Josh Marshall: “The two GOP debates have amounted to a kind of cosplay episode. Aside from the yelling, canned comments and embarrassing moments, the one thing that struck me about tonight’s debate is this: two or three of the contenders seem to be realizing, finally, that there’s zero point in doing this without attacking Donald Trump. Not in some vague wink wink way but directly. Is this a game changer? Of course not. But it was enough to give a hint of how this primary process might actually have been contested in some meaningful way, even if Trump likely still would have been the nominee.
Fundamentally it’s Trump’s party. So he’s the nominee. But in those few moments of attacks you could see how a different kind of contest could have unfolded. They really seem to have thought that Republicans might abandon Trump (to whom Republican voters have committed so much) without them even saying there was anything wrong with him. That’s a remarkable failure of imagination and personal character.
Last night’s Republican presidential debate ended with an amazingly stupid attempt by moderator Dana Perino to get the candidates to “vote someone off the island.” The candidates refused to take part. But the dumb stunt did highlight the key problem facing every Republican on that debate stage. Voting someone off the debate stage doesn’t really help the remaining candidates. The polling averages show that Donald Trump is currently leading the rest of the GOP field — combined — by 16 percentage points.
Even if one candidate could consolidate the support of all the remaining non-Trump rivals, they would still lose badly. Trump didn’t even show up for the first debate in August and he increased his share of the vote from 52% to 54%. After the train wreck of a debate last night, I would not be surprised to see that happen again.
“I think we would be better served as a Republican Party if we’re not sitting here hurling personal insults and actually have a legitimate debate about policy following Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment in his honor.”— Vivek Ramaswamy, quoted by McClatchy.
The looming federal government shutdown barely got a mention in last night’s Republican presidential debate, the Washington Post reports.
“Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”— Nikki Haley, at the Republican presidential debate, to Vivek Ramaswamy.
New York Times: “The most important audience might be Republican donors who are waiting to put their money behind a candidate who can take on Donald Trump.”
The seven candidates on the Republican presidential debate stage last night are collectively polling at around 37% — a full 16 points below Donald Trump, Axios reports.
“Trump has paid no price for skipping the debates — his polling share has actually increased from 52% to 54% since the August affair — and he looks set to steamroll his way to the GOP nomination absent a political earthquake or consolidation of the field.”
Nate Cohn: “Candidates might be flashy. They might be broadly appealing. They might hit MAGA notes. But after the last debate, there’s that much less reason to think this one will make a big difference in the race. It might even add up to helping Mr. Trump, by splintering his potential opposition.”
Playbook: “Sure, the first Republican debate was entertaining and enlightening, giving voters a vivid glimpse at some of the important cleavages inside the modern GOP. But in the end, the Republican who saw the biggest post-debate polling bump wasn’t even on the stage. Yep, it was Trump.”
TRUMP 2024. Donald Trump announced that he will not choose anyone currently running for president as his running mate.
“Donald Trump’s Republican rivals once viewed California as a lifeline. Instead, the Super Tuesday state with a massive delegate haul now looks more like a towering backstop for the former president’s campaign,” Politico reports.
“Enduring loyalty to Trump from millions of Republicans in the state combined with new delegate rules imposed by his loyalists are tilting the scales dramatically in Trump’s favor. It’s a rude awakening for the rest of the field as they descend on the state for Wednesday’s debate.”
“Donald Trump added a pack of new top South Carolina Republicans to his endorsement list Monday, showcasing his dominance over the two Palmetto State politicians running against him, Sen. Tim Scott and former Gov. Nikki Haley,” The Messenger reports.
“Over the last 72 hours, former President Trump’s daily torrent of online grievances crossed — not for the first time — into musings about ‘treason’ and the execution of his political enemies,” Axios reports.
“Despite claims of a strategic ‘pivot’ to the general election, Trump appears committed to the same unrestrained, sometimes violent rhetoric that alienated many independent voters in 2020.”
DESANTIS 2024. Tina Nguyen: “Ahead of the second Republican debate, the DeSantis camp is plagued by growing doubts among donors and allies that their biggest unspoken problem may be the candidate, not the campaign.”
“The pressure is on for Ron DeSantis to deliver a dazzling performance in California on Wednesday night — or else. Some supporters are concerned that a lackluster debate could be the beginning of the end for the Florida governor after a rough few weeks of polling,” Semafor reports.
Said one GOP consultant: “If he doesn’t do well, if he doesn’t clearly establish that he’s the leader of this debate, then I think Haley probably moves to the second place position kind of firmly, and probably becomes a donor favorite, and probably continues to get a lot of good media treatment.”
He added: “If he doesn’t do well here, in my opinion, he’s gotta drop out — if he doesn’t want to be embarrassed.”
BIDEN 2024. Politico: “The president’s reelection team is formally launching its campaign war room on social media Wednesday. With the handle Biden HQ, it will serve as a rapid response operation aimed at reaching voters by pumping out content — lots of content.”
Nate Silver: “I think Democrats probably would have been better off if Biden had announced in February that he’d chosen not to seek another term. Then there would be a lot more time for ‘added optionality’ to prevail over ‘chaotic shitshow’. I think Harris would probably lose a nomination fight under these circumstances — but she’d have plenty of time and resources to prove me wrong. Meanwhile, Whitmer and others would be on a more level playing field to raise money and compete with wealthy candidates like Pritzker.”
“But if you started that process now? I suppose this scenario looks better with a lot of coordination. You’d need Biden to stand down, you’d need party leaders to send a clear message that they wanted an open nomination process and not just Harris by default, and you’d need to make sure that Whitmer and/or other candidates the establishment liked were actually interested in running and the choice didn’t feel force-fed to voters. Ideally you’d also want to do all of this without someone leaking to Politico or the Washington Post and upending the process.”
“And that’s probably too much to ask for. In a democracy, you can’t just waive a magic wand and conjure the perfect candidate into existence. The invisible primary is a thing, but it’s a slow, iterative process. Biden may or may not be the best choice, but at this point the Democrats’ choice has largely already largely made.”
“President Joe Biden’s campaign is out with a new ad slamming Donald Trump’s record with autoworkers ahead of Trump’s visit to the battleground state of Michigan, underscoring how critical working-class voters will be in the upcoming presidential election, as the country gears up for a potential Trump-Biden rematch in 2024,” CNN reports.
“The 30-second ad is the campaign’s first to directly attack Trump, the front-runner in the GOP presidential primary race, and will air nationally on cable networks as well as Michigan, specifically.”
Former Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Republicans will lose the presidential election if Donald Trump is the party’s nominee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Said Ryan: “We lose with this guy.” He added: “I think leaders should endeavor to be honest, ethical, moral people who try to set standards for themselves and lead by example across the country. Donald Trump doesn’t try to do any of that. He does the opposite, frankly. So I just don’t think he’s fit for the job.”
“Do you think those suburban voters like Donald Trump more since Jan. 6? I mean, good grief. They didn’t vote for him this last time, they’re not going to vote for him again.”— Former Speaker Paul Ryan, quoted by the Associated Press, urging Republicans to choose anyone but Donald Trump “and that Vivek guy.”
Tom Nichols: “The current GOP is not so much conservative as it is reactionary: Today’s right-wing voters are a loose movement of various groups, but especially of white men, obsessed with a supposedly better past in which they were not the aggrieved minority they see themselves as today.”
“These reactionary voters, as I have written recently, are reflexively countercultural: They reject almost everything in the current social and political order because everything around them is the product of the hated now that has displaced the sacred then.”
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said he doesn’t plan to endorse a GOP presidential candidate for the 2024 election, The Messenger reports. Said Youngkin: “I don’t expect to endorse anyone. I think voters should choose this, and I’m sure it will be a well-participated primary.”
HUTCHINSON 2024. “Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson will continue his 2024 campaign for president despite failing to qualify for the second Republican presidential primary debate, but he set a new standard for himself late Monday to stay in the race beyond November,” ABC News reports.
Said Hutchinson: “My goal is to increase my polling numbers to 4% in an early state before Thanksgiving. If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention for either Caucus Day or Primary Day.”
“The New Jersey Republican Party wants to cancel its presidential primary in the 2024 election and instead select the state’s Republican National Convention (RNC) delegates via a state convention,” the New Jersey Globe reports.
Ralph Nader, who many think cost Democrats the presidential election in 2000, told the Washington Post that he’s backing President Biden for re-election in 2024. Said Nader: “We are stuck with Biden now. In a two-party duopoly, if one should be defeated ferociously, the logic is that the other one prevails.”
SCOTT 2024. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) is targeting some of his 2024 rivals on the issue of abortion in a new ad, The Hill reports.
Said Scott in the 30-second spot: “If the radical Left wins, abortions will be performed on minors without their parent’s consent. Babies old enough to feel pain will be aborted. And poor single mothers like mine, will be told aborting their children would help the economy.”
He adds: “Yet, these people say I’m the extremist. I’m Tim Scott, and I approve this message because some Republicans want to retreat on life. I know life is a gift from God, and this is a fight we must win.”
“Advertisers paid a premium for airtime during the first Republican presidential debate on Fox News, but it looks like they’ll be getting a major discount during round two on Wednesday night,” Semafor reports.
“For the first debate, the cost of a single 30-second spot topped $495,000. But the same 30-second spot during Wednesday night’s contest would cost just over $200,000.”