The Political Report – May 24, 2023

As the Republican presidential field expands, it’s worth evaluating whether the candidates are real or just running for other reasons.

Charlie Sykes puts the current and possible candidates in their respective lanes:

  • Real, even if delusional — Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Glenn Youngkin
  • Running for vice president — Tim Scott, Francis Suarez (who?)
  • Better speaking fees — Nikki Haley
  • Random grift — Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Knights Errant — Asa Hutchinson, Liz Cheney
  • Suicide bombers — Chris Christie

It’s a good first take.

AP-NORC Poll: “The country continues to hold negative views of the direction of the country and the condition of the economy.”

“Only 21% of adults believe the country is headed in the right direction. This includes 36% of Democrats and 7% of Republicans. Twenty-four percent of the public says the economy is in good shape, while 76% think it is in poor condition.”

With President Biden’s approval rating stuck in the low 40s and a large majority of the country worried about the economy, Republicans should feel confident about their chances in the 2024 presidential election.

That is — unless the GOP nominee is Donald Trump.

A focus group of 15 swing state voters assembled by the Washington Post found that all of them described negative emotions when they saw images of President Biden on a computer screen.

Every single one wished Biden wasn’t running again.

Several offered troubling assessments of his mental and physical capacities, including raising the possibility of dementia.

But as the focus group moderator steered the conversation to the possibility of a Biden rematch next year with Trump, the mood clearly shifted among these voters, who had all cast a ballot for Trump in 2016 and then Biden in 2020.

Nine of the 15 said they would vote again for Biden, three said they would go back to Trump and three said they would either not vote or find a third-party candidate.

That suggests that if Trump is the Republican nominee, the 2024 election won’t be a referendum on Biden at all. 

It will be all about Trump once again.

“Republican megadonor Larry Ellison is preparing to spend millions of dollars backing Sen. Tim Scott’s run for president,” CNBC reports.  “The plans have been in motion since the 2022 midterms, when Ellison donated $30 million to a pro-Scott super PAC, Opportunity Matters Fund.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) vowed not to try to overturn the presidential election if he loses, NBC News reports.

Scott sat down with NBC News anchor Tom Llamas:

LLAMAS: There’s a question America would love for you to answer. If you become president you’d be like Grover Cleveland and James Buchanan, you would– you’d go as a bachelor, as a single man. Is– is there someone in your life– is there time for a woman in your life right now?

SCOTT: Oh, there’s always– there’s always time for– a great relationship with a wonderful woman. And I thank god that that is happening. But– so I’ll leave it there.


SCOTT: Thank you–

LLAMAS: We appreciate your time, and we thank you. Thank you for everything, Senator.

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will announce he is running for president during a discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk,” NBC News reports.  “Musk and DeSantis will host an event on Twitter Spaces, the site’s platform for audio chats, on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET.”

“The relationship could be a significant boost for DeSantis by giving him an introduction to, and credibility with, Musk’s massive following — including his 140 million Twitter followers. But it could prove a burden should DeSantis become distracted by the tycoon’s many controversial comments.”

NBC News: “eSantis will be judicious, or as his team puts it, ‘strategic’ about crossing into Mar-a-Lago territory. The governor will mostly ignore the daily Trump taunts and will take the former president head-on only in specific circumstances — particularly on policy — according to three political advisers to DeSantis.”

“The guarded approach is to the disappointment of Never Trumpers and Trump skeptics who thought they’d found their own bully to proverbially punch Trump smack in the nose. But to the DeSantis team, it’s just their political reality.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis “previewed more of his 2024 pitch Monday night with a new emphasis on the next president’s ability to push the Supreme Court further to the right, calling for new justices in the mold of Clarence Thomas and ‘improvements’ to others such as Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a Republican appointee who has sometimes sided with the court’s liberal wing,” the Washington Post reports.

Said DeSantis: “I think if you look over the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito and the issue with that is, you can’t really do better than those two.”

He went on to say that, “if you replace a Clarence Thomas with somebody like a Roberts or somebody like that, then you’re gonna actually see the court move to the left, and you can’t do that.”

More: “So it is possible that in those eight years, we have the opportunity to fortify justices … Alito and Thomas as well as actually make improvements with those others, and if you were able to do that, you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter century.”

“A recently launched political action committee that sought to push former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to run for president has ceased activities after a legal threat from Carlson’s lawyer,” The Hill reports.

“The 2024 Republican presidential-nomination race is expected to crack the half-dozen mark for higher-profile entrants this week and several more are considering bids, a sign that prospective candidates don’t think Donald Trump has the contest locked up and view Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a flawed lead challenger to the former president,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is reconsidering a bid for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, after earlier taking himself out of the race as polls made former President Trump look increasingly formidable,” Axios reports.  “Some powerful GOP donors, who won’t support Trump but are beginning to be concerned about DeSantis, are encouraging Youngkin to jump into the 2024 field.”

Tara Palmeri: “On television, DeSantis can come across as savvy, reasonably well media-trained, and sometimes aggressive. (His wife, Casey, is a former local news anchor.) But in person, I immediately sensed a very different potential candidate: a guarded politician who had no interest in actually engaging with other humans, and was perhaps even a little scared of the spotlight. He had trouble making eye contact with people in the crowd. After five minutes of unmemorable remarks, we were quickly ushered out of the room…”

“As our small pool rushed over to the diner, however, DeSantis quickly bypassed the press… He immediately showed off his very limited retail skills. He asked one patron, ‘What’s your name?’ The man responded, ‘Tim Anthony.’ DeSantis just responded: ‘Ok!’ and moved on… It was my first personal observation of what DeSantis’s critics mean when they call him a paper tiger…”

“It’s one of the few conclusions I could draw after witnessing his poor performance at the Red Arrow diner, a low-wattage stage brimming with sycophants; or after his meeting with New Hampshire legislators, where, I heard, he apparently rambled on about his own Florida delegation, which is overwhelmingly Republican and less complicated to handle than New Hampshire’s. He was, I hate to say it, sanctimonious about his record, according to people in the room.”

Nikki Haley’s campaign is out with a new memo slamming Gov. Ron DeSantis as “Trump without the charm.”

“DeSantis might not have Trump’s taste for incendiary tweets, but make no mistake: his record shows that his ‘leadership style’ will only lead to more drama.”

An AI-generated version of President Biden’s campaign launch video is actually pretty compelling.

ARIZONA U.S. SENATOR. Failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) is teasing a “big announcement” — likely about a U.S. Senate bid.

ABC News: “Democrats and Republicans can at least agree on one thing: They have no idea what’s going to happen in next year’s Arizona Senate race.”

“A judge on Monday dismissed the only remaining legal claim in Republican Kari Lake’s challenge of her loss in last year’s race for Arizona governor, affirming the election of Democrat Katie Hobbs,” the AP reports.

OHIO U.S. SENATOR. GOP Sen. J.D. Vance on Monday endorsed wealthy businessman Bernie Moreno’s campaign against Vance’s colleague, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown. Both Vance and Moreno sought the nomination last year for Ohio’s other Senate seat, though the latter dropped out well before the primary. The Trump-endorsed Vance went on to defeat a crowded field that included state Sen. Matt Dolan, the third-place finisher who is competing with Moreno this cycle.

The 2024 contest doesn’t look like it will be anywhere near as busy, though two more notable Republicans may dive in before long. Unnamed sources tell that Rep. Warren Davidson is, in the words of reporter Andrew J. Tobias, “expected to make a decision about the race soon.” Secretary of State Frank LaRose, for his part, recently said he’ll make up his own mind in “by the middle part of summer,” though he sounded quite likely to run in voicemails he left for donors.

PENNSYLVANIA U.S. SENATOR. State Sen. Doug Mastriano says he’ll reveal this week if he’ll seek the Republican nod to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, and he hinted he had “crazy good news” to share. Democrats would certainly use those words to greet another effort from Mastriano, the election conspiracy theorist who just suffered a 56-42 shellacking last fall at the hands of now-Gov. Josh Shapiro.

INDIANA GOVERNOR. Conservative radio host Rob Kendall used his show last week to relay a rumor that disgraced former Attorney General Curtis Hill is considering entering next year’s Republican primary for governor (the relevant portion begins at the 18:00 mark), a report he says comes from “multiple people … they’re not fringe people, they’re very informed people.”

Hill made history in 2016 when he became the first African American Republican to be elected Indiana attorney general, but his promising career started to collapse two years later when four women accused him of groping them. Hill, who refused to heed Gov. Eric Holcomb’s calls to resign, ultimately avoided criminal charges, but the state Supreme Court suspended his law license for a month in 2020 after determining he’d “committed the criminal act of battery.” Former Rep. Todd Rokita went on to dispatch the incumbent 52-48 a short time later at the nominating convention, and he won the post in the fall.

Hill sought a comeback in 2022 after Rep. Jackie Walorski died in office, but he fell well short. The party precinct committeemen tasked with choosing the new nominee favored businessman Rudolph Yakym, who had an endorsement from the congresswoman’s husband, 57-24.  

KENTUCKY GOVERNOR. Republican Daniel Cameron has publicized an internal from co/efficient that shows him trailing Democratic incumbent Andy Beshear only 45-43, which makes this the first poll we’ve seen of this race since Mason-Dixon gave the governor a 49-40 edge in January. Observers were quick to note that co/efficent both listed Cincinnati as a region instead of northern Kentucky and misspelled the Ohio city as “Cincinatti.”

The DGA affiliate Defending Bluegrass Values has already launched what the GOP firm Medium Buying says is a $360,000 opening buy against Republican Daniel Cameron, and the first ad links the new nominee to Kentucky’s infamous last governor. “When former Gov. Matt Bevin gave more than a dozen violent criminals early release from prison, Attorney General Daniel Cameron promised he’d look into it,” says the narrator, adding, “But for three years Cameron’s refused to appoint a special prosecutor, even as some of the criminals were arrested for new crimes.”

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

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