on the arm of both of her parents, but her dad stayed at the altar to officiate. "My dad is a federal judge in Ohio who ruled in the 'Obergefell v. Kasich' same-sex marriage case that ultimately went to the Supreme Court, which finally recognized the right to marry," Emily explains. "My dad marries people a lot in Ohio, but we wanted him to officiate our wedding because it felt special and unique."

The couple exchanged vows they'd written themselves. "And let me tell you, writing your own vows when your husband-to-be was Obama’s chief speechwriter is not an easy task," Emily says. "I put a lot of thought and effort into my vows because I knew Jon’s would be perfect."

Emily and Jon served a signature cocktail, “the Leo,” that featured Maine blueberry lemonade with vodka—and was, of course, named after their goldendoodle, Leo. They also had personalized napkins (for Leo) and koozies as a nod to Jon's show, "Pod Save America."

Guests found their way to their seats with the help of watercolored escort cards that matched the coral charm peonies on the tabletops.

Dinner was served in a tent at the Abenakee Club, where tables were topped with more peonies and monogrammed napkins.

Leo also made an appearance on top of the couple's buttercream wedding cake.

To kick off the night of dancing, Emily organized a special father-daughter dance to "What a Wonderful World," and then surprised everyone when it transitioned into "Viva La Vida," her dad's favorite song. "It was a blast and everyone joined us immediately," she says.

The night ended with an after-party in a barn that Emily and Jon turned into a club! "We had no idea that turning our family’s barn into a nightclub, complete with cheesy couches, strobe lights, and vodka bottles on tables, would turn out to be one of the best memories of the whole weekend," Emily says. "At some point, we had to send everyone home!"

Pod Save America's Jon Favreau Wrote the Most Perfect Vows

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Jon Favreau

Jon Favreau

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Relationships

Jon Favreau has been in a relationship with Rashida Jones (2009 - 2010) .

Jon Favreau is a 42 year old American Writer born on 2nd June, 1981 in Winchester, Massachusetts, USA. His zodiac sign is Gemini

Jon Favreau is a member of the following lists: Massachusetts Democrats , 1981 births and People from Middlesex County, Massachusetts .

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Jonathan Edward Favreau (born June 2, 1981) is an American political commentator, podcaster, and the former Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama.

Dating History

Emily Black Favreau

Emily Black Favreau

Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones

2009 - 2010.

Emily Black Favreau and Jon Favreau have been married for 6 years.

Jon Favreau and Rashida Jones dated from July, 2009 to 2010.

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Favreau married Emily Black in 2017.

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Jon Favreau and Ali Campoverdi: is it romance?

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Ali Campoverdi and her boyfriend Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's chief speechwriter

The fruits of public office have indeed been plentiful for Jon Favreau ( right ), Barack Obama's 27-year-old chief speechwriter. In addition to his plum job, the US gossip website Gawker claims that he has begun dating a White House aide called Ali Campoverdi ( left ), a former model who once posed for Maxim magazine.

While it is hard to imagine how Favreau, or ‘Favs’ as he is known to his friends, has time for such diversions – he is said to work 16 hours a day – Gawker is adamant that he and twenty-something Campoverdi are an item. A native Californian and graduate of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, Campoverdi comes with a colourful CV. As well as appearing in Maxim , she has been a contestant on the American reality show, For Love or Money , and even had a bit part in the 2005 movie Constantine , in which she played a vampire being hunted by Keanu Reeves .

She would certainly mark a turnaround for Favreau, who lamented in an interview with the New York Times last year, that "the rigours of this campaign have prevented any sort of serious relationship".

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And the boy wonder can be reassured that Campoverdi, who reportedly works as assistant to a White House deputy chief of staff, is not dazzled by his closeness to Obama. In the interview that accompanied her Maxim appearance, she said: "I don't care if it's your job or your hobby or your shoes… something has to make you tick; something has to make you move."

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Obama’s Former Speech Writer Shares the Secrets to Giving the Perfect Wedding Toast

By Brooke Bobb

michelle obama

The American election strategy is ultimately a war of convincing words. Promises, praises, and pontifications are what voters get up until November and then after the ballot box, things start to get more concrete. While last week’s words at the RNC were laced with ruminations on the disastrous state of the union, this week’s DNC seems ripe with praise and promise. Michelle Obama scored big with her convention speech by lifting the spirits of a divided party and empowering the country to embrace the progress made not only by electing the first black president—twice—but also by nominating the first woman to run for the office of Commander in Chief.

Jon Favreau was one of the architects of this kind of progressive, positive rhetoric. At the age of 26, he became the chief speechwriter for Obama’s 2008 campaign and was brought on as an official White House staff member after the victory in 2009, where he remained with the title Director of Speechwriting until 2013. The “Yes We Can” kid from Boston helped Obama stir the Democrats into an excited, united front and his arsenal was laced with one simple word: hope.

Now, Favreau lives in L.A. and runs the communications firm Fenway Strategies. He still makes a living consulting on word strategy, but in his life outside of the office, he’s often approached about giving speaking advice to friends and family as it pertains to common, nonpolitical events. One such instance is the wedding toast. And isn’t it a bit similar to a convention speech, after all? Trying to unite two sides, making the room feel a certain way, evoking tears or laughter. In the politics of life, giving a wedding speech is about praising love and promising a flourishing unity. In plain old politics and the elusive war of words, it should be just the same.

Below, Favreau waxes poetic on how to give a PC wedding toast worth a main-stage, Michelle-esque mic drop.

Keep it short and sweet. “Everyone says this, but the single most important thing you can do to give a successful wedding toast is: Keep it short. You should aim for three to four minutes. If it’s longer than five minutes, you are very likely to lose a crowd where everyone’s checking their iPhones anyway.”

Don’t tell a bad joke. “Use humor, but don’t try too hard here. Funny asides and anecdotes are welcome—cheesy one-liners and knock-knock jokes are not. If you’re not naturally a funny person, don’t pick a wedding venue to launch your stand-up career.”

Stick with a narrative. “Speak through stories. People are more likely to remember a single moving anecdote about the couple than an entire speech full of flowery rhetoric. And by the way, anecdotes are easier for you to remember when you’re delivering the toast, which should be memorized and not read off a piece of paper or a phone. My girlfriend Emily gave a toast at her sister’s wedding that was centered around the bride trying to plant a lemon tree in Cincinnati when she was a little girl, and everyone remembers it to this day because the story illustrated Abby’s idealism in a unique and specific way.”

Act natural. “Be conversational. Do not use big words to impress the crowd. Do not construct complex sentences and write flowery language that you wouldn’t use if you were talking with a friend one-on-one. It may look pretty written on a page, but it will sound stilted and pretentious to an audience.”

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Stir the crowd’s emotions. “I say this about political speeches and the same is true with wedding toasts—the story you tell is more important than the words you write. Your job is to take the audience through a little journey that makes them laugh, cry, and learn something new about the happy couple.”

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Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating!

Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating!

Parks & Recreation star Rashida Jones and her current beau, President Obama ‘s speechwriter Jon Favreau , were spotted in the lobby of the Charleston, Jon ‘s swanky apartment building in Arlington, Virginia.

Rashida , 33, and Jon , 28, have been dating for at least several months. Jon attended the College of the Holy Cross, graduating as valedictorian. Rashida earned degrees in religion and philosophy at Harvard University.

This Jon Favreau is not to be confused with Rashida ‘s I Love You Man co star Jon Favreau , who also directed Iron Man .

Season 2 of Parks & Recreation will premiere @ 8:30 PM ET/PT on Thursday, September 17 on NBC.

rashida jones jon favreau dating 01

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Jon Favreau: The voice behind a generational voice

By Noah Weiland  /  Dec. 1, 2013, 8:11 p.m.

JF_Obama

Jon Favreau left the White House earlier this year after serving as President Obama’s Director of Speechwriting since 2005. A member of the President’s closest group of advisors on the Hill and in the White House, Favreau was a fellow at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics last spring, and is currently building his own communications strategy firm, Fenway Strategies, in Washington. Favreau sat down with the Gate to talk about blacking out in front of then-Senator Obama, writing mechanics, and the famous campaign speech he wrote after throwing a house party.

The Gate: This is less of a question than a demand: Tell me your best Joe Biden story that’s under ten minutes-long.

Jon Favreau: [Laughs] My best Joe Biden story is when the President’s personal secretary, Katie Johnson, left the White House. She was thrown many parties…[and] Joe Biden was kind enough...he said, “I want you and ten of your closest friends to come to the Naval Observatory and have a barbeque. Jill isn’t home, I’m there by myself, and it’d be great to have all you guys over.” And so Joe Biden invites us all over to the Naval Observatory, and he has an entire barbeque in the backyard, by the pool. And it’s not one of those things where you...you have to think--if any kind of politician did something like this, and you have all these people over, you have like a drop by, where the politician comes in and says hi, greets everyone for a little while and then says “Have fun, I’m gonna go do whatever.” Joe Biden spent like three or four hours out in the backyard with all of us, sitting and eating with us, and he told so many stories. There were three or four tables set up, and there was about six of us at a table, and he told so many stories about Southern senators and his time in the Senate--amazing story after amazing story, and he just held court. He gives us an entire tour of the Naval Observatory, a personally-led tour. And he’s got his dog, and at one point we’re out on the front lawn and he’s got his golf club, and he whacks the ball and the dog runs after it. It was such a great moment because you get how the public persona of Joe Biden is very much like his private persona, both because he’s very animated and loves telling stories, but also because he’s just this warm, wonderful person who took all this time out of his very busy schedule to hang out with a bunch of people, he, you know, maybe kind of knew.

Gate: What were you first interactions with Obama like?

Favreau : I first met President Obama when I was backstage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. My job was to make sure that all of the speeches that were being delivered at the convention were on message with the Kerry campaign. And so I get a call at one point from the road, where John Kerry was traveling and working on his convention speech, that one of the speakers, a young state senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, was giving the keynote address, and he had a line in his speech that John Kerry had in his speech. And they asked me to go and talk to Obama and ask him to remove this line. I figured this was some kind of sick hazing ritual. So I walk into the room where Obama is practicing his convention speech for the very first time, and I see Robert Gibbs, who I knew because he had been my boss in the Kerry campaign when I was an assistant. And I ask Gibbs if he can talk to Obama about this line. He said, “I’m not talking to him! You talk to him!” So I walk up to Obama and mumble what I have to say, and he kind of leans over me and looks down and says, “Are you telling me I have to take out my favorite line in this speech?” At that point I blacked out for a few seconds, and then all of a sudden I was out in the hallway with David Axelrod, who I had just met for the first time. Axe said, “Don’t worry about it; we’re just going to rewrite the line together. It’s going to be fine.” And that was it--I thought that’d be the last time that I ever saw Barack Obama.

Gate: How did you get Obama’s attention after that backstage incident?

Favreau : After the campaign ended, and John Kerry lost, Robert Gibbs emailed me and told me Obama’s looking for a speechwriter. He’s never had one before, but now he needs to learn to work with one because he’s going to be very busy. He asked if I would have breakfast with him in the Senate. It’s his first week there, and he’s just getting used to the place. So we all go to the Senate cafeteria, and there’s the senators-only dining room where all the big wigs are eating, and Barack Obama just grabs his tray, and we sit in the cafeteria next to all the cooks and the waiters. The three of us sit down for breakfast, and Obama just starts asking me about my life, my family, why I got into politics, what college was like. He completely put me at ease. At the end of the interview he said, “You know, I still don’t think I need a speechwriter, but you seem nice enough, so let’s give this a whirl.”

Gate: How improbable was it that someone with your background ended up writing for someone like Barack Obama?

Favreau : David Remnick asked me once, “So you’re a white, twenty-something year-old from a suburb of Boston. How do you identify with the first black president?” I said, you know, look: One of the reasons that any famous speaker--a politician, political leader, or cultural leader--can inspire a nation or the world, is because they tap into certain shared experiences that anyone can relate to. Martin Luther King is a civil rights hero, but he is remembered as an American hero, because “I Have a Dream” can speak to anyone, whether you’re black or white or rich or poor. And not to compare him to Martin Luther King, but what Obama did in that 2004 Convention speech was speak about his own story--the specifics of which are very foreign to most Americans, but the values and the common experiences he speaks about are something anyone can relate to. So I’m very conscious of that, that I’m writing for someone who is always seeking to appeal to anyone, no matter who you are or where you come from, or how you started out.

Gate: In college, or even while you were writing speeches for Kerry, did you ever see yourself as someone who could write speeches for a President? How did your academic experience, or your private reading and writing, influence that transition?

Favreau : I didn’t know specifically that I wanted to be a speechwriter. I’ve always loved writing. I loved writing in college--I was the opinions editor of the newspaper at Holy Cross. I did the same thing in high school, so I was involved in journalism and writing that way. I also, as I got more into politics in college, started writing opinion columns about political issues on campus, and national political issues. By junior or senior year in college I was very interested in political writing, which landed me in the press/communications area of politics, which is what I did for Kerry. But it wasn’t until I really sat down next to the Kerry campaign’s chief speechwriter that I really thought to myself, “I’d really love to be a speechwriter. This sounds like a cool job.”

Gate: How does reading influence speechwriting?

Favreau : It’s something that keeps you full of new ideas, keeps you up to date on what’s going on around you, what the news is, what the political climate is, what the environment is. What I’ve read primarily while I was a speechwriter was the news, because you don’t have time to read anything else. You’re not reading fiction. I kept up to speed on every single political news story there was out there, and I would also be heavily involved in reading the recent research we did for the speeches--speeches of past presidents, historical anecdotes, and research about the policy I was writing about. When there’s free time, and you read something that’s more than just a straight political news story, I try to read long-form pieces in The New Yorker or New York Magazine or The Atlantic . The President reads all of those as well. He’s quite a voracious reader, and he still has historical biographies on his desk that he tries to break into once in a while.

Gate: Where do you think Obama’s very literary voice comes from?

Favreau : It’s interesting: I don’t really know. He kind of wrote Dreams From My Father out of nowhere. As he talks about in Dreams From My Father- -throughout his childhood and early adulthood--he was on this very long journey to discover who he was, and where he fit in in the world around him. I think that journey raised a lot of questions in his own mind that he answered through his writing.

Gate: How did you and Obama use older Presidential speechwriting to guide your own work?

Favreau  I read a lot of FDR, Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, who obviously wasn’t president but wrote some of the best speeches, in my opinion. Lyndon Johnson wrote really great speeches. And then especially Bush and Clinton, as far as what presidents did who sat here in modern times, and maybe had a similar event--how they dealt with it. So there’s two things we’re looking for in past speeches: One is how did a president deal with a specific issue or policy that’s similar to the one we’re dealing with. And two--what kind of inspiration can we gain from the way this president spoke about this issue.

Gate: How has speechmaking formed Obama’s political identity?

Favreau : I think it’s very rare that a single speech launches a politician’s career into the national spotlight. There are a couple speeches that launched his career: the 2002 speech announcing his opposition to the war in Iraq, which is a very powerful speech he gave in Chicago that kind of put him on the map. The 2004 convention speech continued that...What he has done differently is break free from the typical political rhetoric that has invaded most of our politics today. He’s authentic; he tries to speak in an authentic way; he tries to be honest about issues that people are usually afraid to be honest about; he’s not a cautious speaker--to the extent that he can, he says what’s on his mind. When you think about the race speech, the Cairo speech--he will tackle issues in an honest way that you don’t usually expect from politicians. Speeches for him are a way to communicate authentically in a way that some other politicians have been afraid to do.

Gate: Is the success of the speechwriter dependent on having the same ear as the person he or she is writing speeches for? Is it more a matter of language or personality?

Favreau : I think personality helps, for sure. There are a lot of us who have worked for President Obama, and we all have different personalities. I think that if you expect to capture someone’s voice, and do it well, you need to know that person. You don’t need to know them right at the outset, but you need to get to know that person really well. Part of that is reading everything they’ve written and said, but a lot of it is just spending time with them, and not only getting to know the rhythms of that person’s speaking style, but how that person thinks, and you can only get that through a closer relationship. I think that people who try to capture someone’s voice who do it through five different layers of advisors will ultimately fail.

Gate: But did you already have the right kind of ear? Or can you just train yourself to speak a certain way?

Favreau : I think about politics very similarly to the way the President thinks about politics. A number of us do that work for him, so I think that helps. If I came to politics from a different viewpoint, not just if I had different views on specific issues, but if I had just kind of thought about it in a more conventional way, in a more top-down way, in a more Washington-centric way than I do, then I think I would have a harder time working for the President. I think because I came from a background at Holy Cross where I did some community service work and community organizing, and I believe very much in the power of ordinary people being able to do extraordinary things. That was part of my real world experience in college, but that’s also what I learned through sociology and political science, what I learned from the professors I had in school. So I think in that way we’re similar.

Gate: How did being Obama’s speechwriter influence the way you followed and interpreted news? Did you always have to think about events in relation to however you were going to translate them into the language of speeches?

Favreau : I follow news to know what the narrative is, to know what’s on reporters’ minds. People write many different stories, but there’s usually one theme or narrative out of any week. As a president, I don’t think you want to be reactive or responsive to every single narrative that comes out of the press, because they change with the weather, and with every hour. But at the same time, if you completely ignore what’s going on there, that’s the filter by which you can communicate to the American people, primarily. So you have to know what that is and be able to at least act like you’re aware.

Gate: Were you always nervous when you were reading the news that you’d have to sit down soon after and write something about it in the form of a speech? Did that train your mind to always have to be in that mode?

Favreau : Yeah, it does train your mind. Part of it is that this is something happening in the press; this is what everyone’s talking about on TV. I have to figure out how much we’re going to respond to that or not respond to it. It’s not my job alone; it’s the job of the communications director, the senior advisor. Everyone talks about it. The president makes decisions about this as well. But when it actually comes to the words and the lines, part of this is figuring out how exactly you’re going to shape it.

Gate: Is part of the fun as a speechwriter telling stories for someone else?

Favreau : I think most people are reluctant to talk about themselves, to make everything about themselves...As a speechwriter you can help the person you’re writing for bring out personal stories. When I got to the White House, he had this rich array of stories in Dreams From My Father and other places in his life, that when it made sense to put them in speeches about relevant topics in policy areas, I make sure to do that. It’s not just a political thing. I think you are a better storyteller when you draw from your own experiences.

Gate: You wrote a first draft of the Second Inaugural Address in a room in your parents’ house. Did you often feel a serious disconnect between the settings in which you wrote and the significance of what you wrote?

Favreau : I find that I do better if I have a lot of different places to go to. There’s very few times when I’ve sat in one place and drafted an entire speech. I can’t do that. I’ve been to many Starbucks. If I was writing a speech here, I’d write part of it in this office, then go back to my apartment, then try to find a coffee shop, then go outside by the lake. For me I have to go to as many different locations as possible.

Gate: What is President Obama like to work with? What is he like as a writer and editor in that personal of an environment?

Favreau : He’s easy to work with. We obviously write under incredibly high-pressure situations, which I’m always aware of, but he doesn’t necessarily make you aware of that. We were working on the Nobel Peace Prize speech right up until the last second, and Ben Rhodes and I were completely crazed and worried that we weren’t going to make it and thinking horrible thoughts. The President was just completely calm and collected, not worried, as if he had weeks and weeks. He calms you. You don’t expect the president to be calming. As a writer and editor, his edits always add the truth to the speech that’s been missing, that kernel of something that you wouldn’t hear a normal politician say. That’s what he always adds to speeches, substantively. Rhetorically, he has a great ear for rhythm and for really nice words and phrases and imagery that you wouldn’t normally put into a speech, that aren’t cliché, but bring the words on the paper to life.

Gate: There are these well-known photos of drafts of his speeches with his pen marks and edits all across the page. Is there a point at which he’s more concerned with diction and syntax than how the paragraphs are working together?

Favreau : It’s always in two stages: the first stage of different drafts of the speeches are substance. He’s worried about getting the substance right. That’s when he’ll reorder speeches or tell you, “I want this argument first,” or, “You haven’t talked enough about this policy,” or, “I want to make sure I make this argument.” So we go through many drafts that way. Once that’s set, then the back and forth is him just line editing. He doesn’t take pen to paper at the beginning stages when we’re dealing with substantive edits. Those he’ll tell me about. He’ll write on a separate piece of paper some ideas for me. But when he actually gets to the point where he’s marking up the page--that is just line edits, words, rhetoric, all that stuff.

Gate: When and where does he often work on his edits?

Favreau : Always at night. On big speeches like the State of the Union and the inaugural addresses, he’ll do it during the day in the Oval Office if he has an hour. Usually the line editing he can do during the day if he has an hour in the Oval, because it isn’t as labor-intensive. But when he really needs to think about the substance of a speech, he’ll do it at like 1, 2, 3 in the morning when he’s up.

Gate: Did you just get used to sitting right next to the President in the Oval Office with both of you looking at your Macbook? Was that ever weird to you?

Favreau : It’s funny--as a child, especially when I started getting interested in politics, the White House was this dream of mine. I had never had a White House tour. I had never been there. But when I finally arrived there, and I walked into the Oval for the first time with Barack Obama, it was like, “Wow, look where Barack Obama and all of us got. Look where we are right now.” And not, “I’m in the White House with the President.” I knew him for a couple of years before he got to the White House, so I never see him as “Oh my god it’s the President, and I’m sitting with the President.” It’s Barack Obama, who I’ve known for a long time. But The White House to us was still just, “wow.”

Gate: What are the different ways you guys talk to each other?

Favreau : There are many different ways to communicate with the President. Since he works so late at night, he’ll have to call me, so I’ll have to be aware that if my phone rings and it’s a blocked or private number, then it’s probably the White House operator telling me that the President is on the phone. Or we’ll email back and forth about a speech when he has some edits, or when he just needs to see me up in the residence or in the Oval, when there’s time for edits. During the day it’s much easier; he’ll just call me at my desk and I’ll run upstairs, and we’ll talk that way.

Gate: Where does the perception of him being so aloof come from?

Favreau : I honestly think that the aloof characterization comes from a view of the presidency that a lot of folks have in Washington, where the President is king and has a magic wand and can make any problem go away. If he can’t make a problem go away, all he has to do to make a problem go away is twist some arms and bring folks up to Camp David for a drink. Magically, all they care about is being wooed by the President. They don’t actually have constituencies or politics to deal with. They’re just sitting there in Congress waiting to be stroked by the President of the United States. That’s all. So I think that’s where the aloof characterization comes from. The truth is that the President is a people person: he talks all the time to members of Congress; he golfs with Boehner; he does all this stuff. But he has a wife and kids he wants to spend time with, and he’d rather have dinner with them than go to a Washington cocktail party. If he thought that going to a Washington cocktail party would pass his bill, he would cocktail it up all day long. But I think he’s realistic about what needs to get done to get certain pieces of legislation passed.

Gate: Is there a serious or harmful divide between the idealism of his language and the bureaucracy of presidential politics?

Favreau : I don’t think so, because I think he’s very clear-eyed in knowing that the idealism of the speeches is just that--it’s something to strive for. He’s very realistic about what is . He knows that the bureaucracy can be a pain; he knows that Congress can be partisan and gridlocked; he knows all the things that are getting in the way of passing the legislation he wants to pass. But that’s no reason to him to not speak in idealistic language and say, “Let’s reach for that. Let’s do better.” His basic philosophy can be summed up as, “We’re not going to fix everything, and not everything can be fixed, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, and that doesn’t mean that if we chip away at some of these big problems, even if we don’t solve them, that’s progress.”

Gate: You were part of a White House staff that’s been frequently criticized as being too insular, too Chicago-oriented. Why does that perception exist?

Favreau : I think it persists because it’s been the perception of every president. Bush, it was that he had too much of an Austin crowd. Clinton, they were too Arkansas. Washington always tells people who come to Washington that they need more Washington people. The sheer number of former Clinton and Carter people the President has hired, people from academia, people from the business world: Tim Geithner was from the Federal Reserve, Larry Summers was a Clinton person. It’s a pretty non-Chicago crowd, actually. But whenever things are going wrong, the poll numbers are down; there are a few common tropes that Washington likes to talk about: One is, “He’s too aloof! Too insular! Need to bring in more people! Need to shake up the staff! Need to get out of Washington!”

Gate: I know you’re interested in writing screenplays. What’s so appealing about political television that would draw you away from Washington?

Favreau : So I don’t think there’s anything appealing about political TV per se. I think what’s appealing to me is that I’m always looking for ways to reach people, to inspire people about the possibilities of public service who might not necessarily be political junkies, and who might not feel that politics is for them, and who might think that the whole thing is just cynical garbage, and everyone’s in it for themselves. I think there’s many ways to do that. But one of the most interesting ways for me is entertainment and culture as a way of reaching out to people and saying, “You know what? There’s some value here, and there’s some good things being done." I was inspired by The West Wing when I was in college, and my buddy and I have thought for a long time that we’re due for a younger, campaign-related version of The West Wing that doesn’t have to do with the president and his top advisors, but has to do with all the other people, especially the young people that get involved with these things.

Gate: What was your Washington work routine like? Did you often have to stay late at the White House?

Favreau : In a lot of ways it’s just like college. When there’s a paper due, there’s nothing else you do but the paper, or a test. You lock yourself away, you procrastinate, and then suddenly you find yourself up all night. When that’s over and you don’t have anything to do the next couple days, you leave. Mine was not a job where you sat there and put in face time just because you needed to put in face time. You made sure that you did your work when there was work to do. In the White House, it was a little better than the campaign, because I had a bigger team. There were more people writing speeches, so we kind of gave each other a break when we could.

Gate: Do you have a good story about getting called back when you were out with your friends?

Favreau : [Laughs] So I was here in Chicago, and it was like two weeks before the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, and I had been up multiple nights until two or three in the morning, myself, Adam Franklin, Ben Rhodes, trying to write the Jefferson-Jackson speech. Finally we put it away for a while. And we had this speech in South Carolina that was supposed to be a year before actual election day. So we did our latest version of the Jefferson-Jackson speech there, and he gives the speech during the day on Saturday and it’s great, everything’s fine. Then I get a call at 11:30 Saturday night from Axelrod. He said, “Hey, I just talked to the President. He loved the speech today, and he said that’s what he wants the Jefferson-Jackson speech to be, except it is twenty minutes and the J-J speech needs to be ten, so can you cut it down? And he wants it by tomorrow morning.” And I had just cracked open my beer for the night, and I have all these people in my apartment. And so I run out of the house, make a cup of coffee, and I walk down Michigan Avenue, went into my office at 12 or 1 AM and stayed up all night until 10 AM and rewrote the speech.

Gate: What inner qualities can speechwriting give you?

Favreau : One of the qualities that it has taught me most of all is empathy, which is a good quality in life. As a speechwriter you need to put yourself in other people’s shoes, because you need to know what the audience would want to hear; you want to know where they’re coming from and where they are. You’re always trying to meet people where they are. I think that’s a valuable lesson to learn about life, to not judge people right away, to figure out where they’re coming from. It helps you understand the people you’re working with, the people you’re living with. It’s a very valuable tool to have, and the President is very skilled at it, and I think the best speakers and the best leaders often are.

Gate: Do you see yourself ever being a speechwriter for someone else?

Favreau : I don’t. I worked for a candidate and president I could never have dreamed of being so inspiring to me, and such a wonderful boss, and a good man to work for. And now that I’ve done that, putting as much time and sweat and energy, and so much of my life into something like that again just doesn’t seem like it would be worth it to me. If someone comes along, like another Barack Obama, who knows? But for now, there’s so much of politics that I dislike, that I don’t see myself as a political lifer. I see myself as someone who really, truly admires Barack Obama and what he’s trying to do, and I’d do anything he asks me to do. Beyond that, I have very strong views about politics that I’ll continue to share, and it’s going to be hard to shake politics out of my system completely, but putting in the effort and the years with someone else would be tough.

This interview has been edited and condensed for this publication. The featured image above of Jon Favreau speaking with President Obama in the Oval Office can be found at  the White House's official website . The image is an Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, taken on January 23, 2012. This third-party content is licensed under  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License  and is not copyright protected.

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Jon Favreau

WSB Exclusive Speaker

Founder, Crooked Media, Host of Pod Save America; Assistant to the President and Director of Speechwriting for President Barack Obama (2009-2013)

A mastermind in crafting the most evocative and unforgettable speeches of our time, Jon Favreau, shares his insights and experiences from working alongside the President and provides inspiration to future leaders entering lives of public service.

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Presidents’ words can move people, persuade a country and define their place in history. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “Speech is power.” President Barack Obama’s director of speechwriting, Jon Favreau, not only rose to the challenge of being the second-youngest chief speechwriter in White House history but crafted some of the most evocative and unforgettable speeches of our time, unleashing the voice of a new generation. Considered one of the President’s most trusted and influential staffers, often referred to as his “mind reader,” Favreau played an indispensable role in the development—and success—of his most pivotal speeches. He began working with then-Senator Obama in 2005 as his speechwriter and transitioned to the 2008 presidential campaign. From the iconic “Yes We Can” 2008 New Hampshire primary night speech to the historic inaugural addresses of 2009 and 2013, Favreau’s work captured the historical significance of Barack Obama’s presidency, while connecting the zeitgeist of a nation with the message of its leader. Featured in TIME magazine as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” and in GQ’s “50 Most Powerful People in D.C.,” Favreau is the co-founder of communications firm, Fenway Strategies, co-host of one of America’s most popular podcasts, Keepin’ It 1600 , and a columnist for The Ringer . Providing audiences with an intimate glimpse of his experiences in the White House, Favreau shares his unique insights that will compel future leaders in their fields to reach their full potential.

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The journey into a life of public service.

When Jon Favreau—director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama (2009-2013)—joined the White House at age 27, he became the second-youngest chief speechwriter in United States history. Sharing illuminating anecdotes from a career spent working alongside the Commander in Chief on the two most pivotal presidential campaigns in recent history, in the West Wing and throughout the world, Favreau conveys his own life experiences, his aspirations to balance idealism with the reality of politics and insights to inspire others to consider public service and develop their skills as future leaders.

Words Matter: Storytelling with President Obama in an Age of Sound Bites

The significance of meaningful and effective words cannot be overrated, especially when a critical message is needed to stand out in a 24/7 news cycle and break through the constant noise of social media.  Jon Favreau—director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama (2009-2013)—knows this all too well as he has worked on some of the most important communications coming from the OvalOffice.  According to Obama chief advisor David Axelrod, he has had his “stamp on all the great speeches from 2005 to early 2013” and always sought to tell a compelling story rather than string together a collection of sound bites. However, it is not simply a sheer talent with words that has made Favreau a success. While his rhetorical prowess has played a role, what sets Favreau above the rest is his unique ability to “see” or get behind the words—to capture the essence of an issue and create dialogue that clearly and powerfully articulates what it is about that issue that matters and why we should care. As former right-hand man and “mind reader” to arguably one of the greatest orators in United States history, Favreau offers his audiences valuable insight on how precisely—from conception to delivery—to “get behind the words we speak.” In the process, he discusses the significance of “mining” resources for inspiration, creating scripts that speak from and to the heart and “walking the walk” of talk.

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Departing Obama Speechwriter: 'I Leave This Job Actually More Hopeful'

Behind most politicians is a speechwriter, typing rapidly somewhere in a small office and trying to channel the boss's voice.

The man who has held perhaps the most prominent speechwriting job of the new millennium is Jon Favreau, a 31-year-old from Massachusetts who was President Obama's chief speechwriter until this month. He started writing for Obama when the president was just a senator in 2005.

He tells Audie Cornish, host of All Things Considered , that writing for the president means walking a line between two worlds.

"You're trying to balance what the president would want to say with what people are looking to hear," he says. "But you need to strike the right balance, because if it's all what people want to hear, that's not true to who he is."

jon favreau speechwriter dating

Jon Favreau, President Obama's former chief speechwriter, is pictured on the South Lawn of the White House in 2010. Charles Dharapak/AP hide caption

Favreau says his next stop after the White House is starting a communications consulting firm; he plans to write a screenplay based on his experiences.

"We'll see how long it takes for me to find my own voice again," he says.

Interview Highlights

On the writing process

"My challenge is to make sure that whatever he's thinking, whatever thoughts he has, we can get them down on paper, and we can shape the words to basically what he really wants to say. So our process is, I will sit down with him, we'll talk for 20 or 30 minutes, and he'll have lots of thoughts on the specific speech that he's going to give. And then I will go back, and I'll work with my team, and we will put together a draft that reflects the conversation that the president and I had.

"And then we'll start going back and forth. Sometimes he will just make line edits himself and send the draft back. Or sometimes he will want to take the speech in an entirely different direction, and he will write six or seven pages of scrawled handwriting on a yellow legal pad, and we'll go back at it that way."

On the editing process

"There have been times where I'll have a phrase in there and he'll take it out — and then I'll explain to him, 'Well, I put it in here because if we do it this way, maybe it'll be a sound bite or maybe we'll get a quote that way or, rhythmic-wise, it'll be better.' And ... once in a while he'll say, 'Oh, I think you're right, let's do it this way.' And sometimes he'll say, 'No, I think the way I had it was better.' And that's just how we work. We have a very honest relationship."

On collaborating on Obama's famous race speech

"When I talk about the speech, I always say, you know, the stuff in the speech that you could hear almost any other politician say is mostly the stuff that I contributed. ... Before he gave it, he called me after a long day of campaigning, and he spoke for an hour about what he wanted in that speech. He told me it was going to be random thoughts off the top of his head, and they were not random at all. He had the entire logical argument all ready. ... He laid out the whole thing."

On his departing thoughts

"I leave this job actually more hopeful than when I first got there, and that is because I think that the president went into this more realistically than many people thought that he did. I've been working on these speeches since 2005, and so I know that almost every speech, he makes sure we have the caveat that, 'This is going to be hard.' ... He's not mistaken about how difficult some of this stuff is."

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Beginnings: The Breakthrough Moment

Jon favreau, speechwriter, “for the first time, obama sees it and he’s like, ‘i actually don’t have that many edits’.”.

  • Published Jan 12, 2016

I started writing speeches for John Kerry when I was 21. And I basically only got the job because I was a press assistant on the campaign, and we were losing to Howard Dean, and the campaign was running out of money and there was a big shake-up and all these people got fired, and they needed a deputy speechwriter and at that point they couldn’t really afford to hire a real one. No one really wanted to join what looked like a sinking ship. He went on to have a whole general election, but throughout that whole time, I always sort of thought that I had landed the job by accident. As a writer, you can never tell if you’re good anyway without doubting yourself.

I met with Obama after Kerry lost and Obama won the Senate seat. Robert Gibbs had recruited me for this job because he was my boss when I was with the Kerry campaign. And he’s like, “Look, Obama’s never worked with a speechwriter before in his life — he’s written all his own stuff. But now he’s a senator; he’s going to need to learn to work with someone, whether he likes it or not.” And when I met with Obama he was unbelievably nice, we had a great conversation, it was the most easygoing interview I’ve ever had. And at the very end he said, “Well, I still don’t think I need a speechwriter, but you seem nice enough, so let’s give this a whirl.”

So I start with Obama through the Senate, thinking, you know, I had been at the convention when he gave that speech in 2004 . That was all him, and that hung over my head the entire time I started writing for him. Because I thought, Never will I help write a speech like this, right? He is the master — I was there when he gave one of the best speeches I heard, and he wrote it. And his first two years in the Senate, I think we wrote some decent speeches together, and then he announced for president, and — it’s hard to remember now — but for most of 2007, he was badly trailing Hillary Clinton. And on the stump, he would go and give 40-, 50-minute speeches in Iowa that were long and sort of rambling and workmanlike, and he’s better than that but it was a tough race, and when a race gets tough there’s more pressure and everyone starts yelling at you, you start just going out and saying all kinds of different things and making your speeches longer. The knock against him was “Oh, she’s all substance and you’re all style.” So to counter that I think Obama went out and tried to show everyone just how smart he was on every issue, and the speeches became very long and involved. And, you know, I’m Mr. Speechwriter in the campaign, and I’m like, “Well, I’m not fixing this, so I’m sort of a failure here.”

And so now it’s like October of 2007, and there’s literally headlines that say — I had one hanging up from the New York Post that said, “ Hillary Ready for Her Coronation .” We were down in Iowa, and our last chance there is the speech that Obama’s giving at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Iowa. A couple of us that had been with the Kerry campaign in 2004 remembered that that was the speech that Kerry gave that sort of turned the race around and helped him beat Dean in Iowa. And so we looked at the speech the same way. Now, the interesting thing about this speech is, all the candidates deliver this speech. It’s the last time that all the candidates deliver a speech one after another before the caucusing begins, and the whole media’s there — national media, local media. There’s no prompter, and there’s a time limit of about ten minutes. So you have to deliver a ten-minute speech without a prompter and you have to make your best case for your candidacy. All the pressure was on this speech; everyone was like, “This is our only hope here. Maybe we can pull even with Hillary after this or catch up in the polls.” And because there was so much pressure on it, writing and drafting were impossible — there’s a million conference calls with everyone saying, “Emphasize this, emphasize that.” Me and Ben Rhodes and Adam Frankel probably went through ten, 15 drafts of that speech, staying up till three in the morning, having them rejected the next day by people because everyone was so involved. Obama didn’t know exactly what he wanted to say, and Axelrod didn’t know, and there was all kinds of calls and meetings.

So, finally, there was a speech planned a couple weeks before the JJ that we sort of just made up — it was basically a year before the actual election, right? Like the anniversary of the year before the real election. And no one on the campaign was really paying attention to that speech because everyone was so focused on the JJ. So what I did is I pretty much wrote a speech that I thought he should give at the JJ. I kind of snuck it in there. But I always remember now: The night that he was on SNL, I had a bunch of people over at my apartment in Chicago. He was supposed to give that speech that I had written, the practice speech, that day. I hadn’t heard how the speech went but I had a bunch of people over at my apartment to look at the SNL skit. It’s like 11, 11:30. And suddenly I get a call from Axelrod and he said, “Obama just gave the speech — totally blew up the place. He loves it and he says that that’s what the JJ needs to be. But the trick is, he needs you to cut this 20-minute speech down to a ten-minute speech so he can start practicing, and he needs you to do it by tomorrow morning.” So I was in my apartment with everyone over, I’ve had a beer or two, but immediately I kick everyone out, I change over to Red Bull and coffee, and I walked down to the campaign at midnight and stayed up all night until about 10 or 11 a.m. the next day, and I wrote the JJ speech. And I finished the draft and for the first time, you know, Obama sees it and he’s like, “I actually don’t have that many edits. I think it’s a pretty good speech.” So he practices that speech, practices memorizing that speech more than I had ever seen him do before, because he’s never really had to memorize a speech word for word. Like when we were at a hotel in Des Moines a couple weeks before the speech, if you walked by Obama’s hotel room you could hear him practicing the speech to himself and the mirror, just trying to memorize it.

There are two important moments in that speech . One paragraph distilled the whole race of why Obama and not Hillary at the time, right? Which was like, “This part of Jefferson and Jackson and of Kennedy and Roosevelt knows that we’re better off when we lead not by polls but by principle; not by calculation but by conviction. And that’s what this party’s about.” Something like that. And then there was this nice thing at the end that a lot of people didn’t notice in the campaign just because it wasn’t central to the message against Hillary, but he sort of quieted down at the very end of that speech and he said, “I’ll never forget that I would never be where I am right now unless someone somewhere stood up for me when it was hard.” You know, when it wasn’t easy. “And then because that one person stood up, a few more stood up, and then a few thousand more stood up, and then millions more stood up, and because they stood up we changed the world.” And that was sort of the first time we linked the history of him possibly being the first black president and civil rights with a message of the campaign, which was grassroots organizing to make a difference. And that’s sort of how we ended that speech, and that was always pretty meaningful to me.

So we get to the JJ, and somehow, by the luck of the draw, the order of the candidates’ speeches was that all the other candidates go first, Hillary goes second to last, and Obama goes last. So all these candidates go, get out of the way. Hillary gives her speech and the crowd’s all quiet for Hillary because she’s obviously the front-runner. And she gives a speech that is like all … I mean, you could tell there were a lot of slogans that were shopped around in her campaign. So the speech was something about “Turn up the heat, turn America around,” and all the supporters in the stands were supposed to yell, “Turn up the heat!” It didn’t work that well. And then there’s a pause and then Obama gets up there and he delivered — way better than it was written — the JJ speech. I was sitting there watching all the reporters, and all the reporters were like, “That’s it — that’s the speech. This is something big.” The crowd went completely insane. Even some of the other candidates’s supporters were going nuts.

The last time I had been in a room where he gave a speech like that was 2004, when I was a kid working for John Kerry. And to have been there in Iowa at that moment when I had helped work on the speech and just help sort of see, you know, history unfolding in this arena, it was incredible and it was the first moment in my life that I thought to myself, Okay, maybe I got the hang of this. From then on it felt like something clicked and then we had the Iowa victory speech and the New Hampshire speech, the “Yes We Can” speech and all that other kind of stuff. And it worked out from then on, but the JJ was sort of the first moment that I was like, Okay, I think I might have something to contribute here. I think I can be of use. That to me was probably the breakthrough.

It was also the first time I thought we would win. I mean, when we started, we thought it was a long shot — “Who knows?” — but then August, September roll around, October even, and we’re like, “I don’t know if we’re gonna do this. It seems we might come up short.” And then he gave that speech and it was great because most people from Chicago were in Des Moines that night, the whole campaign was there, and we — a couple of us had driven out from Chicago to go see the speech, me and my friend, just to be there. And you know, it was the first time that I thought, “It’s gonna happen. It could actually happen and turn this around.”

But it didn’t really resonate for me then. Not yet. It didn’t until we won Iowa. But I remember the first time I saw him after we won Iowa, he came out of his hotel room after editing that speech, and he just looked at me and he goes, “Speeches, man.” And he gave me a big hug and I was like, All right.

  • Table of Contents: Jan 11, 2016 issue of New York | Subscribe!

Former Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau ’03 Talks about Politics and Life after Washington, D.C.

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Transcript: Ezra Klein Interviews Jon Favreau

Every Tuesday and Friday, Ezra Klein invites you into a conversation about something that matters, like today’s episode with Jon Favreau. Listen wherever you get your podcasts .

Transcripts of our episodes are made available as soon as possible. They are not fully edited for grammar or spelling.

The Ezra Klein Show Poster

Why Do So Few Democrats Want Biden to Run in 2024?

Obama’s former speechwriter jon favreau talks age, approval ratings and other obstacles the president will face in 2024..

[MUSIC PLAYING]

So Joe Biden is starting his 2024 campaign with a problem, which is that most people don’t want him to run again. Even Democrats, when you just poll them, they are split on whether they want to see his name on the ballot. If you do head-to-head polling, Trump and DeSantis, they’re often running ahead of him, sometimes behind him, but definitely competitive. So not a great place for Biden to begin. I think particularly not a great place against Trump, who has certainly had a rough couple of years, but also not completely unusual if you take the Trump weirdness out of it.

I mean, we went back in polling. And around this point in their terms, Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan, they also looked pretty unsteady in the polls. And they won re-election pretty easily. So is Biden following their footsteps? Is he in a uniquely bad spot? How does age play into this? How does Trump play into this?

I wanted to spend an episode digging into the case for and against Biden. I wanted to try to get both sides of it. I wanted to do it with somebody who knows him and knows his team pretty well. So I want to have Jon Favreau on — Jon Favreau, of course, who’s Barack Obama’s chief speechwriter. He’s now, of course, one of the hosts of “Pod Save America” and one of the founders of Crooked Media. As always, my email: [email protected].

Jon Favreau, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me.

So I want to do this by going through the questions and then the challenges Biden faces in running for re-election and then looking at the strengths he has.

And so I guess the obvious place to begin is that most Americans don’t want him to run for re-election. So there was a recent AP-NORC poll, found only 26 percent want him to run again — pretty standard from the polls I’ve seen. A Washington Post poll found Democrats are split 47-47 on whether he should run. So what do you make of why so few Americans and even Democrats want to see his name on the ballot in 2024?

So I think there’s a few reasons for that. I think the question, do you want an incumbent to run again? Should an incumbent run again? The numbers you get from that tend to be lower than approval ratings, horse race numbers, et cetera. So that’s just an overall thing that happens in polling. The next sort of level of this is as polarization has increased over the last decade or so, voters tend to be unhappier with the state of affairs in politics, with incumbents, with their choices in both parties.

So there’s a general crankiness among voters that seeps into most politicians’ approval ratings. And then I think specific to Joe Biden, there are, of course, concerns about his age. I did a bunch of focus groups in 2022, and it’s not necessarily the criticism that you hear from Republicans, which is, like, he’s completely senile, and someone else is running the government, and he’s just a puppet and all that kind of stuff. It’s more they thought when they elected Joe Biden the first time that he was going to be a bridge to the next generation, that even though he didn’t say it, that the implication was that he was going to serve one term. And now they think he’s getting up there in age, and they are a little uncomfortable about that.

Let’s do age directly. I had this for a little later in the conversation. We were going to work up to it. But when I talk to people and when I’ve looked at focus groups, this is the thing I hear the most about. So I mean, obviously, Biden — oldest president. You knew his history. He’d be 86 at the end of a second term. Two-thirds of Americans in a Quinnipiac poll thought he was too old to run.

And one of the particular things I hear from Democrats is that you don’t have to buy any of the Republican senility arguments or insinuations to worry that he’s got this terrible vulnerability, which is that there is this lurking fear about him, and that if during the campaign he gets a bad flu, and he’s got to be off the trail for a week, something like his recent stumble over a sandbag happens in a more dramatic way — think back to Bob Dole falling off the stage in ‘96. And it crystallizes fears of his age in a way that his campaign then can’t answer, because people already felt this, and now you have this memeable moment that makes them certain of it.

Yeah. It’s hard to separate. Does what you just laid out concern voters and Democrats because him tripping over a sandbag makes them think that he’s not fit for the job, or that they think that that will become memeable and that other people, and other voters, will worry that he’s not fit for the job, and that will hurt him politically? And I talk about that difference, because when you really push people on this, and you push voters on this, a lot of it is punditry. And I’m not saying that’s not fair, because voters act like pundits now, and because they’re — especially those who consume a lot of news.

And I think there’s a difference between worrying that his age will be a political factor and actually worrying about his age as you go to cast a vote and say, oh, can he actually do this job? And I do think that you could have one of those moments in the campaign. But I also think there’s plenty of them that have been flying all over TikTok and everywhere else. So it’s like I don’t actually know that another stumble or something like that is going to change the equation. I think it’s baked in to a lot of the media that people are consuming and a lot of the understanding that people already have about Biden’s age.

I think that the deeper fear is the other one you get at, that maybe there’s something there — not that he’s senile, but just that the rigors of a campaign at this age are going to be too much for him in a way that’s going to make him less effective, that he actually just would be less effective as president. I mean, I think this is a genuinely fair concern. The Times did a focus group recently. When people were asked who were Biden voters if they thought he’d be up to the job at 86, which would be how old he’d be at the end of his second term, not a single hand went up.

And I do get the sense that there is a kind of resentment among many Democrats at feeling a little bit forced into this position, like they thought he’d serve a term. They think this is getting too old to run again. And while they’re not going to vote for Trump over him, they’re mad and genuinely concerned about whether or not this is the right choice.

So the White House, whenever they’re asked about this — and I think there was a story recently in The New York Times that Peter Baker wrote about Biden’s age. And the White House’s case is his schedule is still quite busy. He is still doing multiple events per day. He goes on these foreign trips, and he’s up at all hours. He did that surprise trip to Ukraine where he’s on the train for many hours, and he’s barely sleeping.

And so they talk about all this. I had wondered for a while how much of that was spin from the White House and how much of it was real. And then I went to the White House in December. And I was there to interview Ron Klain for “Pod Save America.” And I brought my family because my family was in town. And so my wife was there with me and our son and my wife’s parents. And I come back from interviewing Ron. And in my old speechwriting office, because the Biden speechwriter now we all know very well, is my whole family, and Joe Biden is sitting there, because he runs into my mother-in-law at the White House mess, sees her, and said, I remember you.

He remembered meeting her in 2018 at an event, knew who she was, clocked that she was related to me through marriage, remembered my father-in-law — my father-in-law, federal judge appointed by Obama — and then decided to spend an hour with us in the middle of the day. Took us up to the Oval. Started pointing out pictures. Told a whole bunch of stories. And what I took from the whole episode was it’s so very Joe Biden and that on one hand, he was incredibly kind, gracious with his time, very sharp, like remembered everything, was talking about stuff.

And then he was also telling us stories about the Robert Bork confirmation to my father-in-law that just lasted a long, long time. But for me, and what I think this gets to the age thing, which is like he’s always been like that. When he was vice president back in 2009, ‘10, when I first got to the White House, he was telling long, long stories, right? The stutter that he deals with has always been there. His tendency to gaffe has always been there. I think as he gets older, and now that age is an issue, all of these other sort of issues that he has had over the years as a politician — sometimes being long-winded, the stutter, saying things that he’s not supposed to say — those all get magnified by the age.

But I came away thinking, the guy’s still pretty sharp. He didn’t seem like he lost a step. He does shuffle a little more. There’s a little bit of a shuffle there. His voice is a little quieter. But as far as mental acuity, I did not see any reason for concern.

Now the question is, how do you communicate that to the rest of the electorate? Because that’s quite difficult to do. It’s not like everyone’s going to get to meet Joe Biden and spend some time with them.

Well, there is this interesting other side of it that I feel like I’ve seen play out a few times for him, which is Biden does not lean forward that much into a dominant public persona, not in the way Trump did, not in the way Obama did. And so that leaves more room for narratives about him to be out there. Joe Biden has not done even one interview with a major newspaper, not done any interviews with, say, interview podcasters from major newspapers — ahem, ahem. And —

Yeah, right?

And we’ve been trying on “Pod Save America” for a while.

And obviously he could put all these questions to rest if he would come on “The Ezra Klein Show.” But I think there’s a suspicion on the one hand that one reason that’s going on is they don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust himself to be out, mixing it up. And if he was mixing it up, and it was going well, people wouldn’t feel this way.

On the other hand, it has created this constant exceeding of a low expectation for him, I suppose very clearly during the State of the Union. I feel like there’s a sense that — not really based on anything, because he keeps giving tons of totally normal speeches. But he went up. He gave a good State of the Union. He mixed it up with Republicans on Medicare and Social Security in an impromptu way. And you could almost feel not just the relief, but the sense that he had way cleared the bar people had in their head for him.

And so there is this way in which so long as he actually is fine, which is the reports I get from the people who work with him, that — I don’t want to call it an advantage. But because Republicans keep trying to suggest the guy is actually senile, and he’s not, it allows him to continuously vault over the expectations in a way that is politically useful for him.

Yes, they have drawn the caricature in such an exaggerated way that he doesn’t have to do much to show people that he is not that caricature. I’m glad you mentioned the State of the Union. I was just about to say that. I thought that was interesting, because if you go back and watch that State of the Union, he does stumble a few different places in that speech. But that was not the story. The story was him mixing it up with Republicans, ad-libbing, showing some fight, showing some energy.

And, look, I think that there is a risk. If you’re the White House, and Joe Biden’s your guy, there’s, of course, a risk putting him out. Is he going to make a gaffe? Is he going to stumble over something? Is there going to be a memeable moment here? So that’s always a risk. But I also think that he is at his best when he is off the cuff, showing energy, showing some fight, talking with people one on one, because he’s really good with people. And I think you’ve got to weigh the risks of having the occasional gaffe or stumble against the risks of not ever letting him go out there and mix it up, because then, as you mentioned, I think the narrative about him takes hold. And, yes, it sets a low bar for him to clear.

But how many people are going to tune in when he finally steps out and gives a speech or does the interview? And so I would find opportunities to — I don’t want to do the very cliché “let Biden be Biden.” But let him mix it up and have a little fun and show some fight, because, yeah, that will definitely lead to a gaffe or two.

But I think I would rather have the gaffe or two but then also have people see him and be like, oh, yeah, that’s the Joe Biden I know. He was funny there. He was taking it to Republicans there. Or he was really kind to that lady he met in line. Those moments are so much more valuable than dealing with the occasional gaffe.

So one thing about the Biden age concerns is they make Vice President Kamala Harris very — maybe even unusually important. But polls find her to be more unpopular than Biden, not less. She’s had — I think it’s fair to say, and this is very widely reported — a pretty challenging run of it. She’s had a ton of staff turnover. There’s a sense she’s not found a strong footing as vice president and would be a weaker candidate than Biden. And so there’s this fear. And I hear it from Democrats, that voters who like Biden fine, but worry about his age, they don’t look at her and are comforted. So how do you think about her role in this campaign?

This is what’s really tough, right? Is because so often, the presidential candidate picks a vice president — or at least in recent times, whether it’s Dick Cheney or Joe Biden, you pick a vice president who — you’re a little less experienced as the candidate. And so the vice president is this very experienced politician, official, elected official, who’s been around a long time. And so you feel safe, if something happens, that they could step in.

In a way, even Pence was that.

Yes, that’s right. Even Pence was that. And this was really flipped on its head with Biden choosing Kamala Harris. And he also chooses her after her campaign does not do as well as it was expected, right? So she already has run this campaign that either people did not really remember it, she didn’t really break through, or to the extent that she did, people were not that impressed. And then she goes into a job which is designed to hide you, frustrate you, keep you out of the spotlight. You end up doing the shitty jobs. And if you don’t have a profile that pre-exists your job as vice president, and you don’t have name I.D., and people don’t have a good sense of who you are, then I think it’s really difficult in that job to introduce yourselves to voters in a way that’s going to make them feel comfortable. I always think about Kamala Harris, there are things that she can control and things that she cannot. She cannot control that she is the first Black woman to serve as vice president. And I imagine that to become the highest-ranking Black woman in the United States to ever serve in office, that is a tightrope to walk that I think, by design, makes you cautious, that you deal with sexism and racism that others have not had to deal with. So these are all things that she cannot control.

In the category of things that you can control is what your message is, what you care about, what your passion is. I would expect that as she gears up for this campaign, they’re going to want her to have a message that helps her stand out as an individual. So already, she’s been out there talking about choice. That’s the issue that she’s trying to make her mark on as an advocate. And then I think traditionally, the vice president in a re-election campaign tends to draw the contrast with the other ticket. And I think she’s quite good at that when she goes on the offense against Republicans. So I would expect that she would get out there more as a bit of a fighter, trying to draw a contrast to Trump or whoever the Republican nominee is, and get a higher profile that way.

If you want to take the “dark Brandon” approach on this, for people familiar with that reference, I sometimes think it helps Biden in terms of that intraparty tension and pressure that his vice president is rightly or wrongly perceived as politically weaker than he is. I mean, if you imagine a world where his V.P. was extremely well-liked — like Joe Biden, but younger and better now — I think that would be leading to a much louder calls and a lot more pressure for him to step aside. But the fact that there isn’t a consensus or even a belief in the party that Harris could outdo him in 2024 has really muted that. So on the one hand, he’s not facing a primary, which we’ll talk about at some point. But on the other, he’s also not facing this kind of pressure to do that generational turnover.

Well, and by the way, if you are the Biden White House — and I’m sure that the V.P. and her staff feel this, too. That’s part of the reason that they don’t want to put her out there all the time, because — and that’s true of every president-vice president relationship, right? You never want the vice president to outshine the president, I think for the reason that you just mentioned. Especially in this case, they didn’t want — at least when they started, when they got to the White House, they didn’t want Kamala Harris looking like this rising star, because it starts raising questions about, OK, well, then why is Joe Biden going to run again?

So FiveThirtyEight has him at 41.2 percent approval as we’re talking. And it’s not a great rating. But something we were doing in preparation for this episode was going back and looking at other presidents. And you go back to 1982. Only 36 percent of voters in one poll we found wanted Ronald Reagan to run again. At about this point in his presidency, Reagan was at 43 percent. Barack Obama was bouncing around the mid to low 40s for much of his third year. I’m old enough to remember in Obama’s third year when there was so much concern about his re-election campaign that there were endless stories about how he should drop the dead weight of Joe Biden and bring the political juggernaut of Hillary Clinton in as his vice president to shake things up. You might have some recollection of that as well.

I do. I do, yeah.

And so I’m curious how you think about this historically, as maybe the third year is just this doldrums year quite often.

Yeah, no, the same thing happened with us in 2011. Obama was dealing with the debt ceiling negotiations. And his approval rating after that was at its low point in the eight years he served in office. But that’s why when we were thinking about the re-elect, from the very beginning, our theory was, of course, we got to turn it into a choice and not a referendum. And we got to have a theory of the case. And we got to have a message.

And that became Barack Obama going out there and talking about defending the middle class as the defining issue of our time. And it worked even better for us because Mitt Romney was the nominee. But whoever was the Republican nominee, we were going to still have that same message. And it was a message about Barack Obama in the middle of a fight for people against powerful interests. That was the core of our re-election message. And I could actually imagine Joe Biden’s message along those lines with some additions that we can talk about later.

So I want to get to the Biden message in a sec. But as the bridge there, I think if I am looking at Biden’s numbers, and I’m Joe Biden campaign person, I think the one that worries me the most is that he is not trusted on the economy, that voters don’t think he’s doing a good job on the economy, that Donald Trump is significantly more trusted on the economy when you match them up. Trump is doing much better in terms of who people trust on the economy, even than he’s doing in the head to head race with Joe Biden.

Biden has had a — I mean, there’s been inflation, but it’s coming down. They’ve had a very tight labor market the whole time. They got through the debt ceiling pretty smoothly. They’ve got a lot of policy that they actually passed on economics, particularly long-term policy. How do you think about why he is not polling higher there?

I think inflation is probably the biggest explanation. Even though it’s coming down, it’s still high for people. But I think beyond inflation, it’s sort of the same anxiety that we have seen from voters as far back as when Barack Obama was president and was — we were recovering from the Great Recession. The cost of living for so many people is so high right now. When I did focus groups in ‘22, when I did all kinds of different demographics, different parts of the country, different ages, I asked everyone to start, what’s the most pressing issue for you? Just open-ended question.

And I did hear a lot about inflation, but specifically I heard about housing and the cost of housing, rent. I’m never going to own a house. I’m going to have to live with my parents. I’m gonna have to live with roommates. And I bring that up because these are cost of living issues that have been with us for quite a while, before inflation hit. And I think when you talk to voters about what’s on their mind, they will complain that they’re working harder and not getting ahead. We have heard that complaint, like I said, as far back as when Barack Obama was president. And I think whoever the incumbent is, that blows back on them.

Why Trump gets those high numbers is I do think that there was a little bit of Trump’s an asshole, but he’s a business guy. And so at least he knows the economy. And maybe the economy was doing fairly well before Covid came. And so his — Trump’s whole story that he’s going to tell, which was everything was wonderful in the economy until Covid hit, will probably ring true to more voters than we might expect, partly because memories are short, and partly just because it makes sense to people to think, oh, well, before Covid, everything was great.

So now I want to turn to the case for Biden, the strengths he actually has. And maybe a good place to begin is a case he’s begun making for himself. So you listened to his announcement video for 2024.

You’re hearing the way he’s framing the race. How would you describe where they’re starting out on their message?

They’re starting out right where they left off in the midterms, in ‘22, which was interesting. If you remember, there was this debate right before the midterms. Biden is talking a lot about democracy. He’s talking a lot about abortion. Is he not talking about inflation enough? Is he not talking about kitchen table issues enough?

And as someone who came of age during the Obama years, when the central issue was the size and role of government and the economy and all that, I wondered that myself. And especially I had talked to voters, and voters’ top concern is inflation and the economy.

But — and I know you have talked to Lynn Vavreck before, the political scientist at UCLA. And she did this very huge survey of voting behavior in 2020.

And the main finding there is that when you ask voters — when you make them rank which issues are most important to them vis-à-vis other issues, issues related to identity rise to the top of the list. Even though those voters might say they care a lot about economic issues, when they’re actually voting, they are thinking about issues related to identity, cultural issues, social issues, much more than you might think. And so this is all to say that in ‘22, I think one of the reasons that Democrats, and especially Biden, hit so hard on democracy and abortion and voting rights and all of these issues is because I think they know that for whatever reason — and we can talk about some of the possibilities why — people are not necessarily just voting on pocketbook issues, even though those pocketbook issues are super important to them, that when they’re making their choice between Democrats and Republicans, and especially this Republican Party that’s so extreme, they are thinking about issues related to identity, all of these culture wars, and a lot of these social issues, because that’s where they see the biggest difference between the parties right now.

Let’s talk about that in context of 2022, because when I talk to people involved in the Biden campaign and planning out the Biden 2024 race, I will do the thing I did with you at the beginning of this conversation. And I will read them these numbers they already know about how people don’t want Biden to run, and his approval rating is bad, and he’s not trusted on the economy.

And the first thing they will say to me is that was true last year, too. And yet, while everybody was predicting a Democratic wipeout, we performed historically well for a governing party in a midterm. And we did so despite those numbers being rough. They’ll say that the historical trend does not hold for one reason or another for Biden, where a soft approval rating leads to poor performance for him or his party. So how do you read 2022 from that perspective?

Yeah, I do think that in ‘22 what you had was Dobbs being a gigantic issue for people, because they actually saw that the Republicans are trying to take something away, trying to take a benefit away, in this case, the right to make your own health care decisions. And when I asked people about inflation in these focus groups, they’d complain a lot about inflation. And then I would say, whose fault is this?

And they actually wouldn’t say it’s all Joe Biden’s fault. They would not blame Joe Biden necessarily for the inflation. They were grumpy about it. They were grumpy about him, but they didn’t blame him for it. Then you start talking about abortion. And there, they understand the differences between the parties in a much clearer way. When you talk about Jan. 6 and you talk about overturning elections and you talk about election deniers, they understand the difference between the parties there in a much clearer way.

When you talk about the economy and you talk about different economic plans, people tend to support the Democratic plans for the economy over the Republican plans. But they also don’t think that either party is going to fix anything when it comes to the economy. They don’t know that the Democrats are actually going to get their plans through.

Or if they do get their plans through on the economy, they’re not necessarily convinced that it’s going to improve their life. And they don’t think that the Republicans’ plans are going to improve their lives, either. So if the economy then is like a wash, then they go to some of the cultural and social issues, where they can see the difference every day when they’re consuming news about politics.

So we just got this really big report from Catalist, which is this firm that has really deep voter files and can — it takes them some time, but can really see what happens in an election in very granular detail. And the main thing they found was really interesting to me, which is that if you looked at it nationally, Republicans did have the advantage. It wasn’t quite a wave, but actually it kind of looked like it would have been, except — except — that Democrats way outperformed what you would expect in competitive races.

And they particularly outperformed when you had a very Trumpy candidate, right? They find a 1 to 4-point penalty for an election-denying candidate, which I think they take correctly as a correlate of being very Trumpy. So what does that weird overperformance in competitive races tell you?

Well, it tells me that campaigns actually matter. Candidates actually matter. Of course, in a very calcified electorate, they matter on the margin. But in a divided electorate, the margin means everything. And I think that the Democrats did a very good job of selecting candidates who were mainstream Democratic candidates. They weren’t necessarily centrists. They weren’t necessarily super progressive. But they were mainstream Democratic candidates — good resumes, good bios, particularly in these competitive districts.

And Republicans, they had these Republican primaries. And in almost every instance, the more extreme MAGA candidate wins. And I’ll just use the flip side of this as an example of why this mattered so much. In Georgia, Stacey Abrams runs against Brian Kemp. And Brian Kemp by all accounts is as conservative as any of these other Republicans running. In terms of issues, he signs a six-week abortion ban.

There’s all kinds of voting issues from Abrams-Kemp’s 2018 race, right? But because he stood up to Donald Trump and didn’t let Donald Trump steal the election in Georgia, he was perceived by that electorate as more moderate than he actually is. So what happened is these Republicans who ran as unabashed Trump fans, proud election deniers — of course there was a penalty there, because voters could see that they were more extreme than the typical Republican.

Now fast forward to what we’re about to face in 2024 and what Joe Biden and his team have been doing. If you look at the debt ceiling fight we just had, part of the Biden strategy there was to say, look, I can negotiate with Speaker McCarthy and some reasonable Republicans who did not want the country to default, even though they certainly threaten that. But then there were these other extreme Republicans, these extreme MAGA Republicans, that did want the country to default, that did want to do all these extreme things.

And so what I did as president is I both fought the extremism and negotiated the bipartisan deal voters say they want. They want parties to get together, and they don’t want extremes. And Joe Biden is fighting the extreme MAGA, but he’s also giving Republicans and independents who also think that MAGA is extreme a place to come home to.

This is a thing that I think is a quiet advantage for him. And I suspect it’s going to be a pretty big part of Biden 2024 storytelling. So if you go back to State of the Union, he says — he brags — I signed over 300 bipartisan laws since becoming president. And he gives a couple of examples — reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which was a big original accomplishment for him; the Electoral Count Reform Act. But he does get through the debt ceiling fairly smoothly. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a big deal. The CHIPS Act and the CHIPS and Science Act is a big deal. These are bipartisan achievements. I think he’s got a case to make here.

I do, too. And I don’t — I’m not quite sure how much that will matter with voters, because I don’t know how much voters are paying attention to all the bipartisan deals and bipartisan legislation that has come out of Washington. The CHIPS Act doesn’t have a very high name I.D. But as far back as 2020, and even before, voters saw Joe Biden and see Joe Biden as someone who is willing to negotiate and willing to be bipartisan. And he certainly has proof points on that.

And so I do think that that will help him. I also think this is by necessity a — the Democratic coalition necessitates this kind of politics because of how big it has to be in a country where the institutions are counter-majoritarian. And so in order to win the Electoral College, in order to win in the Senate, you need a coalition that spans from fans of A.O.C. to fans of Joe Manchin and probably Never Trumpers and all kinds of people like that. And that is the only way that Democrats can actually win just because of the Electoral College and because of the way the Senate is.

And so Republicans don’t have that. And so Republicans don’t necessarily need to be talking about bipartisanship because they have a more conservative, more right wing base that they can depend on to win. They’re not worried about as much trying to get those voters in the middle.

We need more people, and we need more people — we need a much more heterodox coalition than they do.

So when I think back to 2012, and I think back to the Democratic Convention that year, a huge amount of effort goes in to having not just Obama but other key messengers in the Democratic Party — Bill Clinton is a huge player in that convention — tell this story of what Obama faced and then this narrative of the policy he actually passed. And it works, right? Obama has a big win in 2012.

So let’s say you’re doing the speech here. And you’re trying to narrativize the Biden policy agenda, because as you mentioned a second ago, people aren’t paying that much attention to the CHIPS and Science Act passing. But it did pass, and a lot has passed, and a lot that people don’t really know about because these bills are so big has passed.

So you’re the speechwriter. You’re writing for Joe Biden, or you’re writing for Barack Obama to come and make the case for Joe Biden. What is your accomplishments narrative?

It’s funny you mentioned 2012 and that convention, because when I was working on Obama’s speech, we very intentionally didn’t want to just talk about accomplishments and just have accomplishments, because what we had been struggling with since we got to the White House was, OK, we’re recovering from this Great Recession. And Obama has achieved a lot. But people are still feeling pretty bad about the economy. It’s still a lot of job loss.

And so if you go out there and start touting accomplishments when people aren’t really feeling that in their lives, there’s going to be a disconnect there that’s going to redound to the Republican benefit. So we were very careful in how we talked about the accomplishments. Bill Clinton goes out there and basically just explains why Barack Obama has been great and all the accomplishments that he has done and all that kind of stuff. And the chattering classes, the press, pundits, Democratic activists loved it. They thought it was great because they had been thirsting for that. They wanted someone to just be boasting about what Barack Obama actually did.

I don’t think that works with voters as well. And I still don’t think that, because you go and talk to people who tell you that they’re struggling, tell you that they can’t afford housing, tell you that they can’t afford health care. And you say, yeah, but what about the CHIPS Act? And what about the infrastructure bill? And what about this? And it doesn’t register with them because they’re not seeing that in their own lives.

Now I don’t think that means you don’t talk about accomplishments. To the extent that you talk about accomplishments, you don’t frame them as a report card that shows you deserve the job. You frame them as proof points that you’re taking on the fights that matter to people. And you promise that you’ll keep taking those fights on and, as Biden has been saying, finish the job, right?

So there was this great line I thought in the Oval Office Address that Biden recently gave about the debt ceiling deal. And he goes through. He talks about it, talks about all the things that he stopped from happening, all the things we’ve been able to protect, Social Security, Medicare, et cetera. And then at one point, he says there were all these loopholes, these tax loopholes for the wealthy, for big oil and for crypto and hedge fund managers. And Republicans wanted to protect everyone, and I don’t. And then he said, but I’m going to be coming back. And with your help, I’m going to win.

And I think that if I were Biden’s speechwriters and Biden’s campaign, I would frame the accomplishments and frame the entire message as, we are in the middle of this fight. And on the other side is a group of people who want to take away your right to choose how many kids you have and when. They want to tell your kids which books to read. They want to take away your health care. They want to materially harm your life. And if you give them the chance, if you put them in power so they’re controlling Washington, these are the things that they will do. And here’s what I will do. And you know that I’ll do it. You know that I’ll fight hard because I’ve been doing it for the last four years. And I’m not done yet, and we haven’t finished. But we’re making progress. And if you put me back in there, I will keep fighting these fights on behalf of you.

I mean, this gets to the other side of it, which is that there’s a question of can you get people to vote for you because they like you? They think you’ve done a great job. And can you get people to vote against the other side because they’re frankly terrified of what they’ll do if they come into power?

One thing I’ve heard about Biden and the Democrats in 2022 is that there are a lot of voters who somewhat disapproved of Joe Biden. They didn’t think he was doing a great job. And an unusual number of them voted for Democrats, voted for Biden and Democrats to have more power. And Catalist data shows that Democrats did particularly well among young voters. And if you want to think about a class of voters that Biden does not connect to that well — young voters, right? Young voters, they like Elizabeth Warren. They like Bernie Sanders. They did not connect to Joe Biden — different generation, different kind of Democrat from them a lot of the time. But they turned out in huge numbers. I mean, they really were the difference for Democrats in 2022.

And I suspect a lot of that is because they’re pretty terrified of the Republicans, of Dobbs, of Jan. 6, of what just Republicans represent and want to do. And this feels like something that Biden understands pretty deeply, that even more so, I think, than in 2012 say. You don’t have to like Joe Biden to vote for him. He doesn’t have to be your dream presidential candidate. But he’s a tool against letting Trump and Republicans like Trump back into power, and that that’s fundamentally the choice here. And the young voter performance in 2022 strikes me as some evidence that they’re right about that.

Yeah. I mean, I did one focus group of a diverse group of college-age voters in Orange County. And then —

Orange County, California?

Orange County, California.

My hometown.

There you go. And then I did one in Atlanta with young Black voters in their 20s and 30s. And those two groups, out of all the groups, the view of Joe Biden was quite bleak. They did not think he was doing a great job. They were upset about the idea that he was going to run again. They thought he was too old, he doesn’t understand their issues, all that kind of other stuff.

Then you start talking about the Republicans, and they were all terrified. This was right around Dobbs. And they were terrified about Dobbs. They were terrified about election deniers. They were terrified about what was going to happen with climate change. They were angry. They were scared. And even, I remember, in the Atlanta group, it was probably the most negative group about Biden that I had heard and Kamala Harris. And they weren’t even that excited about Stacey Abrams, which really surprised me.

And then at the end I said, OK, well, is anyone voting for Herschel Walker? And they all said, no, are you crazy? Of course I’m not voting for Herschel Walker. Are you voting for Brian Kemp? No, I’m not going to vote for — not as much as Herschel Walker, which should tell you something. But they weren’t quite as negative towards Brian Kemp.

But in every single focus group I did, the same thing happened. It was the same pattern — unhappiness with Biden, disappointment. But as soon as you bring up Trump, and as soon as you bring up Trump-like Republicans, and the choice is there, they automatically go back with Biden and go with the Democrats.

So I have a theory about this and Biden that I want to try out on you, which is that I think Biden’s kind of soft approval ratings — and you can tell me if you think this is wrong. But just experientially, I don’t think Democrats like Joe Biden the way they liked some of the other Democratic presidents or standard-bearers in my lifetime. But that that is actually the flip side of something he does that has helped make him successful, which is that he doesn’t really create all that much for Democrats to rally around. He’s not trying to take up that much political space. As we mentioned earlier, doesn’t give a ton of interviews. But he doesn’t take a bunch of shots in his speeches. I mean, there are ways — you know this much better than me as a former speechwriter. If you want to get the president to be the person leading the news, there are ways to do it. And Biden lets those pitches go by, day after day. They just don’t try to do that.

But what that means is they create and leave a lot of open space for Republicans to be the headline figures in the news and for Republicans to, over and over again, so to speak, show who they are — for Trump to continue being a headline figure in the news, and for Republicans to motivate Democrats against them. In many ways, one of Biden’s strengths as a politician, I think, is that he doesn’t get in the way of Republicans motivating Democrats. Biden is — he’s often a kind of pretty broad canvas on which a lot of kinds of opposition Republicans can operate through him. He doesn’t turn off that many Democrats for the same reason he doesn’t light them up, because he’s letting Republicans be the energy in his own coalition.

I think that’s definitely part of what he’s doing. I also think it is just the political context that we’re all living in right now and that I think that Biden and his team recognize, which is the Republican Party is now so extreme, has gone so far to the right, so far outside the mainstream, that they have left a broad, broad middle of fundamentally American values that a Democratic candidate like Joe Biden can easily embrace and stand for and reclaim.

And so in Biden’s announcement video, it was a very patriotic video. I believe the first ad that ran was called “The Flag.” And it’s very, “We claim this flag, and we believe in freedom and opportunity.” And what the Republicans have done by going so far to the right is that they have left open to the Democratic party this very large, broad coalition where you can appeal to a lot of people and a lot of different kinds of voters by just not being as crazy as they are. [LAUGHS]

And I think Biden understands that and is actually a good fit for this moment because he’s never been the kind of politician that has embraced those kinds of extreme tactics or rhetoric or even tried to get himself in the news with potshots like the kind that you’re talking about.

So let’s talk a bit about some of the possible matchups here because we’re beginning to see the Republican field take shape. So, front-runners — Trump, polling in the 50s in the Republican field. If you get a Biden-Trump rematch, how does that differ, in your view, from 2020?

So the advantage for Trump, I think, in that rematch is that Trump goes back to being a challenger, where he’s always more comfortable. So the whole pitch in 2016 was all these politicians screwed everything up, especially the Democrats. I’m an outsider. I can take on the establishment. If you’re pissed about the way things are going, vote for me. That’s the nicest version of Trump’s message. Obviously, there was a lot of other stuff thrown in there.

In 2020, he was the incumbent. And so he was saddled with people’s dissatisfaction with the state of the country, the state of the economy, the pandemic. And he had to deal with all of that. Now he gets to go back to saying, oh, it wasn’t so bad when I was in office. And now I’m the challenger, and I’m the outsider again. And so put me in there, and I can fix things again. So that’s what the advantage of Trump is.

I think the advantage for Biden — and sort of an obvious one — is Trump didn’t leave on great terms. And most people in this country have formed an opinion of Donald Trump. And the opinion is not good. And most people don’t want him to run again. And he is an extremely polarizing figure. And he still does poorly with independents. And he still does poorly with a lot of the voters who cast a ballot for him in 2016 and then decided to vote for Joe Biden in 2020. And he is still losing among voters who are dissatisfied with both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. People who don’t like both of them — Biden is still winning those voters. He won them in 2020. Trump won those voters in 2016 when it was people who didn’t like Trump or Hillary Clinton. Trump won those voters by a lot. So I think the advantage that Biden has in a Trump-Biden rematch is, look, we’re rerunning the last race. He won the last race.

How many people who voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump in 2020 are going to say, yeah, you know what? I’m going to go back to Trump now. And now, again, it could happen. It could be a small number of people that just tip the race in those key states. But if I’m the Biden folks, that’s why I probably like that match-up.

So behind Trump on the Republican side is DeSantis. And DeSantis is a place where one of the Biden team’s best arguments, which is that Democrats performed really well in 2022, falls apart, because they did get crushed in Florida. And DeSantis is not going to let anybody forget that, correctly so if you’re on his political team. So what do you make of a DeSantis-Biden match?

So if you’d asked me this six months ago, I would tell you that it concerns me. It concerns me a lot more than the Trump-Biden match-up.

After DeSantis’s — not just his performance, but the press he’s gotten, what people have gotten to know about him over the last several months, it’s now for me a toss-up whether I’m worried more about a DeSantis-Biden match-up or a Trump-Biden match-up. Because you see this in focus groups now — you see it in polling. Independent voters, swing voters, the middle-of-the-road voters that Biden will need to win, they now see DeSantis as an extreme Republican.

There was a moment, I think, where they thought, oh, he’s conservative and all, but he’s not quite as right wing as Trump, or he’s not as scary as Trump, or he’s not — all that. And I think whether it’s him going after Disney, whether it’s the six-week abortion ban, there is a perception of DeSantis now in the electorate to the extent that people know him that he is fairly extreme and very, very Trumpy. And so I don’t think that serves him well in general.

And then I think the other problem is for DeSantis, if he’s the nominee, I don’t think that if Trump loses the primary that he just endorses DeSantis and rides off into the sunset and says good luck. I think he tries to burn down the party on the way out. And so DeSantis would have to deal with that.

And I think back to those — talking about those non-college-educated voters — I think some of those voters, a good portion of those voters, they turn out for Donald Trump and no one else. They didn’t turn out in the midterms. They haven’t turned out for other candidates. They are Trump voters. That’s who they like. And if Trump is not on the ticket, maybe you don’t get quite that level of turnout on the Republican side. So I think those are problems for DeSantis.

But then how do you take the Florida results in 2022?

I think we had a weak candidate on the Democratic side. I also think that the way —

Democrats, for people who don’t know, reran Charlie Crist, who had already —

Reran Charlie Crist —

Yeah. I also think that the way DeSantis governed, he did a lot of the culture war stuff for the national media, for the right wing media. That’s how we got to know him. When he first started as governor, he passed enough policies and did enough things that made him seem, if not moderate, at least like a traditional Republican — stuff around the economy. I think he proposed teacher pay increase, right? He did enough things as governor that, I think, within Florida, which also has gotten redder over time as well, and where the Democratic party has just sort of fallen apart over the last couple of years, he did enough to make sure that voters were not perceiving him as extreme as I think the national electorate perceives him today.

So this is obviously now getting to less likely, but I don’t think impossible territory at all. You can imagine a world where Republicans are getting nervous that neither Trump nor DeSantis, after mauling each other across debates and rallies and whatever else, are the right candidate. And in 2020, Democrats ultimately acted very strategically. They looked at the situation. They decided Joe Biden, who they didn’t all liked the most, was going to be the best candidate to beat Trump. And they went with Joe Biden.

And there are candidates in the Republican Party who are more strategically positioned, I think, to take advantage of where the country is and what Biden’s weaknesses are — a Tim Scott, a Nikki Haley.

So on the more off-chance — but you can imagine something. One of them wins Iowa, and all of a sudden, things begin to balloon. On the more off-chance that one of these more long-shot candidates wins, how do you think about that?

I’ve gone over this many times in my mind, because I don’t want to make such a bold prediction, since I haven’t been good at that in the past. But I find it extremely unlikely that one of these candidates who is not Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump is going to be able to pull through, and here’s why. They all seem to me like they would be decent candidates in a Republican primary that was taking place in 2008 or 2012.

And they all — like Tim Scott, Nikki Haley — Nikki Haley was at her town hall the other day. And she’s hitting DeSantis and Trump on not being honest on entitlement reform. And is it going to hurt? Is it going to cause some pain? Yes, it’s going to cause some pain. And then, by the way, now I’m going to start talking about what a hawk I am on Russia. And that’s fine, but that’s a Republican Party that just doesn’t exist anymore, at least in terms of the electorate.

And the Republican electorate now is a very MAGA-like electorate. And they have embraced populism, cultural populism, to an extent, economic populism, cutting Social Security and Medicare — extremely unpopular with the general electorate, also very unpopular with Republican voters right now. And so I just don’t know that — I can’t think of the candidate running who could be ready to step into the role of MAGA king or queen if Trump or DeSantis falters, because to me, it seems like Nikki Haley is doing a poor MAGA impression.

Tim Scott isn’t even trying, because he’s trying to run as a kinder, gentler Republican, which there’s been no evidence that Republican voters want that kind of Republican.

Mike Pence has the highest unfavorable ratings of any candidate running in the Republican Party because he decided not to commit treason on Jan. 6.

I mean, and then you have someone like Chris Christie, who is just going to go right at Donald Trump. And He’s going to take it to Donald Trump and make an argument that I think we would all find quite compelling. And recent poll shows 60 percent of Republican voters won’t even consider supporting Chris Christie for president. And that’s before he started taking on Donald Trump as strong as he has been since he announced.

So I think that’s basically right. But I do think it’s interesting, and it gets a bit to this lack of fear somehow Republicans have toward Biden — or maybe just what the Republican Party is — that nobody thinks the Republican Party is going to act strategically here.

I mean, look, I know people who voted for Joe Biden and don’t like Joe Biden, right? He was not their second choice, not their third, not their fourth, not their fifth if they were actually getting down to it. That’s true for a lot of very young liberal voters. And Democrats? They really sat there, thinking, god, we got to get this back, and came to Joe Biden as the answer to that problem.

It’s just remarkable to me how that conversation just does not exist on the right. And nobody thinks it is going to exist on the right. They’re going to do the thing they feel like doing, like they like Trump, or they like DeSantis, and hope for the best.

It’s just a genuine difference between the parties right now.

Yeah, and I let myself believe that at the outset of this Republican primary, is that Republican voters have to care about electability. They have to now because they — even if they think that Donald Trump won the last election, they’re still pissed that they don’t have a Republican in power. So they got to focus on electability. But there is a segment of that party that is still thinking a lot about electability and being strategic.

But it’s like the Republican consultants and strategists and Republicans living in blue areas on the coasts and this small segment of college-educated Republicans in that party, which is, again, a minority of the party. And I think the vast majority of Republican voters, they’re not making that strategic decision. And they’re looking around to say, look, I like Trump. And I don’t think everything he says is great. I don’t think his tweets are good. Maybe they think his character is bad. But I don’t know. I don’t know if I trust this DeSantis guy. He seems kind of weird. Or, I like DeSantis plenty, but let’s give Trump four more years, and then we’ll give DeSantis eight years after that. You know there’s that thought as well.

And then I think when they look at everyone else, they’re just like, eh, those people remind me of Paul Ryan or Mitch McConnell or the RINOs, right? Trump has done such an effective job at marginalizing so many of the Republican politicians serving today as the RINO establishment that I really do think it has trickled down to most of the Republican base. And that has poisoned a lot of these candidates for them.

So one thing that Trump, DeSantis, anyone will have is that they all will go through this primary and be out there campaigning and out there doing speeches and out there doing debates. And presidents can get out of practice on this. Very famously, Barack Obama did not perform terribly well in his first debate with Mitt Romney. And widely, I think that’s considered because he was just out of practice for that kind of campaigning and that kind of debate stage. I think this is more of a fear with Biden, given some of the age issues that they don’t want to activate in the voters’ minds.

So what do they have Biden do? I mean, I don’t get the sense he’s going to be out there campaigning super hard in the Democratic primary against Marianne Williamson and Robert F Kennedy, Jr. So what do they do to have him be prepared here?

I think he’s got to be out there quite a bit, actually. I don’t know that a sort of Rose Garden strategy — and I’m not saying that this is what they want to do. But I don’t know that a Rose Garden strategy necessarily works because that vacuum gets filled with everything that Republican candidates are saying every single day on the trail. And they’re getting media attention for it. And they’re saying it at debates all the time.

So I think they got to get him out there in front of bigger crowds with some energy. I think they got to give him a stump speech that shows some fight. I think they’ve got to use humor to diffuse the age question. And also, just — when we were in the White House, and he was “Uncle Joe,” sometimes people roll their eyes. And again, he committed gaffes. But people liked him, you know? And it showed him having fun. And I think they need to have a little fun, too, especially — I’ve heard you talk about this. They need a theory of attention here and how you’re going to break through when you are the incumbent president, you’re in the White House, you’re governing, and then there is a complete circus on the other side in the Republican primary.

And I think getting him out there in town halls, meeting people one on one, showing them how great he is with voters when he meets them and how compassionate he is, I think all of that is going to be really important. And I would worry about, again, feeling like getting him out there too much is taking a risk, and it’s not worth it. And so we should just keep his schedule light. And again, I don’t think they’re going to do that. But I would get him out there more because I would be worried about Republicans filling the vacuum.

The other thing is Joe Biden is actually president, and he doesn’t have a Democratic Congress anymore. But he does have that office and the ability — I mean, there’s a reason incumbents tend to get re-elected. And it’s not just fundraising. It’s that they can actually do things. And the things they do can shape the stories they can tell and what they can bring to voters. So what should they actually substantively do? I mean, they have the problem of legislation has to go through McCarthy. But if you were in there, what would you be trying to achieve?

I mean, I think it’s tough for this next year, right? They’ve almost exhausted every executive action that I think they think is possible, legally possible, already. I don’t think there’s any chance for additional legislation at this point. And so what does that leave them? Well, all the legislation they’ve passed, whether it’s the Inflation Reduction Act or the CHIPS Act or the infrastructure bill. Sure, there are plenty of projects that are starting that he can go to ribbon cuttings and all that. And I think that they will — they have been doing that, and they’ll continue to do that.

But I would look for — again, back to how you handle the accomplishments. Even when I’m at an event celebrating some shovel-ready project or some grant or a climate investment and the Inflation Reduction Act, I would be pushing the message forward so that you’re — the context is a fight that you’re waging. And send me back, and I’ll finish this fight. I would also look at the Republican House.

And every time they have a message vote or a show vote or try to do something unpopular, I’d go out there and whack the shit out of them. And just you’ve got to get people in the mind-set over the next year that this is a choice, that there are two visions, there are two paths. And if you do not return me to office, these people will take over. And they will do all of these things that seem horrific right now and will materially harm your life. And they will do that the second they get into power.

And I think his most important job is to remind people of that every single day between now and the election.

And then always, a final question. What are three books you’d recommend to the audience?

Oh, three books? Well, on another podcast I do that you’ve been on called “Offline,” we have been doing a challenge where we are trying to help our screen time, reduce our screen addiction. And so I just finished Katherine Price’s, “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” which has been fantastic and very helpful. What else am I reading?

I’m embarrassed, because as you were saying that, I actually glanced at my phone. I want to admit this in full view of the audience and god.

I’m telling you, I’m — all of those kinds of books now I’m reading. All the —

It was barely conscious, too. It just sort of happened.

It is. As I’m breaking it with my phone, I’ve reacquainted myself with my Kindle, because I famously do not read that much, because I’m on Twitter all the time. And I’m finally reading “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Egan, which is fantastic.

And also, I’m reading Patricia Lockwood, “No One is Talking About This,” which is a fantastic little weird book about the internet, of course.

Jon Favreau, thank you very much.

Thanks, Ezra. This was fun.

This episode was produced by Rollin Hu. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Mixing by Jeff Geld and Isaac Jones. The show’s production team includes Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.

EZRA KLEIN: So Joe Biden is starting his 2024 campaign with a problem, which is that most people don’t want him to run again. Even Democrats, when you just poll them, they are split on whether they want to see his name on the ballot. If you do head-to-head polling, Trump and DeSantis, they’re often running ahead of him, sometimes behind him, but definitely competitive. So not a great place for Biden to begin. I think particularly not a great place against Trump, who has certainly had a rough couple of years, but also not completely unusual if you take the Trump weirdness out of it.

JON FAVREAU: Thanks for having me.

EZRA KLEIN: So I want to do this by going through the questions and then the challenges Biden faces in running for re-election and then looking at the strengths he has.

JON FAVREAU: OK.

EZRA KLEIN: And so I guess the obvious place to begin is that most Americans don’t want him to run for re-election. So there was a recent AP-NORC poll, found only 26 percent want him to run again — pretty standard from the polls I’ve seen. A Washington Post poll found Democrats are split 47-47 on whether he should run. So what do you make of why so few Americans and even Democrats want to see his name on the ballot in 2024?

JON FAVREAU: So I think there’s a few reasons for that. I think the question, do you want an incumbent to run again? Should an incumbent run again? The numbers you get from that tend to be lower than approval ratings, horse race numbers, et cetera. So that’s just an overall thing that happens in polling. The next sort of level of this is as polarization has increased over the last decade or so, voters tend to be unhappier with the state of affairs in politics, with incumbents, with their choices in both parties.

EZRA KLEIN: Let’s do age directly. I had this for a little later in the conversation. We were going to work up to it. But when I talk to people and when I’ve looked at focus groups, this is the thing I hear the most about. So I mean, obviously, Biden — oldest president. You knew his history. He’d be 86 at the end of a second term. Two-thirds of Americans in a Quinnipiac poll thought he was too old to run.

And one of the particular things I hear from Democrats is that you don’t have to buy any of the Republican senility arguments or insinuations to worry that he’s got this terrible vulnerability, which is that there is this lurking fear about him, and that if during the campaign he gets a bad flu, and he’s got to be off the trail for a week, something like his recent stumble over a sandbag happens in a more dramatic way — think back to Bob Dole falling off the stage in ’96. And it crystallizes fears of his age in a way that his campaign then can’t answer, because people already felt this, and now you have this memeable moment that makes them certain of it.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah. It’s hard to separate. Does what you just laid out concern voters and Democrats because him tripping over a sandbag makes them think that he’s not fit for the job, or that they think that that will become memeable and that other people, and other voters, will worry that he’s not fit for the job, and that will hurt him politically? And I talk about that difference, because when you really push people on this, and you push voters on this, a lot of it is punditry. And I’m not saying that’s not fair, because voters act like pundits now, and because they’re — especially those who consume a lot of news.

EZRA KLEIN: I think that the deeper fear is the other one you get at, that maybe there’s something there — not that he’s senile, but just that the rigors of a campaign at this age are going to be too much for him in a way that’s going to make him less effective, that he actually just would be less effective as president. I mean, I think this is a genuinely fair concern. The Times did a focus group recently. When people were asked who were Biden voters if they thought he’d be up to the job at 86, which would be how old he’d be at the end of his second term, not a single hand went up.

JON FAVREAU: So the White House, whenever they’re asked about this — and I think there was a story recently in The New York Times that Peter Baker wrote about Biden’s age. And the White House’s case is his schedule is still quite busy. He is still doing multiple events per day. He goes on these foreign trips, and he’s up at all hours. He did that surprise trip to Ukraine where he’s on the train for many hours, and he’s barely sleeping.

And then he was also telling us stories about the Robert Bork confirmation to my father-in-law that just lasted a long, long time. But for me, and what I think this gets to the age thing, which is like he’s always been like that. When he was vice president back in 2009, ’10, when I first got to the White House, he was telling long, long stories, right? The stutter that he deals with has always been there. His tendency to gaffe has always been there. I think as he gets older, and now that age is an issue, all of these other sort of issues that he has had over the years as a politician — sometimes being long-winded, the stutter, saying things that he’s not supposed to say — those all get magnified by the age.

EZRA KLEIN: Well, there is this interesting other side of it that I feel like I’ve seen play out a few times for him, which is Biden does not lean forward that much into a dominant public persona, not in the way Trump did, not in the way Obama did. And so that leaves more room for narratives about him to be out there. Joe Biden has not done even one interview with a major newspaper, not done any interviews with, say, interview podcasters from major newspapers — ahem, ahem. And —

JON FAVREAU: Same man.

EZRA KLEIN: Yeah, right?

JON FAVREAU: And we’ve been trying on “Pod Save America” for a while.

EZRA KLEIN: And obviously he could put all these questions to rest if he would come on “The Ezra Klein Show.” But I think there’s a suspicion on the one hand that one reason that’s going on is they don’t trust him, or he doesn’t trust himself to be out, mixing it up. And if he was mixing it up, and it was going well, people wouldn’t feel this way.

JON FAVREAU: Yes, they have drawn the caricature in such an exaggerated way that he doesn’t have to do much to show people that he is not that caricature. I’m glad you mentioned the State of the Union. I was just about to say that. I thought that was interesting, because if you go back and watch that State of the Union, he does stumble a few different places in that speech. But that was not the story. The story was him mixing it up with Republicans, ad-libbing, showing some fight, showing some energy.

EZRA KLEIN: So one thing about the Biden age concerns is they make Vice President Kamala Harris very — maybe even unusually important. But polls find her to be more unpopular than Biden, not less. She’s had — I think it’s fair to say, and this is very widely reported — a pretty challenging run of it. She’s had a ton of staff turnover. There’s a sense she’s not found a strong footing as vice president and would be a weaker candidate than Biden. And so there’s this fear. And I hear it from Democrats, that voters who like Biden fine, but worry about his age, they don’t look at her and are comforted. So how do you think about her role in this campaign?

JON FAVREAU: This is what’s really tough, right? Is because so often, the presidential candidate picks a vice president — or at least in recent times, whether it’s Dick Cheney or Joe Biden, you pick a vice president who — you’re a little less experienced as the candidate. And so the vice president is this very experienced politician, official, elected official, who’s been around a long time. And so you feel safe, if something happens, that they could step in.

EZRA KLEIN: In a way, even Pence was that.

JON FAVREAU: Yes, that’s right. Even Pence was that. And this was really flipped on its head with Biden choosing Kamala Harris. And he also chooses her after her campaign does not do as well as it was expected, right? So she already has run this campaign that either people did not really remember it, she didn’t really break through, or to the extent that she did, people were not that impressed. And then she goes into a job which is designed to hide you, frustrate you, keep you out of the spotlight. You end up doing the shitty jobs. And if you don’t have a profile that pre-exists your job as vice president, and you don’t have name I.D., and people don’t have a good sense of who you are, then I think it’s really difficult in that job to introduce yourselves to voters in a way that’s going to make them feel comfortable.

I always think about Kamala Harris, there are things that she can control and things that she cannot. She cannot control that she is the first Black woman to serve as vice president. And I imagine that to become the highest-ranking Black woman in the United States to ever serve in office, that is a tightrope to walk that I think, by design, makes you cautious, that you deal with sexism and racism that others have not had to deal with. So these are all things that she cannot control.

EZRA KLEIN: If you want to take the “dark Brandon” approach on this, for people familiar with that reference, I sometimes think it helps Biden in terms of that intraparty tension and pressure that his vice president is rightly or wrongly perceived as politically weaker than he is. I mean, if you imagine a world where his V.P. was extremely well-liked — like Joe Biden, but younger and better now — I think that would be leading to a much louder calls and a lot more pressure for him to step aside. But the fact that there isn’t a consensus or even a belief in the party that Harris could outdo him in 2024 has really muted that. So on the one hand, he’s not facing a primary, which we’ll talk about at some point. But on the other, he’s also not facing this kind of pressure to do that generational turnover.

JON FAVREAU: Well, and by the way, if you are the Biden White House — and I’m sure that the V.P. and her staff feel this, too. That’s part of the reason that they don’t want to put her out there all the time, because — and that’s true of every president-vice president relationship, right? You never want the vice president to outshine the president, I think for the reason that you just mentioned. Especially in this case, they didn’t want — at least when they started, when they got to the White House, they didn’t want Kamala Harris looking like this rising star, because it starts raising questions about, OK, well, then why is Joe Biden going to run again?

EZRA KLEIN: So FiveThirtyEight has him at 41.2 percent approval as we’re talking. And it’s not a great rating. But something we were doing in preparation for this episode was going back and looking at other presidents. And you go back to 1982. Only 36 percent of voters in one poll we found wanted Ronald Reagan to run again. At about this point in his presidency, Reagan was at 43 percent. Barack Obama was bouncing around the mid to low 40s for much of his third year. I’m old enough to remember in Obama’s third year when there was so much concern about his re-election campaign that there were endless stories about how he should drop the dead weight of Joe Biden and bring the political juggernaut of Hillary Clinton in as his vice president to shake things up. You might have some recollection of that as well.

JON FAVREAU: I do. I do, yeah.

EZRA KLEIN: And so I’m curious how you think about this historically, as maybe the third year is just this doldrums year quite often.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah, no, the same thing happened with us in 2011. Obama was dealing with the debt ceiling negotiations. And his approval rating after that was at its low point in the eight years he served in office. But that’s why when we were thinking about the re-elect, from the very beginning, our theory was, of course, we got to turn it into a choice and not a referendum. And we got to have a theory of the case. And we got to have a message.

EZRA KLEIN: So I want to get to the Biden message in a sec. But as the bridge there, I think if I am looking at Biden’s numbers, and I’m Joe Biden campaign person, I think the one that worries me the most is that he is not trusted on the economy, that voters don’t think he’s doing a good job on the economy, that Donald Trump is significantly more trusted on the economy when you match them up. Trump is doing much better in terms of who people trust on the economy, even than he’s doing in the head to head race with Joe Biden.

JON FAVREAU: I think inflation is probably the biggest explanation. Even though it’s coming down, it’s still high for people. But I think beyond inflation, it’s sort of the same anxiety that we have seen from voters as far back as when Barack Obama was president and was — we were recovering from the Great Recession. The cost of living for so many people is so high right now. When I did focus groups in ’22, when I did all kinds of different demographics, different parts of the country, different ages, I asked everyone to start, what’s the most pressing issue for you? Just open-ended question.

EZRA KLEIN: So now I want to turn to the case for Biden, the strengths he actually has. And maybe a good place to begin is a case he’s begun making for himself. So you listened to his announcement video for 2024.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah.

EZRA KLEIN: You’re hearing the way he’s framing the race. How would you describe where they’re starting out on their message?

JON FAVREAU: They’re starting out right where they left off in the midterms, in ’22, which was interesting. If you remember, there was this debate right before the midterms. Biden is talking a lot about democracy. He’s talking a lot about abortion. Is he not talking about inflation enough? Is he not talking about kitchen table issues enough?

And the main finding there is that when you ask voters — when you make them rank which issues are most important to them vis-à-vis other issues, issues related to identity rise to the top of the list. Even though those voters might say they care a lot about economic issues, when they’re actually voting, they are thinking about issues related to identity, cultural issues, social issues, much more than you might think. And so this is all to say that in ’22, I think one of the reasons that Democrats, and especially Biden, hit so hard on democracy and abortion and voting rights and all of these issues is because I think they know that for whatever reason — and we can talk about some of the possibilities why — people are not necessarily just voting on pocketbook issues, even though those pocketbook issues are super important to them, that when they’re making their choice between Democrats and Republicans, and especially this Republican Party that’s so extreme, they are thinking about issues related to identity, all of these culture wars, and a lot of these social issues, because that’s where they see the biggest difference between the parties right now.

EZRA KLEIN: Let’s talk about that in context of 2022, because when I talk to people involved in the Biden campaign and planning out the Biden 2024 race, I will do the thing I did with you at the beginning of this conversation. And I will read them these numbers they already know about how people don’t want Biden to run, and his approval rating is bad, and he’s not trusted on the economy.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah, I do think that in ’22 what you had was Dobbs being a gigantic issue for people, because they actually saw that the Republicans are trying to take something away, trying to take a benefit away, in this case, the right to make your own health care decisions. And when I asked people about inflation in these focus groups, they’d complain a lot about inflation. And then I would say, whose fault is this?

EZRA KLEIN: So we just got this really big report from Catalist, which is this firm that has really deep voter files and can — it takes them some time, but can really see what happens in an election in very granular detail. And the main thing they found was really interesting to me, which is that if you looked at it nationally, Republicans did have the advantage. It wasn’t quite a wave, but actually it kind of looked like it would have been, except — except — that Democrats way outperformed what you would expect in competitive races.

JON FAVREAU: Well, it tells me that campaigns actually matter. Candidates actually matter. Of course, in a very calcified electorate, they matter on the margin. But in a divided electorate, the margin means everything. And I think that the Democrats did a very good job of selecting candidates who were mainstream Democratic candidates. They weren’t necessarily centrists. They weren’t necessarily super progressive. But they were mainstream Democratic candidates — good resumes, good bios, particularly in these competitive districts.

EZRA KLEIN: This is a thing that I think is a quiet advantage for him. And I suspect it’s going to be a pretty big part of Biden 2024 storytelling. So if you go back to State of the Union, he says — he brags — I signed over 300 bipartisan laws since becoming president. And he gives a couple of examples — reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, which was a big original accomplishment for him; the Electoral Count Reform Act. But he does get through the debt ceiling fairly smoothly. The bipartisan infrastructure bill is a big deal. The CHIPS Act and the CHIPS and Science Act is a big deal. These are bipartisan achievements. I think he’s got a case to make here.

JON FAVREAU: I do, too. And I don’t — I’m not quite sure how much that will matter with voters, because I don’t know how much voters are paying attention to all the bipartisan deals and bipartisan legislation that has come out of Washington. The CHIPS Act doesn’t have a very high name I.D. But as far back as 2020, and even before, voters saw Joe Biden and see Joe Biden as someone who is willing to negotiate and willing to be bipartisan. And he certainly has proof points on that.

EZRA KLEIN: So when I think back to 2012, and I think back to the Democratic Convention that year, a huge amount of effort goes in to having not just Obama but other key messengers in the Democratic Party — Bill Clinton is a huge player in that convention — tell this story of what Obama faced and then this narrative of the policy he actually passed. And it works, right? Obama has a big win in 2012.

JON FAVREAU: It’s funny you mentioned 2012 and that convention, because when I was working on Obama’s speech, we very intentionally didn’t want to just talk about accomplishments and just have accomplishments, because what we had been struggling with since we got to the White House was, OK, we’re recovering from this Great Recession. And Obama has achieved a lot. But people are still feeling pretty bad about the economy. It’s still a lot of job loss.

EZRA KLEIN: I mean, this gets to the other side of it, which is that there’s a question of can you get people to vote for you because they like you? They think you’ve done a great job. And can you get people to vote against the other side because they’re frankly terrified of what they’ll do if they come into power?

One thing I’ve heard about Biden and the Democrats in 2022 is that there are a lot of voters who somewhat disapproved of Joe Biden. They didn’t think he was doing a great job. And an unusual number of them voted for Democrats, voted for Biden and Democrats to have more power. And Catalist data shows that Democrats did particularly well among young voters.

And if you want to think about a class of voters that Biden does not connect to that well — young voters, right? Young voters, they like Elizabeth Warren. They like Bernie Sanders. They did not connect to Joe Biden — different generation, different kind of Democrat from them a lot of the time. But they turned out in huge numbers. I mean, they really were the difference for Democrats in 2022.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah. I mean, I did one focus group of a diverse group of college-age voters in Orange County. And then —

EZRA KLEIN: Orange County, California?

JON FAVREAU: Orange County, California.

EZRA KLEIN: My hometown.

JON FAVREAU: There you go. And then I did one in Atlanta with young Black voters in their 20s and 30s. And those two groups, out of all the groups, the view of Joe Biden was quite bleak. They did not think he was doing a great job. They were upset about the idea that he was going to run again. They thought he was too old, he doesn’t understand their issues, all that kind of other stuff.

EZRA KLEIN: So I have a theory about this and Biden that I want to try out on you, which is that I think Biden’s kind of soft approval ratings — and you can tell me if you think this is wrong. But just experientially, I don’t think Democrats like Joe Biden the way they liked some of the other Democratic presidents or standard-bearers in my lifetime. But that that is actually the flip side of something he does that has helped make him successful, which is that he doesn’t really create all that much for Democrats to rally around. He’s not trying to take up that much political space. As we mentioned earlier, doesn’t give a ton of interviews. But he doesn’t take a bunch of shots in his speeches. I mean, there are ways — you know this much better than me as a former speechwriter. If you want to get the president to be the person leading the news, there are ways to do it. And Biden lets those pitches go by, day after day. They just don’t try to do that.

JON FAVREAU: I think that’s definitely part of what he’s doing. I also think it is just the political context that we’re all living in right now and that I think that Biden and his team recognize, which is the Republican Party is now so extreme, has gone so far to the right, so far outside the mainstream, that they have left a broad, broad middle of fundamentally American values that a Democratic candidate like Joe Biden can easily embrace and stand for and reclaim.

EZRA KLEIN: So let’s talk a bit about some of the possible matchups here because we’re beginning to see the Republican field take shape. So, front-runners — Trump, polling in the 50s in the Republican field. If you get a Biden-Trump rematch, how does that differ, in your view, from 2020?

JON FAVREAU: So the advantage for Trump, I think, in that rematch is that Trump goes back to being a challenger, where he’s always more comfortable. So the whole pitch in 2016 was all these politicians screwed everything up, especially the Democrats. I’m an outsider. I can take on the establishment. If you’re pissed about the way things are going, vote for me. That’s the nicest version of Trump’s message. Obviously, there was a lot of other stuff thrown in there.

EZRA KLEIN: So behind Trump on the Republican side is DeSantis. And DeSantis is a place where one of the Biden team’s best arguments, which is that Democrats performed really well in 2022, falls apart, because they did get crushed in Florida. And DeSantis is not going to let anybody forget that, correctly so if you’re on his political team. So what do you make of a DeSantis-Biden match?

JON FAVREAU: So if you’d asked me this six months ago, I would tell you that it concerns me. It concerns me a lot more than the Trump-Biden match-up.

EZRA KLEIN: But then how do you take the Florida results in 2022?

JON FAVREAU: I think we had a weak candidate on the Democratic side. I also think that the way —

EZRA KLEIN: Democrats, for people who don’t know, reran Charlie Crist, who had already —

JON FAVREAU: Reran Charlie Crist —

EZRA KLEIN: — lost.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah. I also think that the way DeSantis governed, he did a lot of the culture war stuff for the national media, for the right wing media. That’s how we got to know him. When he first started as governor, he passed enough policies and did enough things that made him seem, if not moderate, at least like a traditional Republican — stuff around the economy. I think he proposed teacher pay increase, right? He did enough things as governor that, I think, within Florida, which also has gotten redder over time as well, and where the Democratic party has just sort of fallen apart over the last couple of years, he did enough to make sure that voters were not perceiving him as extreme as I think the national electorate perceives him today.

EZRA KLEIN: So this is obviously now getting to less likely, but I don’t think impossible territory at all. You can imagine a world where Republicans are getting nervous that neither Trump nor DeSantis, after mauling each other across debates and rallies and whatever else, are the right candidate. And in 2020, Democrats ultimately acted very strategically. They looked at the situation. They decided Joe Biden, who they didn’t all liked the most, was going to be the best candidate to beat Trump. And they went with Joe Biden.

JON FAVREAU: I’ve gone over this many times in my mind, because I don’t want to make such a bold prediction, since I haven’t been good at that in the past. But I find it extremely unlikely that one of these candidates who is not Ron DeSantis or Donald Trump is going to be able to pull through, and here’s why. They all seem to me like they would be decent candidates in a Republican primary that was taking place in 2008 or 2012.

EZRA KLEIN: So I think that’s basically right. But I do think it’s interesting, and it gets a bit to this lack of fear somehow Republicans have toward Biden — or maybe just what the Republican Party is — that nobody thinks the Republican Party is going to act strategically here.

EZRA KLEIN: I mean, look, I know people who voted for Joe Biden and don’t like Joe Biden, right? He was not their second choice, not their third, not their fourth, not their fifth if they were actually getting down to it. That’s true for a lot of very young liberal voters. And Democrats? They really sat there, thinking, god, we got to get this back, and came to Joe Biden as the answer to that problem.

JON FAVREAU: Yeah, and I let myself believe that at the outset of this Republican primary, is that Republican voters have to care about electability. They have to now because they — even if they think that Donald Trump won the last election, they’re still pissed that they don’t have a Republican in power. So they got to focus on electability. But there is a segment of that party that is still thinking a lot about electability and being strategic.

EZRA KLEIN: So one thing that Trump, DeSantis, anyone will have is that they all will go through this primary and be out there campaigning and out there doing speeches and out there doing debates. And presidents can get out of practice on this. Very famously, Barack Obama did not perform terribly well in his first debate with Mitt Romney. And widely, I think that’s considered because he was just out of practice for that kind of campaigning and that kind of debate stage. I think this is more of a fear with Biden, given some of the age issues that they don’t want to activate in the voters’ minds.

JON FAVREAU: I think he’s got to be out there quite a bit, actually. I don’t know that a sort of Rose Garden strategy — and I’m not saying that this is what they want to do. But I don’t know that a Rose Garden strategy necessarily works because that vacuum gets filled with everything that Republican candidates are saying every single day on the trail. And they’re getting media attention for it. And they’re saying it at debates all the time.

EZRA KLEIN: The other thing is Joe Biden is actually president, and he doesn’t have a Democratic Congress anymore. But he does have that office and the ability — I mean, there’s a reason incumbents tend to get re-elected. And it’s not just fundraising. It’s that they can actually do things. And the things they do can shape the stories they can tell and what they can bring to voters. So what should they actually substantively do? I mean, they have the problem of legislation has to go through McCarthy. But if you were in there, what would you be trying to achieve?

JON FAVREAU: I mean, I think it’s tough for this next year, right? They’ve almost exhausted every executive action that I think they think is possible, legally possible, already. I don’t think there’s any chance for additional legislation at this point. And so what does that leave them? Well, all the legislation they’ve passed, whether it’s the Inflation Reduction Act or the CHIPS Act or the infrastructure bill. Sure, there are plenty of projects that are starting that he can go to ribbon cuttings and all that. And I think that they will — they have been doing that, and they’ll continue to do that.

EZRA KLEIN: And then always, a final question. What are three books you’d recommend to the audience?

JON FAVREAU: Oh, three books? Well, on another podcast I do that you’ve been on called “Offline,” we have been doing a challenge where we are trying to help our screen time, reduce our screen addiction. And so I just finished Katherine Price’s, “How to Break Up With Your Phone,” which has been fantastic and very helpful. What else am I reading?

EZRA KLEIN: I’m embarrassed, because as you were saying that, I actually glanced at my phone. I want to admit this in full view of the audience and god.

JON FAVREAU: I’m telling you, I’m — all of those kinds of books now I’m reading. All the —

EZRA KLEIN: It was barely conscious, too. It just sort of happened.

JON FAVREAU: It is. As I’m breaking it with my phone, I’ve reacquainted myself with my Kindle, because I famously do not read that much, because I’m on Twitter all the time. And I’m finally reading “A Visit From the Goon Squad,” by Jennifer Egan, which is fantastic.

EZRA KLEIN: Jon Favreau, thank you very much.

JON FAVREAU: Thanks, Ezra. This was fun.

EZRA KLEIN: This episode was produced by Rollin Hu. Fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair. Mixing by Jeff Geld and Isaac Jones. The show’s production team includes Emefa Agawu, Annie Galvin, Rogé Karma and Kristin Lin. Original music by Isaac Jones. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta. The executive producer of New York Times Opinion Audio is Annie-Rose Strasser. And special thanks to Sonia Herrero and Kristina Samulewski.

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Ex-obama speechwriter jon favreau wants to put anxious hillary “bedwetters” at ease.

With ex-Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy Vietor, Favreau hosts the popular 'Keepin' It 1600' podcast and says liberals shouldn't worry: "The race, to us, has been remarkably stable when you look at the fundamentals, which most of the horse-race coverage doesn't do."

By Matthew Belloni

Matthew Belloni

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Spirit awards disrupted by small but loud israel-hamas war protest outside tent, trump wins south carolina, beating haley in her home state, further closing in on gop nomination.

Hillary can’t lose this thing, can she? Not a chance, insists Jon  Favreau . No, not  that  Jon  Favreau . This one’s the  wunderkind  President Obama  speechwriter  who since May has reinvented himself with the season’s hottest political podcast,  Keepin ‘ It 1600 , which he tapes twice a week with fellow ex-Obama staffers Jon Lovett, Dan Pfeiffer and Tommy  Vietor . “If Election Day were today, there’s no way [Donald Trump] wins,” says  Favreau  over lunch Oct. 25 at South Beverly Grill in Beverly Hills. Of course, that was before the FBI revisited Clinton’s emails, but he follows up a few days later to say he firmly stands by his prediction: “Trump is not going to win.”

In many ways,  Favreau  and his podcast pals have become Nate Silvers of this wild campaign, calmly (and often hilariously) picking apart polls, media spin and Trump’s missteps, giving what they call liberal “ bedwetters ” a chance to calm down. “The race, to us, has been remarkably stable when you look at the fundamentals, which most of the horse-race coverage doesn’t do,” says  Favreau , who escaped D.C. for L.A. in 2013 to write for film and TV while helping tech companies and nonprofits hone public speeches via his and  Vietor’s  Fenway Strategies (both are from Boston). “People’s opinions of Trump have been pretty set. Hillary’s favorable [ratings] have moved more than anything else. They’ve gone down, they’ve gone up, and I think the debates did more for her  favorability  ratings than anything else in the campaign because she came off as presidential.” 

Favreau , 35, lives in West Hollywood with  fiancee  Emily Black, a Sunshine Sachs publicist, on the same street as his brother Andy, an actor (NBC’s  Aquarius ), and Lovett, who created NBC’s short-lived  1600 Penn .  Favreau  and friends were pitching a young-skewing political TV show when fellow Holy Cross alum Bill Simmons suggested a podcast on Simmons’  The Ringer  digital hub. Amid the election frenzy, it’s now generating at least 300,000 listens an episode, appears in the iTunes top 50 podcast list and lures top guests in political media like NBC’s Savannah Guthrie and Katy  Tur  (who jumped off the phone as the Billy Bush scandal was breaking) and GOP strategist Mike Murphy.  Favreau  hasn’t asked Obama to appear — yet.

An Oct. 27 live taping of the show at LA’s Silent Movie Theater sold out in 35 minutes at $30 a seat. Of course, interest in politics is about to wane considerable after Nov. 8: “That’s the big question: figuring out what’s next,”  Favreau  says. “But I’d like to keep doing it for as long as people want to listen.” A TV version could be possible — but probably not on Fox News. “I don’t know what’s going to happen at Fox,” he says. “With [Roger]  Ailes  gone, you’ve got  Megyn  Kelly and Bret  Baier  and Chris Wallace trying to be legitimate news people, and they’re going to be sick of [Trump] pretty fast. But the  Hannitys  and  Fox and Friends  and those morons, that’s their bread and butter.”

And if — or, in  Favreau’s  view,  when  — Trump loses Nov. 8, will he concede to Clinton? “That’s a good question,” he says. “I don’t think he gives a concession [speech] that night. He probably waits until the next day — depending on the margin, I think there are a couple people around him that will tell him various conspiracies.”  

A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe .

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President Obama's speechwriter has Maxim Model girlfriend

Jon Favreau Obama's Speechwriter Girlfriend, Alejandra Campoverdi, is a White House deputy chief of staff assistant and also a Maxim Model is working with him at the White House.

According to reports, Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's 27-year-old single speechwriter, now has a girlfriend. Who has been single for some time, and has admitted that he used to have trouble convincing women that he had such an important job with President Obama.

His new girlfriend is believed to be Alejandra Campoverdi, a Hispanic American graduate of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government who has appeared in her underwear in the men's magazine Maxim and a former actress.

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Jon Favreau, President Obama’s head speechwriter, is departing

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WASHINGTON — Jon Favreau’s career took off when, at age 23, he interrupted U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama during a speech rehearsal to offer some suggestions for improvement.

That cheeky move led to a seven-year tour as Obama’s lead speechwriter, an assignment that ends March 1 as Favreau considers trying his hand at another form of drama — as a screenwriter, perhaps in Los Angeles.

The departure subtracts a vivid personality from the president’s operation, defined since the beginning by Obama’s spoken words and the team that wrote them.

After Favreau landed in the White House four years ago, he became the most recognizable in a coterie of young staffers. Sporting aviator sunglasses and a buzz cut, he occasionally lit up social media with his antics.

PHOTOS: President Obama’s past

People magazine named him one of the world’s most beautiful people. He went out with actress Rashida Jones, best known for her role in “The Office.” One night, as he and some friends played a shirtless game of beer pong in Georgetown, someone snapped a photo that ended up on the blog FamousDC, with the headline: “White House Gone Wild.”

But about the writing, Favreau was always serious, telling peers it was a solemn responsibility to remain in sync with the president’s thinking.

“When they’re working together, it’s like watching two musicians riff,” said David Axelrod, Obama’s longtime advisor. “Jon’s stamp is on all of the great speeches, from 2005 until now.”

Favreau will turn over his seat to Cody Keenan, a Chicago native who is taking the lead on writing the State of the Union address. Keenan is an original member of the team of twentysomethings that Favreau assembled for a tough assignment: writing for a writer with exacting standards.

Favreau declined Monday to discuss his departure.

PHOTOS: Armed presidents

In a statement, Obama said, “He has become a friend and a collaborator on virtually every major speech I’ve given in the Senate, on the campaign trail and in the White House.”

They didn’t start off as collaborators. Obama was an Illinois state senator running for the U.S. Senate when they met in 2004. He was preparing to deliver the Democratic National Convention speech that would launch his national career. Favreau was working as a junior speechwriter for the party’s presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who is from Favreau’s home state.

Kerry’s staff had spotted an overlap between Obama’s speech and the one their boss planned to deliver, and they sent Favreau to tell Obama to trim his text.

“It was an unbelievably cruel thing to do, to send the 23-year-old in to do that job,” Axelrod joked.

After Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate, he hired Favreau. Favreau then moved to Obama’s 2008 campaign and into the White House, where he earned a reputation as someone who could write speeches and parry with senior officials and Cabinet secretaries who wanted to put their fingerprints on the work.

If there were any doubts about him, Favreau quickly dispelled them when he wrote the first inaugural address and the president’s healthcare speech to Congress, said David Plouffe, a longtime Obama advisor.

PHOTOS: President Obama’s second inauguration

“Jon wasn’t going to come in with a draft that was not Barack Obama-like,” Plouffe said. “The president never has to worry that he’s going to get something and have to say, ‘This isn’t my voice.’”

Keenan is known for his handling of heartbreak and sadness. He was the lead writer on Obama’s speech at the Tucson memorial after the shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Favreau plans to stay in Washington for a while, but he has often told friends that he wants to pursue screenwriting, as did former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, the co-creator of the new comedy “1600 Penn.”

His time in the White House should serve Favreau well, Plouffe said.

“He can write comedy, history, drama, suspense,” he said. “He’s got the whole range.”

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Farewell to Jon Favreau, Obama’s ‘mind reader’

It’s the end of an era. Jon Favreau, President Obama’s chief speechwriter, will be leaving his post come March, the Los Angeles Times reports and the Washington Post confirms, via a senior White House official.

Though it was reported that Obama once declared , “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” the president has clearly got a soft spot for Favreau–as well as a strong professional partnership. Obama has often described Favreau, or “Favs” as he is known in the White House, as a “ mind-reader ,” able to transform the president’s thoughts into a clear, compelling narrative, while also channeling the voice and rhetorical style of the president himself. For the last seven years—since reportedly interrupting then-Senator Barack Obama’s speech rehearsal to offer suggestions—Favreau has made his mark on virtually every speech given by the 44th president.

At 31-years-old, with a buzz cut and a pair of aviators, Favreau doesn’t exactly fit the mold of traditional presidential speechwriter. He and his writing team would regularly withdraw into coffee shops to pound out speeches in the same way a college student might hunker down to cram for an exam away from the distractions of a dorm room. For the most part, Favreau’s youthfulness exemplified the connection between Obama and America’s younger generation. But sometimes that same youth and relative inexperience on the world stage caused trouble. Shortly after Obama was elected to his first term, for example, a photograph surfaced of the newly-designated chief-speechwriter groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton, Obama’s former rival and pick for secretary of state. Two years later, Favreau was spotted shirtless (alongside White House spokesman Tommy Vietor) playing a game of beer pong in Georgetown.

But when it came to writing, Favreau took his job very seriously. In a statement, Obama said of Favreau, “He has become a friend and a collaborator on virtually every major speech I’ve given in the Senate, on the campaign trail, and in the White House.”

According to the Los Angeles Times report, Favreau plans to stay in Washington D.C. for a while, but rumor has it that he may try his hand at screenwriting, a move that would land him in good company. Former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett recently made the jump to screenwriting and is now the co-creator of 1600 Penn . And Last Word’s own Lawrence O’Donnell also blurred the line between Washington and Hollywood as both an aide to Fmr. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and as a writer on the hit series The West Wing.

Too bad Hollywood already has one Jon Favreau. Maybe this outgoing speechwriter should consider hanging onto his White House nickname—Favs.

Here’s a look at our top five Favs-written moments in chronological order:

1. The “Yes We Can” slogan

“For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we’ve been told we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people:  yes we can.”

2. First Inaugural Address–January 20, 2009

“Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America:  they will be met.”

3. Address to Congress on Health Insurance Reform–September 9, 2009

“Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.”

4.  2011 State of the Union Address–January 25, 2011

“We are part of the American family.  We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.

5.  Second Inaugural Address–January 21, 2013

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

Read Jon Favreau’s Full Commencement Address to College of the Holy Cross

Eleven years after delivering the valedictory address as a graduating senior, Obama’s former speechwriter returned to his alma mater to speak to the Class of 2014. Read the full speech.

Jon Favreau

Jon Favreau

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College of the Holy Cross/Facebook

President Boroughs, Members of the Board of Trustees, honored guests, faculty, family, friends, and the Class of 2014:

jon favreau speechwriter dating

I’m so grateful and honored for the chance to share this day with you. Jeff, you gave an outstanding valedictory address. And unlike the speech I delivered in 2003, you managed to finish without describing people who solve problems as “Boo-Boo Fixers.” Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that follows you around for life. Really, my friends made T-shirts.

Since then, I’ve marginally improved my use of metaphor and spent the last decade working as a speechwriter , which means that not a spring has passed where I haven’t helped with somebody else’s commencement address. I say this less as a point of pride than a friendly warning: I have now trafficked in every cliché and life lesson known to man. I am like a human search engine of sentimental quotes and anecdotes. And if there are times today when I sound a bit too much like a middle-aged black man from Chicago, all I can say is that old habits die hard.

Of course, this commencement is very different for me—and very special. Eleven years later, I still have vivid memories of what it felt like to sit where you are right now. I especially recall the feeling I had after this ceremony was over, when my roommates and I took a long, rainy walk down Southbridge Street to the three-story tenement we called home. Actually, we called it the Crackhouse, a name we convinced our parents came from a large crack in the foundation. Honestly, the house didn’t even have a foundation. It barely had walls.

For the rest of that afternoon, as the 12 of us packed up our rooms for the last time, we barely spoke—and that’s because none of us had answers to the questions on everyone’s mind: What now? Where do we go from here? How are we supposed to figure out what to do with our lives? And how will anything top the experience we just had together?

Now, some of you might be sitting here today with a very detailed plan and no anxiety whatsoever. I want you to know that I find you annoying but wish you the best of luck. For the rest of you, I come bearing three quick pieces of advice—advice I offer as someone who has safely and happily made it to the other side of 30 with everything I could’ve hoped for except the grandchildren my mother keeps asking for. I can actually see her nodding her head from here.

My first piece of advice is about your career. A mentor of mine once told me there are two kinds of people: people who want to be something, and people who want to do something. For a long time, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t love studying law, and it wasn’t really my strong suit, but lawyers seemed important, impressive, and successful—three things I also wanted to be.

Law school was my plan until about 12 hours before Holy Cross graduation, when I received an offer to be the press office assistant on John Kerry’s presidential campaign for a salary of $20,000 a year. Now, I didn’t really want to be anyone’s assistant, nor did I want to be someone who made $20,000 a year. But the job involved writing, and writing was something I loved to do. It also involved campaigning, which was something I wanted to do. So two weeks later, I moved into a dingy basement apartment on Capitol Hill in a city where I had only one friend. It was the best decision of my life.

Plenty of considerations go into choosing a job, and sometimes the most important is simply the fact that you receive an offer and a salary that will pay off your loans. But the chase to be something—to be rich, famous, powerful, praised—that is a race without a finish line, because there will always be more money to make, or a fancier title to pursue, or a higher accolade to achieve. In my experience, you are far more likely to find lasting fulfillment if these fleeting pleasures are the byproduct of a decision to do something—something that interests you; something you’re good at; something your gut is just begging you to try.

Now, this advice comes with an important disclaimer: Just because a career is fulfilling doesn’t mean it will always be fun. I may never again be blessed with a job that brings me as much satisfaction as the one I had writing speeches for President Obama. I may also never have a job that I complain about as much. And long before I was hanging around the Oval Office, I was taking lunch orders in a press office, changing the batteries in people’s BlackBerrys, and compiling news clippings at 4 a.m. Once, as part of a campaign stunt to protest “Republican trash attacks,” I had to walk out from behind a Dumpster wearing a giant garbage bag, which made for an enjoyable segment on the news that night. Don’t bother trying to find the footage—my friends have been looking for years.

The point is, don’t let this fancy new degree fool you into thinking you’re somehow above the very menial and tedious work that the most rewarding careers often require—especially when you first start out. Older people who think they know better have labeled this generation entitled. Do us all a favor and prove them wrong.

My second piece of advice is about the people in your life. One of the most beautiful stories you’ll ever read is the interview the Telegram & Gazette did with Celtics legend and fellow Crusader Bob Cousy , shortly after his wife of 63 years passed away. Looking back on his younger, busier days, The Cooz said: “I thought putting a ball in a hole was important…I was always working. So Missie and I had the best and most romantic part of our marriage at the end. We literally held hands for the last 20 years.”

After a decade on the campaign trail and in the White House, the biggest regrets I have aren’t professional. I don’t stay up at night thinking about the bad speech reviews, or the time I put an awful joke about spilled milk in the State of the Union . What I regret is missing my buddy’s wedding right before the election. What I regret is not getting on the first plane out of D.C. the time my dad was really sick. I regret when I forgot to call home or catch up with an old friend. And while I’m pretty happy about today’s honor, I’m even happier it gave so many people I love and miss an excuse to get together again.

In a world on permanent hyperdrive, the pressure to succeed in your career will come from everywhere. The pressure to succeed in your friendships and relationships has to come from you. YOU have to return the calls and the emails and schedule the visits. YOU have to put away the distractions and be present in the lives of the people you love. And the older you get, the more you realize that this is the best, most important work you’ll ever do.

My final piece of advice is about the world you’re going to change. A few weeks ago, I was proud to see the NBC Nightly News profile the students who’ve taken part in Working for Worcester, a project that has helped rebuild lives and neighborhoods throughout this city. I was also reminded how painfully rare it is to come across a news story about the selfless devotion that quietly motivates so many people in so many places around the globe.

Never forget that such devotion exists. Never lose the palpable faith in human progress that is the greatest gift of a Jesuit education from Holy Cross. I understand that cynicism can seem like a logical response to the daily flood of headlines about problems that can’t be solved and people who behave badly—the celebrities and CEOs and politicians of both parties who are supposedly driven only by ego and greed and personal gain. It is hardly original to point out that trust in major institutions has declined, as more of their mistakes and deficiencies are revealed and reported and endlessly analyzed. But here’s the truth: So long as institutions like government, media, business, and faith are created by human beings, with all our faults and imperfections, they will frustrate us. They will disappoint us. They will let us down.

Cynicism is one response to this reality. If you want, you can approach the world with constant distrust and suspicion. You can be a critic who just throws rocks from the sidelines, which requires very little effort or creativity. Or you can disengage from the public debate altogether, leaving the big decisions about your future and your children’s future to somebody else.

But remember: Cynicism isn’t the only response to humanity’s inadequacies and limitations. Cynicism is a choice. It is just as much of a choice as service to others or faith in God. It is just as much of a choice as love—love that bears all things, believes all things, endures all things, hopes all things.

My wish today is that you choose to hope—hard and risky as it may be. My wish is that you choose to give others the same presumption of good faith that you want to be given. My wish is that despite all the sound and logical reasons not to, you choose to try.

The world beyond these gates is marked by too much suffering and need; it is challenged by too much inequality, and violence, and degradation. But it is also a world where fewer people are dying young, and more people are living longer. It is a world with less hunger, less poverty, and less deadly disease than at any time in history. It is a world with fewer nations at war and more democracies protecting more people’s basic human rights. It is a world where there are more girls in school, more adults who can read, more Americans graduating from high school, and yes, more of our citizens with health care.

All of these trends are real, and none are the result of vague forces or happy accidents. People made this progress. People chose to make this progress—many people, working many years. People in governments and nonprofits. People with great power and wealth, and people with very little of either. People who, despite all of their flaws and failings and shortcomings, decided to press forward with determination and honest effort, believing that there must be an upward trajectory to our divine and humble journey.

Life is a wonderful struggle. And the downside of getting advice from a 32-year-old is that I haven’t come close to figuring it out. There are days when I feel like I’m still standing in the Crackhouse, surrounded by boxes. I still wonder if I’m focused on what I want to do instead of what I want to be. I still wonder if I’m making enough time for the people I love. And every time I turn on the news, I fight the urge to be cynical. But in those moments, I often think about one of the most inspiring things I’ve experienced since leaving these gates.

It was the night of the 2008 election, but it wasn’t the moment they called the race for Barack Obama. It was earlier, as I was making edits to that night’s speech . The draft ended with a story we found about a woman from Atlanta named Ann Nixon Cooper, who had waited in line for three hours that day just her to cast ballot. And what made the story so special was the fact that Ann Nixon Cooper was 106 years old, born at a time when she wasn’t allowed to vote for two reasons—because she was a woman and because she was African-American.

As the election results started looking good, my friend pointed out that we should probably call Ann Nixon Cooper and let her know that she’s about to get a bit of a shout-out. So we find her number, and I tell this frail, lovely woman that a man who’s about to become the first black president of the United States wants to mention her in his victory speech.

There was a pause on the line, and I began to think about all that Ms. Cooper endured through a century marked by war and depression; brutal prejudice and discrimination; a century where she patiently pressed on as a tutor and a church volunteer and a civil rights activist; as a wife, and a mother, and a grandmother; a century where she somehow lived to see progress she must have only dreamed about as a child: women’s rights and voting rights and civil rights for all.

And just then Ann Nixon Cooper interrupted my thoughts with an important question about that night’s speech: “Will it be on television?” I told her yes, it would be on television. So she thought about that, paused for a while longer, and asked, “Which channel will it be on?” And I said “All the channels!” Then she said, “I’m so proud. I’m so happy. Finally.” And at that point, she started to cry. And I did, too. And right at that moment, they called Ohio, the race was over, everyone started cheering, and I hid under my desk so I could talk to Ann Nixon Cooper for a few more minutes.

Life is a wonderful struggle. And we are all very lucky that this special place on a hill has prepared us to live it well—with grace, love, patience, and above all, hope.

Congratulations to the Class of 2014, and may you be blessed with all the happiness and success the world has to offer.

Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast  here .

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The Hill

Jon Favreau says Democrats ‘just don’t know’ if nominating Biden better than lesser-known candidate

F ormer Obama administration speechwriter Jon Favreau said Saturday that Democrats will likely never know whether keeping President Biden on the top of the ticket is the wisest decision, but he warned of the “huge risk to democracy” that could ensue if Biden decided to step aside.

In a series of posts on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, Favreau responded to a piece from The New York Times columnist and podcaster Ezra Klein, who argued Democrats should convince the president not to run again and then pick a new candidate at the party convention in August — a practice, Klein noted, that used to be far more common in presidential elections.

Klein offered several up-and-coming stars in the Democratic party whom delegates could select at the convention: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Sen. Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Rep. Ro Khanna (Calif.), Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

“The list goes on,” Klein added.

Favreau urged Democrats to read the piece, but he expressed skepticism about the main argument.

“The challenge is, we just don’t know — and will likely never know — if nominating Biden is riskier than letting Democratic activists and insiders pick a lesser-known and potentially weaker general election candidate at the convention with three months to go,” Favreau wrote on X.

Favreau noted Democrats “have some real stars who’ve won races in the toughest states,” but he added that “it’s not at all clear that they’d a) be the choice of the delegates, or b) end up stronger than Biden against Trump,” pointing to some limited polling that shows Biden outperforming other Democratic candidates in a head-to-head match-up against former President Trump.

“So even if you think Biden’s decision to stay in the race is driven by ego or short-sightedness, a last-minute (and highly unlikely) decision to step aside would also represent a huge risk to democracy — which also has to be weighing on his mind. Would it be as risky as the campaign we’re most likely about to face? Again, it’s just too hard to know for sure.”

Ultimately, however, Favreau agreed with Klein about the importance of Biden recognizing voters’ concerns, rather than simply pointing to Trump’s similar fallibility or dismissing the concerns as a media construct.

“What Biden can do is take concerns about his age seriously, acknowledge that fears about his performance aren’t media creations or Democratic bedwetting, and focus single-mindedly on crisp, strong, energetic appearances, which we’ve seen he’s absolutely capable of (2023 [State of the Union], Jan 6th speeches, etc.),” Favreau said.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.

Jon Favreau says Democrats ‘just don’t know’ if nominating Biden better than lesser-known candidate

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Ronan Farrow Says He and His Fiancé Jon Lovett Are Too 'Swamped with Work' to Plan Their Wedding

Ronan Farrow proposed to his fiancé Jon Lovett while writing the draft to his book Catch and Kill

jon favreau speechwriter dating

Ronan Farrow is recently engaged but don’t expect him to focus too much on wedding planning.

The 31-year-old journalist and author tells PEOPLE he and fiancé Jon Lovett are both “swamped with work” and haven’t found the time to commit to any plans as of yet.

“[We] have not done one iota of planning,” says Farrow, whose new podcast The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow is now available on Radio.com . “The conversation so far has been only to assess whether it’s even possible to plan something for next year, given Jon’s anticipated level of business with the election cycle.”

Lovett worked as a speechwriter for President Barack Obama . After the 2016 election, he co-founded his own company Crooked Media, alongside speechwriter Jon Favreau and former Obama staffer Tommy Vietor. Under the company, he launched his podcast Pod Save America .

Farrow says while the two are focused on other things — he’s been busy promoting his podcast and book Catch and Kill — the couple will plan things out in due time.

“We will get there,” he says. “We’ve committed to it publicly now.”

Lovett and Farrow have been dating since 2011. Farrow proposed to Lovett after sneaking in his proposal in an early draft of Catch and Kill , which he wrote about.

“Later, when I decided some of that reporting would make its way into a book, I’d send him a draft, and put in a question, right on this page: ‘Marriage?'” Farrow wrote in the book. “On the moon or even here on Earth. He read the draft, found the proposal here, and said, ‘Sure.'”

While the couple keeps their relationship away from the spotlight, Farrow shared a photo of the two on Instagram in August after he wished Lovett a happy birthday.

“Happy birthday to straight shooter respected on all sides @jonlovett. He’s okay, I guess!” Farrow wrote in the caption.

In October, Lovett shared a link to Catch and Kill , tweeting, “I’m so proud of @RonanFarrow and I hope you pre-order Catch and Kill.”

In The Catch and Kill Podcast , Farrow furthers his Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting about the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein.

“In the podcast, you get to hear from these sources, including brave women who put a lot on the line and dealt with the feeding frenzy that ensued, about what that’s like,” he says of the audio series, which launched on Tuesday. “One of the goals of this project was not just that it’s in some ways a wild ride, and to live through these experiences and hear about them in the voices of these sources, but also to learn a little from what they’ve gone through.”

He adds: “I think we’ve accomplished that in these episodes … these men and women that I’m talking to really bring a lot of insights to the table and kind of transport you into what it’s like to be at the heart of a story like this.”

The first episode of The Catch and Kill Podcast with Ronan Farrow is now available on Radio.com .

IMAGES

  1. Rashida Jones and Jon Favreau (Speechwriter)

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  2. Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating!

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  3. Jon Favreau

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  4. Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating!: Photo 2052651

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  5. Joya Tillem: the untold story of Jon Favreau's wife you need to know

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  6. Jon Favreau’s Wife Joya Tillem , Net Worth, and Children.

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VIDEO

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COMMENTS

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  2. Jon Favreau (speechwriter)

    Obama campaign President Barack Obama meets with Favreau, in the Oval Office to review a speech on April 14, 2009. Obama works with Favreau on the President's Normandy speech aboard Air Force One en route to Paris on June 5, 2009. Obama talks with Favreau, David Plouffe, and Jon Lovett on February 6, 2011.

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    Jon Favreau has been in a relationship with Rashida Jones (2009 - 2010). About Jon Favreau is a 42 year old American Writer born on 2nd June, 1981 in Winchester, Massachusetts, USA. His zodiac sign is Gemini Jon Favreau is a member of the following lists: Massachusetts Democrats, 1981 births and People from Middlesex County, Massachusetts.

  5. Jon Favreau and Ali Campoverdi: is it romance?

    The fruits of public office have indeed been plentiful for Jon Favreau ( right ), Barack Obama's 27-year-old chief speechwriter. In addition to his plum job, the US gossip website Gawker...

  6. Obama's Former Speech Writer Shares the Secrets to Giving the ...

    Jon Favreau was one of the architects of this kind of progressive, positive rhetoric. At the age of 26, he became the chief speechwriter for Obama's 2008 campaign and was brought on as an ...

  7. What Would Obama Say?

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  8. Obama Speechwriter Dating White House's Maxim Babe

    01/25/09 05:45PM Filed to: Obama hotties Sorry, ladies: We're told Jon Favreau, Barack Obama's 27-year-old single speechwriter, now has a girlfriend. With ample clearance. Favreau used to...

  9. Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating!

    Rashida Jones & Jon Favreau: Dating! Parks & Recreation star Rashida Jones and her current beau, President Obama's speechwriter Jon Favreau, were spotted in the lobby of the Charleston, Jon's…

  10. Jon Favreau: The voice behind a generational voice

    Gate: What were you first interactions with Obama like? Favreau: I first met President Obama when I was backstage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. My job was to make sure that all of the speeches that were being delivered at the convention were on message with the Kerry campaign.

  11. Jon Favreau Speaking Engagements, Schedule, & Fee

    Jon Favreau'S SPEAKING FEE Under $25,000 Social Web Jon Favreau Presidents' words can move people, persuade a country and define their place in history. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, "Speech is power."

  12. Departing Obama Speechwriter: 'I Leave This Job Actually More ...

    Charles Dharapak/AP Favreau says his next stop after the White House is starting a communications consulting firm; he plans to write a screenplay based on his experiences. "We'll see how long it...

  13. Jon Favreau on His Breakthrough Moment -- New York Magazine

    Jon Favreau, Speechwriter "For the first time, Obama sees it and he's like, 'I actually don't have that many edits'." Published Jan 12, 2016 Favreau working on a speech with President...

  14. Former Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau '03 Talks about Politics and Life

    1 Minute Issues and Ideas Academics In a recent article by the New York Times, Jon Favreau '03, former director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama and co-founder of Fenway Strategies, talked speechwriting, politics and life after Washington, D.C.

  15. Jon Favreau

    Jonathan Kolia Favreau was born in Flushing, Queens, New York, on October 19, 1966, [1] the only child of Madeleine, an elementary school teacher who died of leukemia in 1979, and Charles Favreau, a special education teacher. [2] His mother was Jewish, of Russian descent, [3] [4] [5] and his father is a Catholic of Italian and French-Canadian ...

  16. Transcript: Ezra Klein Interviews Jon Favreau

    Obama's former speechwriter Jon Favreau talks age, approval ratings and other obstacles the president will face in 2024. transcript. Back to The Ezra Klein Show. 0:00/1:05:11

  17. Ex-Obama Speechwriter Jon Favreau Wants to Put Anxious Hillary

    Favreau, 35, lives in West Hollywood with fiancee Emily Black, a Sunshine Sachs publicist, on the same street as his brother Andy, an actor (NBC's Aquarius), and Lovett, who created NBC's ...

  18. President Obama's speechwriter has Maxim Model girlfriend

    Jon Favreau Obama's Speechwriter Girlfriend, Alejandra Campoverdi, is a White House deputy chief of staff assistant and also a Maxim Model is working with him at the White House. According...

  19. Jon Favreau, President Obama's head speechwriter, is departing

    Favreau plans to stay in Washington for a while, but he has often told friends that he wants to pursue screenwriting, as did former Obama speechwriter Jon Lovett, the co-creator of the new comedy ...

  20. Farewell to Jon Favreau, Obama's 'mind reader'

    Jon Favreau (aka Favs,) President Obama's chief speechwriter, will be leaving his post come March. Take a look at our top five Favs-written moments. IE 11 is not supported.

  21. Read Jon Favreau's Full Commencement Address to College of the Holy Cross

    Eleven years after delivering the valedictory address as a graduating senior, Obama's former speechwriter returned to his alma mater to speak to the Class of 2014. Read the full speech. Jon Favreau

  22. Jon Favreau says Democrats 'just don't know' if nominating ...

    Former Obama administration speechwriter Jon Favreau said Saturday that Democrats will likely never know whether keeping President Biden on the top of the ticket is the wisest decision, but he ...

  23. Ronan Farrow Says He and His Fiancé Jon Lovett Are Too 'Swamped with

    Published on November 26, 2019 02:54PM EST Ronan Farrow is recently engaged but don't expect him to focus too much on wedding planning. The 31-year-old journalist and author tells PEOPLE he and...