The Political Report – April 20, 2023

A new National Public Affairs poll in South Carolina finds Donald Trump way ahead in the Republican presidential race with 43% support, followed by Ron DeSantis at 21%, Nikki Haley at 19%, Tim Scott at 7% and Mike Pence at 2%.

New Republic: “Years before megadonor Harlan Crow was reading ProPublica stories about his close ties with Clarence Thomas, often seen as maybe the most partisan justice on the Supreme Court, he was doling out donations and referring friends to No Labels, the outside group that claims to offer an avowedly non-partisan approach to politics.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis “and his allies are expanding his political footprint in key states that will begin the 2024 presidential nominating contest, with the main super PAC backing his bid making hires in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and an operative with recent Iowa experience joining the payroll of the Republican Party of Florida,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. DeSantis has not yet declared his bid, but a pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down, has acted as something of a campaign-in-waiting, hiring staff members and responding to regular attacks from former President Donald Trump. Almost as significantly, it has engaged with mainstream news organizations that Mr. DeSantis instinctively shuns.”


Washington Post: “Activists at 27 universities will soon begin meeting twice a month to organize their peers under the banner of Students for DeSantis. Office space supporting the Florida governor’s presidential ambitions will open in each of the early-voting states. And names have already been gathered by clipboard in Iowa to launch a door-knocking army.”

“But none of these efforts will be a part of the as-yet-unannounced DeSantis campaign. Rather they are being funded and organized by Never Back Down, a technically independent super PAC that unlike federal candidates can accept donations of any value from wealthy individuals and corporations.”

“The arrangement marks a new frontier in the rapidly shifting campaign finance landscape that governs presidential efforts, as outside groups allied with candidates behave more and more like traditional campaigns.”

Playbook: “It was supposed to be Ron DeSantis’ big day on Capitol Hill. Yet Donald Trump managed to overshadow him from almost 1,000 miles away.”

Politico notes several Republican lawmakers “tried to downplay their attendance, saying they went because the governor was a former colleague and they wanted to say hello.”

“In yet another blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s not-yet-official presidential bid, two more Republican members of Congress from his own state are gearing to endorse Donald Trump for another term. Reps. Gus Bilirakis and Carlos Gimenez are each planning to announce their support for the former president this week,” Time reports.

“Their pledges continue something of a downward spiral for DeSantis, who has been steadily losing ground in the endorsement battle for legislators from his own backyard. The development is even more noteworthy after his political team recently tried to stop the bleeding by asking Florida Republicans to refrain from endorsing Trump.”

Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) “is now the fifth member of the state’s 20-member Republican congressional delegation to endorse former President Donald Trump for 2024,” Politico reports.

Rep. John Rutherford (R-FL) added his name to the growing list of Florida Republican lawmakers who have endorsed Donald Trump over Ron DeSantis for president.

CNN reports that Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) will become the seventh Republican lawmaker from Florida to endorse Trump over DeSantis.

Byron York: “What is the hardest job in politics? Without doubt, at this moment, the hardest job in politics is running against Donald Trump in a Republican presidential primary.”

“Why is it so hard? Because if you want to appeal to the broad majority of Republican voters, you will have to say that Trump was a great president, that you strongly support his policies and would like to see them return to the White House. And then you have to say: But it’s time to move on. And then Trump himself says: What do you mean, move on? I’m the man who made those policies. And I’m right here. Vote for me.”

Donald Trump “is pushing his fight deep into Gov. Ron Desantis’ backyard in Florida, picking a fight over Disney and picking off Sunshine State lawmakers, one by one,” Axios reports.

“Trump sees DeSantis as his only threat for the nomination — and has told aides he will pound him relentlessly with name-calling and policy attacks.”

Politico: “Many congressional Republicans are eager for a Donald Trump alternative in 2024. Yet even with Ron DeSantis right in front of them, few are committing early to Trump’s chief rival for the GOP nomination.”

“The Florida governor and former House member returned to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for the start of a prolonged courtship with his party’s lawmakers — outreach he’ll need to step up if he hopes to topple Trump in a presidential primary. But among the nine Republicans who are formally co-hosting DeSantis’ congressional meet-and-greet, only three so far are willing to call it an endorsement…”

“Despite the desire for new blood at the top of the ticket, Hill Republicans still prioritize avoiding Trump’s anger. And the general hesitancy to back DeSantis, who still has not officially declared his intent to run, underscores a persistent reality in GOP politics that he will have to confront: Crossing the former president remains a risky endeavor.”

Teddy Schleifer: “As 2024 beckons, Oracle founder Larry Ellison appears poised to be the single most influential donor in the Republican primary—and maybe, depending on your politics, the single most annoying one, too. That’s not because Ellison is likely to emerge as one of the five or so largest contributors in the race, but because of his unwavering support for South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, which may position him as the longshot sugar daddy au courant. Ellison, who is worth more than $100 billion on a bad day, could be the Foster Friess to Scott’s Rick Santorum, or the Sheldon Adelson to Scott’s Newt Gingrich, extending his runway and infuriating everyone else.”

“Ron DeSantis may have the most mega-donors, but Scott is the candidate who is most dependent on a single individual donor, giving Ellison a hell of a lot of influence over how the next year proceeds, and whether there is indeed any true financial consolidation against Donald Trump.”

“Then again, Ellison’s extraordinary support for Scott is what distinguishes the candidate from the likes of, say, never-gonna-happen Asa Hutchinson or Chris Sununu, who are also flirting with one percent in the polls. That financial lifeline is what makes Scott, who launched his exploratory committee last week, at least somewhat credible.”

Mike Murphy: “Here is a significant factor to consider: When the DNC axed the Iowa caucuses, they left the 172,300 Democrats and independents who participated in 2016 with nothing to do on caucus night. Experienced local pols in both parties will tell you never to underestimate the importance of the caucuses to Iowa’s political culture, where participating is seen as an important civic duty.”

“Because they’re worried about caucusless Democrats showing up for the Republican caucus next February, Iowa’s GOP-controlled House is moving a bill to make it harder for non-Republicans to caucus. This would be a significant change. Historically, the Iowa GOP made it easy to just show up at the caucuses and register as a Republican because this was a prized party tool to gain new registrants. Now they’re less worried about making new Republicans than contamination from Democrats.”

“But even if the worried wing of the state GOP succeeds in creating new obstacles (like a 70-day pre-caucus registration requirement), plenty of Democrats will still be willing to become independents or even Republicans for a day so that they can participate—in Iowa, changing your party registration is easily done online.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) plans to formally announce his presidential campaign in Bentonville on April 26.

In his first trip to Iowa as a formal presidential candidate, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vowed to take former President Trump head on in his challenge against the party’s frontrunner, NBC News reports.

Said Hutchinson: “If you don’t say, ‘I’m different from Donald Trump [and] that I’m going to provide a different leadership than he does,’ then why are you in the race?”

“Donald Trump’s campaign team is preparing for a state-by-state legal battle later this year over untested claims that a Civil War-era clause in the U.S. Constitution bars the former president from appearing on Republican primary ballots because of his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection,” the Washington Post reports.

“Two nonprofit groups who do not disclose all their donors, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Free Speech for People, have prepared multipronged legal strategies to challenge Trump across the country under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. They have written letters to state election officials calling on them to block Trump from the ballot, while separately preparing voter lawsuits and state election board complaints.”

Nikki Haley (R) exaggerated her fundraising numbers last week claiming that she raised $11 million when we learned the actual total was actually $8.3 million.

But as The Hotline noted this morning, it wasn’t the first time that Haley has contradicted herself.

Haley said in April 2021 that she wouldn’t run for president if Donald Trump did, yet she announced her White House bid just three months after him.

Haley claimed that she was the first female governor of color, even though former New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) holds that honor.

Haley said last year that she was only campaigning for people who affirmed that President Biden won the election, even though she repeatedly stumped for New Hampshire Senate candidate Don Boldoc (R), an election denier.

However, with Donald Trump as the current front runner for the Republican nomination, it’s unlikely GOP primary voters will punish Haley for her own falsehoods.

Sarah Longwell: “There are events so epcohal that they create clear periods of before and after: Hiroshima; the fall of the Berlin Wall; 9/11. Eight years after he declared his intention to run for president, it’s now clear that we should consider Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign not as part of America’s political continuum but as one of these temporal dividing lines.”

“In American politics, there were conventions and candidates that existed in 2015 Republican politics as the before times. 2015 BT. Before Trump…”

“I’ve sat through hundreds of focus groups with GOP voters over the last four years and one thing is perfectly clear: The Republican party has been irretrievably altered and, as one GOP voter put it succinctly, ‘We’re never going back.’”

Rolling Stone: “Over the past few years, the Florida governor has risen to Trump’s top internal rival without even declaring his candidacy. And part of that rise has been fueled by his pull with the GOP’s megadonor class, who prefer him to Trump because, while he brings a similar set of MAGAfied policies, he has not, to date, attempted a coup. That wellspring of financial support has been instrumental in fueling his rise, but the investments are predicated in large part on a belief that he can take down Donald.”

“That belief seems to be wavering, as the donor revolt has been brewing since at least last month. And it’s not just skittish donors like Richard Uihlein or Thomas Peterffy, who went public with his complaints last week. Several other top donors to DeSantis were livid about the governor referring to the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute,’ with at least one major donor calling DeSantis to urge a walk-back.”

Said one: “If we wanted a fucking MAGA candidate, we would donate to Donald Trump.”

Tara Palmeri: “It’s only been a few weeks since Jeff Roe and his band of fellow Ted Cruz alumni parachuted into Tallahassee to help reverse Ron DeSantis’s wilting political fortunes, and yet they’ve already picked at an uncomfortable wound in the governor’s tight, sensitive, and less experienced inner circle. Roe’s more seasoned crew, for one, has a far less sanguine view of DeSantis’s current Trump self-defense strategy. They believe that DeSantis can’t just shrug off the former president’s public attacks on him, which coalesce around the notion that he’s an establishment stooge. Trump’s invective may be juvenile but it’s clearly moving the needle on his polling and allowing the former president to craft DeSantis’s public image.”

“The longer DeSantis sits on the sidelines, declining opportunities to hit back, the further he falls behind. And if the candidate-in-waiting really wants to hold out his announcement until July 4th, then he’ll need a flotilla of made-for-TV surrogates flooding the green rooms now—especially since the ground has shifted in the wake of the Trump indictment.”

Politico: “Trump raised a combined $18.8 million in the first quarter through his joint fundraising committee and his campaign, the latter of which is required to report its first-quarter financial activity on Saturday.”

“But the campaign also says it brought in nearly the same amount in the two weeks after the charges were filed against the former president — $15.4 million — underscoring just how much the charges against Trump have animated his backers. In another indication that the indictment has helped Trump to grow his fundraising base, nearly a quarter of those who contributed to Trump during that period had never given to him before.”

“The figures provide a snapshot of how Trump’s arrest has, at least for the time being, shaped the Republican primary. While the former president’s indictment — along with potential future charges in several ongoing investigations — puts him in serious legal jeopardy, it has helped to solidify his standing with his supporters and grow his campaign war chest.”

Benjy Sarkin: “Chris Christie may be a long shot if he runs in 2024, but he has one extremely important idea that other Republicans could learn from: Candidates should say why they’d be a better choice than their top rivals.”

“Everyone knows the case for Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump in the Republican primary, for example. In fact, it’s the same case for almost every Republican running against Trump: They think he’s a dangerous incompetent who blew the last election for extremely obvious reasons and is now determined to blow the next one by spending half his waking hours whining about it.”

“But almost nobody in the race is willing to say this because that might make Trump supporters mad. Instead, they’re hoping voters will find their own message appealing and then reach the necessary conclusion about Trump on their own.”

Benjy Sarlin: “When people say Trump ‘tells it like it is’ despite being a serial liar, this is often what they mean. He’s sometimes credited with a savant-like ability to identify his opponents’ vulnerabilities, but much of this schtick is just repeating what pundits on cable are already saying about them rather than using some Inception-style scheme to plant the same idea in voters’ subconscious with magic words.”

“Trump and his allies portraying DeSantis as an off-putting weirdo who’s too far right for swing voters — exactly what talking heads already say his vulnerabilities are — is perfectly in line with this approach. Whatever DeSantis is doing right now with Trump is not.”

“Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday urged his fellow Republicans to move on from the 2020 presidential election, offering a thinly veiled dig at former President Donald Trump and his continued election grievances,” CNN reports.

Said Kemp: “Not a single swing voter in a single swing state will vote for our nominee if they choose to talk about the 2020 election being stolen.”

Washington Post: “It’s a long-game wager that the drift of Latinos toward the Republican Party in some states is far from over, and that it’s the Spanish-dominant speakers who are now the most ripe for persuasion…”

“Americano Media is modeled on the Fox News formula of right-leaning news programming bookended by much-further-right-leaning opinion shows.”

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

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