The Political Report – February 4, 2023

Donald Trump is not pleased with all of his so-called friends considering 2024 runs, Semafor reports. For a former president obsessed with rooting out “disloyalty,” however, it’s hard for him to focus on anything else. The irony, of course, is that more former cabinet members running very likely helps him by splitting the opposition.

David Byler: “None of this data proves that the Republican elite are wrong. Normal Republican candidates might, again, splinter the vote and allow Trump to win the nomination with a plurality of the primary votes.”

“But there are so many other possibilities. And there are numerous differences between 2016 and 2024. Trump is running a different kind of race. His competitors have learned from him — and are stronger for it. And, at least at this early point, GOP voters aren’t processing this election the same way.”

“Until top Republicans can see that, they’ll keep expecting 2016 to repeat itself — unable to see that they might be heading into a new kind of war.”

Donald Trump claimed Ron DeSantis begged him for his endorsement when he first ran for governor in 2018.

Said Trump: “He had nothing! He was dead, he was leaving the race, he came over and he begged me, begged me, for an endorsement. He was getting ready to drop out.”

He elaborated: “There were tears coming down from his eyes. He said ‘if you endorse me, I’ll win.’ So I end up doing it, and he wins. They say it was like a bomb went off. Just a bomb totally went off. From the moment I endorsed him, he went from losing by numbers that were not catchable to winning easily.”

Donald Trump posted a video of a younger Ron Desantis (R) saying he wants to be just like former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).

New York Daily News: “In a sign the two Republican rivals could be headed for open political warfare, DeSantis dismissed Trump’s attacks as no different from any other political potshots and said Florida voters gave him a decisive thumbs up on his handling of the pandemic.”

Karl Rove: “Mr. Trump could still be the Republican nominee. He’s a known quantity. His committed following is larger than any prospective GOP rival’s. He’s been underestimated before by many—including by me on numerous occasions. He has time to up his game. But will he?”

“There’s also a downside for each of Mr. Trump’s strengths. He’s well-known, sure, but also overexposed. His shtick is old, his speeches boring. More and more Republicans want to turn the page: Only 31% in the Dec. 11 USA Today/Suffolk University poll wanted him to run again.”

Nate Cohn: “In national surveys since last November’s midterm election, different pollsters have shown him with anywhere between 25 percent and 55 percent of the vote in a multicandidate field. That’s right: a mere 30-point gap.”

“Whether Mr. Trump is at 25 percent or 55 percent is no small matter. Believe it or not, early polling is fairly predictive of the eventual outcome in presidential primaries. It also has real-world consequences. It affects the decision-making of potential candidates, operatives and activists, many of whom have adopted a wait-and-see approach in part because there are so many conflicting signs of Mr. Trump’s strength.”

“And the existence of such a wide split betrays that the survey research industry may be in far worse shape than one might have otherwise guessed. While the exact reason for the vast spread in survey results is hard to ascertain, the likeliest explanation is that many well-known pollsters are collecting profoundly unrepresentative data.”

Associated Press: “No fewer than a half dozen Republicans eyeing the White House have begun actively courting top political operatives in states like New Hampshire and Iowa, which traditionally host the opening presidential primary contests. At the same time, former President Donald Trump, the only announced candidate in the race, is launching regular attacks against DeSantis — and others — while locking down key staff and endorsements in early voting South Carolina.”

“For now, DeSantis is plowing forward with a fiery “anti-woke” agenda in the legislature before a presidential announcement in late spring or early summer. His team is beginning to hold informal conversations with a handful of prospective campaign staff in key states, according to those involved in the discussions. But compared with would-be rivals, the Florida governor, famous for crafting his own political strategy, appears to be stepping into the 2024 presidential primary season much more deliberately.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is mulling a run for president, but he told CNN he would support Donald Trump if the former president wins the 2024 Republican nomination.

Sununu also walked back his previous comment that Trump is “fucking crazy,” dismissing it as just a “funny joke.”

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) walked back his comments that he would back Donald Trump if he won the Republican nomination, insisting that his position hadn’t changed: “I won’t commit to supporting him… I fully expect to support the Republican nominee — who I don’t believe will be Trump.”

Donald Trump told Hugh Hewitt that he wouldn’t commit to supporting the 2024 Republican nominee for president should he fail to win.  Said Trump: “It would have to depend on who the nominee was.”

Nate Silver: “Let’s get this out of the way up front: There was a wide gap between the perception of how well polls and data-driven forecasts did in 2022 and the reality of how they did … and the reality is that they did pretty well.”

“While some polling firms badly missed the mark, in the aggregate the polls had one of their most accurate cycles in recent history. As a result, FiveThirtyEight’s forecasts had a pretty good year, too. Media proclamations of a ‘red wave’ occurred largely despite polls that showed a close race for the U.S. Senate and a close generic congressional ballot. It was the pundits who made the red wave narrative, not the data.”

Geoffrey Skelley: “Trump’s comeback campaign is unprecedented since the contemporary nomination system took shape in the 1970s. Yet in the broader history of presidential elections, his comeback effort is unusual — but not unheard of. Former presidents like Martin Van Buren, Ulysses Grant, Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt each mounted serious post-presidency campaigns to return to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue between 1844 and 1912. In fact, five former presidents have won at least some delegates at major-party national conventions, as the table below shows.”

“The American political system has changed enough, at a structural level, that Trump can’t expect to retread the paths that any of these men took. And why would he want to? Only one of them successfully made it back to the White House.”

“Still, the broad circumstances surrounding a trio of presidential comeback attempts offer three paths for Trump’s 2024 campaign. Like Grant in 1880, Trump could attract ample support for his party’s nomination but ultimately fall short after a majority of Republicans coalesce around an opponent. Alternatively, after seeking his party’s nomination, Trump could abandon the GOP and launch a third-party bid, as Roosevelt did in 1912. Or Trump could win his party’s nomination, as Cleveland did in 1892 — and maybe even reclaim the White House.”

“No, I wouldn’t do that because I want to bring our country forward. No, I wouldn’t do that. I would be entitled to a revenge tour if you want to know the truth, but I wouldn’t do that.” — Donald Trump, quoted by Rolling Stone, when asked if he would use the powers of the presidency to punish the people who punished him.   He would do that.  He does what he thinks he is entitled to. 

“A week after bitter divisions dominated a national Republican gathering, Democrats holding their own meeting are eager to showcase just how much they agree on,” the AP reports.

“There will be no party chair fight since Jaime Harrison isn’t up for reelection until 2025. There is no candidate jostling for a White House bid since President Joe Biden is expected to seek a second term. And there is no national reckoning after a surprisingly strong midterm showing.”

“The only real point of contention for the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Philadelphia this weekend is a proposed overhaul of the 2024 presidential primary calendar, which has angered top party leaders in New Hampshire. But even that is largely moot since Biden isn’t expected to face a major challenge for the nomination.”

Jonathan Martin: “That the GOP primary is developing more slowly this election, a departure from the accelerated trajectory of recent nominating contests, is by now plain to see.”

“What’s even more striking three months after the midterms, though, is just how many Republicans are planning to sit out the White House race or remain on the fence about whether to run at all.”

“For all the preemptive Republican panic about a 2016 replay, and Trump claiming the nomination again thanks to a fractured opposition, the 2024 GOP field is shaping up to be smaller than expected.”

New York Times: “Contenders have so far been unwilling to officially jump into the race, wary of becoming a sacrificial lamb on Mr. Trump’s altar of devastating nicknames and eternal fury. Republicans who hope to stop him worry that dithering by possible candidates could only strengthen Mr. Trump’s position — and could even lead to a field that is far smaller and weaker than many in the political world have anticipated.”

“When Donald Trump attacked early voting in New Hampshire Saturday, he was speaking to an audience who was excited to hear the message. Others aren’t so sure,” Bloomberg reports.

“Republican officials in the state, one of only four that don’t offer early in-person voting, applauded after Trump lamented its expansion since 2020, vowing that ‘someday’ the US would ‘be back to doing it the way it’s supposed to be: one-day voting.’”

“But everywhere else in Trump’s 2024 campaign travels, Republicans are more wary. They worry that his attacks might persuade GOP voters to avoid early in-person voting, hampering turnout in general elections, and leaving the party more vulnerable to Election Day snafus like those in Arizona and Pennsylvania last November.”

“After a shellacking that wiped them out of power in every branch of state government for the first time in 40 years, Michigan Republicans are discordantly wrestling with an uncertain future,” NBC News reports.

“The front-runners to be the next state GOP chair are failed candidates from 2022 who lost their races after hewing closely to former President Donald Trump’s election conspiracy theories. A sizable faction of Republican state lawmakers, meanwhile, is eager to move on from Trump, who is running for the White House again in 2024, and encouraging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to challenge him.”

“Another messy primary is brewing in the race for Michigan’s open Senate seat in 2024. The most likely GOP prospects represent a mix of these dueling wings of the party: the milder conservatives whose antipathy toward Trump could make it tough to win the nomination and the Trump-loyal election deniers who have shown they have limited appeal in general elections.”

Jonathan Last: “Just as an objective matter, the 2024 nomination should be Trump’s to lose. He has the standing, the elected official support, the state-level infrastructure, and the money. If he’s the same candidate he was in 2016, then he should be able to grind out a victory pretty easily.”

“The 2016 version of Trump did a lot of things well. He had fun. He had tremendous energy. And he was attentive to the care and feeding of the people he brought into his movement.”

“So far, none of those descriptions match Trump 2024. He’s not having fun. He’s lethargic. And he’s basically decided that all of the people who flocked to him in 2016 because he was good for business owe him their continued support today, whether or not there’s anything in it for them.”

Philip Bump: Trump is at risk of being what he least wants to be: Boring.

Donald Trump vowed to pass legislation that recognizes only two genders under U.S. law if he is elected president as he seeks to shore up his conservative base and outflank rival candidates on the right of the Republican Party, the Times of London reports.

Trump added that he would ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports and outlaw gender transition without parental consent.

Ron Klain, President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, predicted on Wednesday that Biden would run for re-election in 2024, in remarks as Klain prepared to step down from his role as a top White House aide, Reuters reports.

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