The Political Report – July 17, 2023

“Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign has fired roughly a dozen staffers — and more are expected in the coming weeks as he shakes up his big-money political operations after less than two months on the campaign trail,” NBC News reports.

“Sources involved with the DeSantis campaign say there is an internal assessment among some that they hired too many staffers too early, and despite bringing in $20 million during its first six weeks, it was becoming clear their costs needed to be brought down.”

“Some in DeSantis’ political orbit are laying the early blame at the feet of campaign manager Generra Peck, who also led DeSantis’ 2022 midterm reelection bid and is in the hot seat right now.”

“Two senior advisers on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign are departing this week to help run a pro-DeSantis outside group — a move that comes as he struggles to gain traction against former President Donald Trump,” Politico reports.

TRUMP 2024. Donald Trump has suggested he might skip the first Republican presidential debate on August 23.  That makes sense. Why would the clear front runner want to give his lower-polling challengers the opportunity to attack him? There’s no upside for Trump to take part.

For Ron DeSantis, the decision is much more complicated.  DeSantis recently denied rumors that he might not take part in the first debate, confirming this week that he would be there “regardless” of what Trump ultimately decides.  But as the clear second-place candidate, that makes DeSantis the obvious target for everyone else on the debate stage.

At the same time, DeSantis needs to do something to reverse the narrative of the last six weeks that his campaign has stalled out.  Big donors — as well as the conservative media — need to see if DeSantis was worth the hype.  That makes the first Republican debates very important for DeSantis.  He’ll either keep his position as the primary challenger to Trump — or another candidate will assume his place.

“He’s been indicted twice. Found liable for sexual abuse. And he’s viewed unfavorably by about a third of his party. But six months before Republicans begin to choose their next presidential nominee, former President Donald Trump remains the race’s dominant front-runner,” the AP reports.

“Early leaders don’t always go on to win their party’s nomination, but a growing sense of Trump’s inevitability is raising alarms among some Republicans desperate for the party to move on. Some described a sense of panic — or “DEFCON 1,” as one put it — as they scramble to try to derail Trump and change the trajectory of the race. But there’s no clear plan or strategy on how to do that and Trump’s detractors aren’t rallying around a single alternative candidate yet.”

ABC News: “In his comeback bid for the White House, the former president — twice impeached but twice acquitted and now twice indicted — has vowed that if reelected, he will wield his power to personally remake parts of the federal government to a degree that historian Mark Updegrove said was unprecedented. Trump has promised to hamstring perceived enemies, including in the Department of Justice, which is currently investigating him, and target Republican bogeymen like President Joe Biden.”

“He swore in June to appoint a special prosecutor to ‘go after’ the Bidens and that he would “totally obliterate the deep state,” referring to a conspiratorial view of how the government operates.”

Said Trump: “This is the final battle… Either they win or we win.”

Politico: “The Trump campaign’s interest in Tyson’s podcast is part of a broader strategic outreach to non-traditional media outlets, specifically those affiliated with male audiences with an interest in contact and combat sports. This week, days after making an appearance at an Ultimate Fighting Championship fight in Las Vegas, the ex-president is expected to be featured on the popular podcast ‘UFC Unfiltered.’”

“The outreach underscores the degree to which Trump remains a cultural figure as much as a political one. It also highlights a centerpiece of his election strategy — in both the Republican primary and, should he be the party’s nominee, the general election. He and his team are placing a major bet on appealing to less politically active voters.”

DESANTIS 2024. “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis stopped at a Dairy Queen north of Des Moines on Friday afternoon, flexing his familiarity with the fast food chain’s menu just one week after former President Donald Trump stumbled during a similar stop in the state,” NBC News reports.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is putting pressure on former President Trump to participate in the first GOP presidential debate next month, saying in an interview Wednesday that “he needs to step up and do it,” The Hill reports.

Said DeSantis: “Every candidate needs to be put to the test, and I think he needs to step up and do it.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is putting pressure on former President Trump to participate in the first GOP presidential debate next month, saying in an interview Wednesday that “he needs to step up and do it,” The Hill reports.

Said DeSantis: “Every candidate needs to be put to the test, and I think he needs to step up and do it.”

“With his foot on a front porch of a stately home in Charleston, S.C., a canvasser for a $100 million field effort supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vented on July 7 about a homeowner who he said had told him to get off his lawn,” the Washington Post reports.

Said the man, on his phone while wearing a DeSantis T-shirt: “And I’m a little stoned, so I don’t even care.”

“The outburst — seen on a Ring doorbell video camera recording that was shared with The Washington Post — led to the canvasser’s dismissal this week, according to an official from Never Back Down. It highlighted a potential risk of the unprecedented effort by DeSantis donors to flood early primary states with thousands of paid door-knockers armed with high-tech tools to win support one conversation at a time.”

“Unlike traditional presidential field organizing — which is run by an official campaign and driven largely by volunteers — the Never Back Down effort is staffed with an army of paid workers, many of whom have responded to advertisements that offer positions for $20 to $22 an hour.”

NBC News: “A confidential campaign memo lays out what the Florida governor’s presidential campaign sees as its path forward: focusing on the early states, refusing to give up on New Hampshire, not yet investing in “Super Tuesday” battlegrounds, zeroing in on DeSantis’ biography and sowing doubts about his competitors — particularly Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC).”

From the memo: “While Super Tuesday is critically important, we will not dedicate resources to Super Tuesday that slow our momentum in New Hampshire. We expect to revisit this investment in the Fall.”

More: “While Tim Scott has earned a serious look at this stage, his bio is lacking the fight that our electorate is looking for in the next President. We expect Tim Scott to receive appropriate scrutiny in the weeks ahead. We’ve found low to no interest in Vivek, Burgum, and Nikki while far too many voters will not consider Pence and Christie for them to feel remotely viable.”

“Only seven weeks into his 2024 campaign for the White House, Ron DeSantis is struggling to make a dent in former President Donald Trump’s commanding lead in the Republican primary — and the Florida governor’s team is already looking for a possible media strategy reset while some top donors privately fret over the trajectory of the campaign,” ABC News reports.

“While candidates like former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie have made regular appearances on CNN and MSNBC a part of their White House runs, DeSantis has largely shunned mainstream media outlets and has mainly stuck to more friendly platforms like Fox News and conservative news media — a trend that has caught the eye of Trump and his team.”

“That may be about to change, according to multiple sources, who said the governor’s team is leaning toward having DeSantis begin doing mainstream network interviews and possibly town halls.”

The Messenger: “Seven weeks after launch, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign is entering a new phase of its online outreach and ground game – all of it fueled by his $20 million fundraising quarter, the largest haul of any first-time Republican White House hopeful in more than a decade.”

“At its center: the campaign’s in-house marketing team that has created and algorithmically message-tested 14,000 ads and related variations on Facebook and other social media platforms to curry supporters and convert them into donors and voters. The operation displays a level of ‘sophistication’ that other campaigns currently aren’t showing, one independent Republican digital guru told The Messenger.”

 “A growing group of donors who have supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ run for president are worried about the trajectory of his campaign, even after he raked in $20 million since entering the race in May,” CNBC reports.

“Some donors are worried the polls indicate DeSantis has to climb a potentially insurmountable hill to overtake Trump, these people said. They’re also worried that Trump has a huge lead over DeSantis when it comes to Republican congressional endorsements.”

WILLIAMSON 2024. “Democratic primary challenger Marianne Williamson raised $920,000 in her latest quarterly disclosure — but her campaign is on the hook for a fair bit of money,” Politico reports.

“Williamson’s campaign reported about $270,000 in unpaid debts, according to financial reports filed Saturday. That was more than twice the $105,000 it reported in cash on hand.”

Marianne Williamson “privately warned volunteers that her campaign was desperate for cash and that she did not have the personal funds to keep it going at its current state,” Politico reports.

She also claimed Democratic insiders were undermining her campaign: “It is shocking to us too. It really makes you wonder. I’ve never seen anything like this. And it does make you wonder…. politics is dirty.”

KENNEDY 2024. “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. dished out wild Covid-19 conspiracy theories this week during a press event at an Upper East Side restaurant, claiming the bug was a genetically engineered bioweapon that may have been ‘ethnically targeted’ to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people,” the New York Post reports.

CHRISTIE 2024. “Chris Christie raised $1.65 million over the first 25 days of his candidacy through June 30,” CNN reports. “The total figure trails many of his rivals’ hauls but still puts him ahead of former Vice President Mike Pence, who raised less than $1.2 million in the second quarter.”

Former Gov. Chris Christie told CNN that his presidential campaign surpassed 40,000 unique donors. Said Christie: “That means I’m going to be on the debate stage on August 23.”

“I really wish Christie well — I’m glad he’s making the run. I hope he endorses Biden after Trump wins the nomination.”— William Kristol, talking to the Washington Post about former Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.

Chris Christie told Fox News that he’d make quick work of Donald Trump in a physical fight between the two.

Said Christie: “Come on. Guy is 78-years-old. I’d kick his ass.”

He added that he would “fight Donald Trump anywhere he wants in any arena he wants. Whether it’s on a debate stage, or in the octagon.”

“He didn’t build the wall in Mexico. He built 47 miles of wall and guess what—we paid for every nickel of it, we don’t have the first peso from Mexico.” — Chris Christie, slamming Donald Trump on Fox News.

“One by one, Republican presidential hopefuls took the stage at this year’s Family Leadership Conference for one of their biggest opportunities so far in this cycle: The chance — without Donald Trump in attendance stealing the show — to win over religious conservatives in Iowa, a state increasingly seen as key to having a shot at winning the nomination,” Semafor reports.

“And one by one, they were met with Tucker Carlson, who repeatedly turned to his favorite topics.”

ABC News: Mike Pence clashes with Tucker Carlson in Iowa.

“The rationale for Trump not coming is that it’s a scheduling conflict. But in presidential campaigns, another word for ‘scheduling conflicts’ is ‘choices.’ And he made a choice. I think it’s a mistake.”— Former Rep. Bob Vander Plaats (R-IA), quoted by The Messenger, on Donald Trump skipping a The Family Leader forum in Iowa.

PENCE 2024. “Mike Pence raised less than $1.2 million for his presidential campaign during the second quarter of this year, a figure that is a reflection of both the antipathy toward the former vice president among rank-and-file GOP voters and the deep skepticism among donors that he has a path to the Republican nomination,” the Washington Post reports.

“Though Pence’s campaign did not reveal how many donors contributed to his effort, the sum suggests that the former vice president could have a difficult time meeting the criteria set by the RNC for candidates to qualify for the first debate in Milwaukee in August.”

BIDEN 2024. “President Biden raised more than $72 million in the second quarter of 2023 for his reelection effort,” the Washington Post reports.

“The figure accounts for all money raised since Biden launched his campaign for president in late April through June 30. The campaign said it has $77 million cash on hand.”

“The figure accounts for donations both directly to the campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the joint fundraising committees.”

“The Biden campaign said that 97 percent of donations were under $200, and the average grass roots contribution was $39. It also touted that 30 percent of the donors were new Biden supporters since the 2020 campaign.”

“Vice President Kamala Harris is preparing to kick off a month-long series of high-profile events mobilizing key voting groups, with an itinerary outlining the role she’ll play for the Democratic ticket in 2024,” NBC News reports.

 “Former President Donald Trump sent a Dante-like message to elected Republicans when he criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Monday: There’s a special place in hell for those who remain neutral in times of crisis,” NBC News reports.

“Political insiders say that’s not hell; it’s Iowa.”

“The neutrality of many Republican elected officials in Iowa — and across the country — has rubbed Trump the wrong way at a time when he is the clear front-runner for a third consecutive GOP presidential nod. That’s because it’s one of the few evident counterpoints to the narrative that he’s on a glide path to locking down the nomination.”

 “At some point, Trump’s base is going to start thinking about actually winning. I also think they’re going to start noticing that the only people who lionize Trump are the people who actually haven’t really worked with and seen him in action.” — Former Attorney General William Barr, quoted by the Washington Post.

“An Iowa state senator who’d previously endorsed Donald Trump is flipping his support toRon DeSantis just days after the former president attacked Iowa’s popular Republican governor, Kim Reynolds,” Politico reports.

“Jeff Reichman, who is serving his first term in the state Senate, announced on Thursday that he is defecting to the Florida governor’s presidential campaign. In a statement, Reichman singled out praise for Reynolds, who Trump has targeted for her warmness toward DeSantis, his main rival for the GOP nomination.”

SCOTT 2024.  “With Ron DeSantis stalling in the Republican presidential primary, some wealthy donors who’d hoped he could beat Donald Trump are now giving Tim Scott a serious look,” Politico reports.

“Billionaire businessman Ronald Lauder, the Estée Lauder makeup heir who supported Trump in 2020, recently flew to South Carolina to meet with Scott, the state’s junior senator and longshot presidential candidate.”

Fox News says Scott is sitting on a $21 million war chest after raising $6.1 million last quarter.

Separately, the Scott-aligned Super PAC known as TIM PAC raised $19 million last quarter.

Washington Post: “For many voters under 35 years of age, especially those on the left, the Supreme Court has become a political issue in the same way that climate change, gun violence and immigration have over the course of the past two decades, some political scientists and organizers have said.”

“Conversations with more than a dozen young voters from around the country who recently visited Washington for the Fourth of July suggest a sense of frustration, even resignation for some, but also a renewed understanding that their votes could impact which justices sit on the federal bench.”

“Senior Republicans are mounting their most aggressive Senate primary intervention strategy in nearly a decade, sidelining candidates they suspect could blow their chances to claim the majority next fall,” Politico reports.

“The moves risk inflaming tensions with the right flank of the party, as the GOP’s official campaign arm backs its preferred picks in surprisingly public fashion. But after losing a seat last year under a laissez-faire primary strategy, Republican leaders are embracing a dramatic change after former President Donald Trump helped assemble the GOP’s last roster of unsuccessful candidates.”

 “Former president Donald Trump and Republican allies have long vilified mail-in voting and what is called ballot harvesting, alleging without presenting evidence that the practices are rife with fraud and encouraging Republicans to vote in person instead,” the Washington Post reports.

“But now, after disappointing election results in 2020 and 2022, Republicans close to Trump are seeking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to build programs that would encourage some of the practices that the former president and other Republicans once decried.”

 “Republican efforts to restrict voting have sparked a backlash among people with disabilities, hurting the party’s appeal to a key group of swing voters,” Bloomberg reports.

“Disability rights advocates say new laws to reduce early in-person voting, restrict vote-by-mail and ban curbside voting — in response to Donald Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud — have angered voters with disabilities.”

“Disabled voters make up a sizable, diverse group, with nearly 16 million casting ballots in the 2022 midterms.”

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

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