The Political Report – March 19, 2023

Rich Lowry: “At this juncture, no one else in the country is as likely to be president of the United States come January 2025 as Joe Biden.”

“Republicans telling themselves otherwise are engaged in self-delusion…”

“Biden is not a dead man walking; he’s an old man getting around stiffly. Biden is vulnerable, but certainly electable; diminished, but still capable of delivering a message; uninspiring, but unthreatening.”

The Daily Beast recount a plane ride where Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ate chocolate pudding with three fingers.

It’s one example of DeSantis’ troubles with basic social skills, which former staffers say “make him difficult to manage ahead of events” and threaten his ability to connect with voters.

And “his propensity to devour food during meetings” comes up a lot.

David Brooks: “So right now the G.O.P. has two leading candidates with similar views, and the same ever-present anti-woke combativeness. The race is between populist Tweedledum and populist Tweedledee.”

“The conventional wisdom is that it will stay that way — but maybe not…”

“The conclusion I draw is that the Trump-DeSantis duopoly is unstable and represents a wing of the party many people are getting sick of.”

Simon Rosenberg: “Perhaps the central insight of my 2022 election analysis was that I believed the Republicans had made a huge strategic blunder by running towards a politics – MAGA – which had just been overwhelmingly rejected by the American people in two consecutive high-turnout elections. As far back as late October 2021 I warned that if this “anti-MAGA majority” came to understand that the GOP was once again all MAGA it would make 2022 far more likely to be a close, competitive election than a red wave. And that’s basically what happened…”

“Ron DeSantis looked at all this and decided to become even more MAGA, super MAGA. He’s moved from a 15 week abortion ban to 6 weeks. He’s sold his Presidential campaign as a war against woke. He’s banning books, removing elected officials from office, mounting unprecedented assaults against undocumented immigrants and punishing businesses which don’t agree with his agenda. His response to the Silicon Valley Bank implosion was buffoonish and embarrassing. He choose Putin over America and the West. Republican Senators have been dumping on him all week.”

“What in the world he is doing? As someone who has been in this business a long time it’s not easy to understand.”

Karl Rove: “Many Republicans wonder of 2024: Will they see a repeat of 2016, when a vast field of contenders allowed Donald Trump to win a majority of delegates with a plurality of votes in early contests?”

“It could happen—if too many candidates without a realistic chance of winning stay in the race too long. And because of the complexities of the primary schedule, candidates may not have much time to decide if they should exit.”

“Ron DeSantis would seem to have everything going for him in the Republican presidential primary. There’s just one small question: Will the good vibes now result in election doom later?” Politico reports.

“As the Florida governor cast out to early nominating states in recent days, even some of his supporters could see a problem brewing for him back home. Lawmakers in his home state are advancing controversial bills on gender and diversity policy — base-pleasing issues for Republicans, but a potential liability in a general election. And on one cultural issue that did hurt Republicans in the midterm elections — abortion — DeSantis is going even further to the right, preparing to sign a bill banning the procedure after six weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for rape and incest if victims offer proof of a crime.”

Associated Press: “The first Republican presidential primaries are nearly a year away and the candidate field is unsettled. But already, a shadow contest of another sort is underway with several Republicans openly jockeying to position themselves as potential running mates to Donald Trump, the early front-runner for the nomination.”

Said Trump: “A lot of people are right now auditioning.”

“The mere mention of a running mate this early in the process is a departure from the traditional timeline of presidential primaries, where candidates typically spend the opening months of a campaign introducing themselves to voters and sharing their visions for the country. But as a former president, Trump needs no introduction and is eager to project an air of inevitability around his campaign, particularly as attention builds around Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as his toughest potential GOP rival.”

Seth Masket: “When DeSantis first ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Florida, he was neither the best-known nor the best-funded candidate. He was running as a member of Congress against Florida’s then-Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. DeSantis made the very shrewd decision at that time to run a national campaign for a state party nomination — that is, he sought to get on Fox News as much as possible.”

“By repeatedly reaching out to Fox producers and going on TV to defend Donald Trump through a series of scandals, he achieved two things: 1) He massively increased his name recognition among Florida’s Republican primary voters, the vast majority of whom regularly watch Fox News, and 2) He impressed then-President Trump, who endorsed him. DeSantis thus won the ‘Fox primary,’ helping him win the nomination.”

“This strategy from six years ago is yielding dividends today. After all, his first bid to become Florida’s governor managed to put him on Republicans’ televisions all across the country. So he has the name recognition now that other credible presidential candidates are still working to achieve.”

“Donald Trump will be holding the first rally of his 2024 campaign later this month in Waco, Texas,” the AP reports.

“The rally, announced Friday, will be held the evening of Saturday, March 25, in a Republican state where the former president has a large following, increasing the chances of a packed house.”

Josh Barro: “It’s a strange contrast to the manner in which DeSantis has governed Florida. MSNBC viewers seem mostly interested in which books his supporters want removed from elementary school libraries, how he’s treating The Walt Disney Company, and which Miami venues might lose their liquor licenses from having drag performances in spaces open to children.¹ And certainly, DeSantis has put a lot of energy into stirring up those and other culture wars.”

“But he’s also raised teacher pay, cut tolls on highways, and spent money on Everglades restoration. He has demonstrated a broad awareness that voters care about the basic operations of government and how those affect their daily lives, and he’s focused on getting them to feel satisfied with the way he’s overseeing the actual government.”

NEW ORLEANS MAYOR an LOUISIANA SECRETARY OF STATE. Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin attracted wide attention earlier this month when he took part in an unusual settlement to lower the number of signatures needed to force a recall vote against New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell, but now he has his own electoral future to worry about. Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis, a former state GOP chair who serves on the five-person body that regulates utilities, announced Wednesday that he’d take on Ardoin in this October’s all-party primary and said he would self-fund as much as he needs.

Francis, who also used to run an oil drilling firm, said last week, “It may take $1 million on television to get my message out, but I will.” He added, “Half of the people in this state don’t know who the secretary of state is and the other half don’t know who Mike Francis is yet, either.” The field already includes an underfunded Big Lie spreader, grocery store owner Brandon Trosclair. If no one wins a majority of the vote, a runoff would take place in November.

Francis said he was running in order to support local election clerks, arguing that Louisiana needs “bottom-up” leadership. Ardoin himself demonstrated a very different style of leadership just two weeks ago when he reached an agreement with the campaign to recall Cantrell that lowered the number of signatures needed to make the ballot from 50,000 to 45,000, though it still remains to be seen if organizers submitted enough petitions to reach even this lower target. (The deadline to verify petitions is March 22.)

That deal, which law professor Quinn Yeargain termed “very strange” in a recent interview with, resulted in Ardoin’s office agreeing that 25,000 New Orleanians would not be considered active voters “for purposes of the recall petition” even though no voter’s status would actually change. The agreement was blessed by New Orleans Judge Jennifer Medley about a week before the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported that she herself had signed a petition to recall Cantrell―information that only surfaced because the paper found her signature among the 10,000 pages that the recall campaign turned over amid the ongoing court battle.

Cantrell, who is a Democrat, soon filed a pair of lawsuits to overturn that settlement, charging that Ardoin reached a “back room deal” with the recall campaign. The mayor’s legal team also blasted Medley in their court filings, writing, “The signing of a judgment, which was flawed on its face, by a jurist who had a vested interest in the outcome, calls the entire process into question.” Francis, though, doesn’t appear to have brought up the matter yet in his campaign to unseat Ardoin.

OHIO SUPREME COURT. Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan announced Wednesday that she would run as a Republican next year against one of the two Democratic Supreme Court justices up for re-election, though she didn’t reveal if she’d be targeting Michael Donnelly or Melody Stewart. Republicans hold a 4-3 majority, and in order for Democrats to take control, they’d need to defend both those seats and defeat appointed Republican incumbent Joe Deters.

Races for the state’s highest court used to be officially nonpartisan affairs, but that changed after GOP Gov. Mike DeWine signed a bill in 2021 requiring candidates’ party affiliation to be included on the ballot. That could give a boost to Deters, who resigned as state treasurer in 2004 over a scandal involving two of his top allies and lost re-election in 2020 as Hamilton County prosecutor. DeWine this year filled an open seat on the state’s highest court by picking Deters, who just happens to be a longtime close friend of the governor’s son, Justice Pat DeWine.

Delaware politics from a liberal, progressive and Democratic perspective. Keep Delaware Blue.

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