This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 6
- Reeves avoids a primary in Mississippi
- NRSC helps clear the way for Jim Banks in IN-SEN
- Sinema finishes third in left-wing group’s poll
Biden-Trump rematch? According to the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 58% of Democrats would rather not have Joe Biden as their nominee in 2024. Also, 49% of Republicans would rather not have Donald Trump as their nominee in 2024, compared to 44% who would.
Among voters of all parties, only 36% would be “enthusiastic” or “satisfied” If Biden were reelected, whereas 43% say this of how they would feel about a Trump victory in 2024. Only 17% are enthusiastic about Trump, whereas an even worse 7% are enthusiastic about Biden.
Among independents, 66% would be dissatisfied or angry with a Biden re-election; 57% feel the same way about Trump being elected in 2024.
What does this all mean? That there is definitely an opening for someone else on both sides. But it is not an extremely wide opening, and not one that anyone will find easy to go through.
For Democrats, thie need for new blood will go unmet unless Biden passes away unexpectedly. Every viable Democrat has disavowed the idea of running for president against him in 2024. As we have noted previously, they are well and truly stuck with this guy. It does not matter that only one in six Democrats are enthusiastic about a second Biden term — They simply don’t have anyone else willing to run against him.
On the Republican side, the picture is less clear. Trump leads all comers, but he is no longer a prohibitive favorite. He trails in polls of several early states, and in some national polls as well. The real question seems to be whether anyone can find the secret formula for chipping away from or splitting off the Trump vote.
For many of his dedicated followers, there is simply no way they would support anyone else but Trump in a primary. But this is not the case for all of them, and perhaps there are even many of them who would be willing to support someone else under the right circumstances.
The other important finding of the Washington Post poll is that Trump leads Biden, 48% to 45%, and that although both men are in negative approval territory, Biden is several points less popular than Trump. What’s more, 62% say that Biden has accomplished little or nothing in office. But can Trump or any other Republican overcome Biden, given Republicans’ evident weakness in turning out their vote in 2022?
Nikki Haley: Haley is now expected to announce her presidential bid on February 15, or next week. The primaries are still a year away, but already, her biggest obstacle seems obvious. She trails Trump by a very large margin in every poll taken of her home state of South Carolina.
Haley is and was popular in her home state. She is remembered as a good governor. She was also a good UN ambassador under Trump, which means she has the full skill set of foreign policy and executive branch governance. She also has a pulse and lacks the extreme baggage that Trump has, which means that she would probably be Biden without any difficulty at all.
But if you trail Trump in a head-to-head race by 33 percentage points in the state where you governed and are supposedly best known and most popular, how can you hope to beat the man in other states’ primaries?
To compound Haley’s problem, South Carolina is almost tailor-made for Trump. He performed well there in 2016 with 32.5% of the vote, defeating both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz by 10 points. And he has only become more popular there in the time since.
And even if Trump fails to win the presidential nomination in 2024, he will probably win in South Carolina. This is something Haley will have to figure out and overcome in calendar 2023 If she really wants to be the Republicans’ presidential nominee.
On the other hand, the reported anecdote about her calling and receiving Trump’s blessing to run could be suggestive of something different — a desire, assuming all else fails, to serve as his new running mate or in his new cabinet. This would at least be more consistent with Trump’s extremely disparate attitudes about Haley running and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis running, which he has said constitutes an act of disloyalty.
Ron DeSantis: DeSantis (R), who in many polls either beats or places second behind former President Trump, will not be announcing a run until as late as this summer.
In the meantime, he is doing the best sort of presidential campaigning he can — taking on big conservative issues, fighting wokeness in a tangible way that will make him an attractive candidate to conservative voters by the time he has gotten in.
His latest causes involve liberating K-12 and higher education from the far left. In addition to his successful battle to un-woke the new AP Black History curriculum, he is trying to reshape the academic profile of Florida’s state university system. He is challenging entrenched tenure and attempting to transform one liberal arts college, the New College of Florida, into a much more conservative institution in a way that future administrations will not be able to undo. He is also defunding the State universities’ diversity, equity, and inclusion administrators.
In 2024, this kind of thing is much better than running campaign events or campaign ads. These are the kind of actions which, as a state level executive, desantis can use to show conservatives that he is a serious fighter for their cause who will not shy away from the critical cultural issues of the day.
It is of no concern to DeSantis that he will be starting his campaign as much as six months after Trump, because right now he is walking the walk on the issues that Trump brought to the front and center of Republican politics. This is the message that his eventual campaign will put to conservative voters when it comes time to pick a nominee in Iowa.
Mississippi: The filing deadline has come and gone, and Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has officially avoided any serious primary challenge. He will merely face a difficult reelection against Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (D), in which The Republican incumbent starts with a modest lead but well below 50%.
North Carolina: Having been jilted by both Trump and voters in the Senate primary in 2022 (Sen. Ted Budd was the winner), former Rep. Mark Walker told a local publication that he is considering a run in the GOP primary for governor against Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R). He has been meeting with donors and other states’ governors and his advisers are talking him up as the alternative more likely to win.
Arizona: The group Replace Sinema (formerly “Primary Sinema”), which is supporting Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D) bid against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I), has taken an early poll of the race. It finds a three-way tie in a race involving losing 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake as the GOP nominee. Lake and Gallego each take 36%, compared to Sinema’s 24%. Gallego leads in a race where the Republican involved is former Gov. Doug Ducey (R), 37% to 31%, with 27% for Sinema.
The same poll shows Gallego leading Lake in a head-to-head (50%-45%), which is intended to suggest to Democrats that Sinema is the spoiler in the race. “Sinema is in third place no matter who the Republican is,” the poll’s write-up states.
What is noteworthy is that both Lake and Ducey have double-digit net unfavorables — minus-15 in Lake’s case, and minus-20 in Ducey’s.
Florida: Millionaire businessman and assistant state’s attorney Keith Gross (R) is reportedly considering a primary against Sen. Rick Scott (R). Scott’s, who As of his last election was worth more than a quarter billion dollars, has proven to be a resilient and adept candidate through three hotly contested statewide elections. Although he has largely failed to make friends and influence people in the Senate — Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in particular — he remains the prohibitive favorite in any primary.
Speaking of McConnell, he removed Scott from the energy and commerce committee, announcing his move by text message. This is political revenge for Scott’s dark horse challenge to him for Senate Republican leader.
Indiana: Mitch Daniels will not be running for Senate.
Immediately after this announcement, the NRSC, with its new policy of taking sides in primary elections, sided with conservative Rep. Jim Banks (R), who represents the Fort Wayne area.
The NRSC intervention worked out exactly as planned. Indianapolis-area Rep. Victoria Spartz (R) announced right away that she would not be running — in fact, that she would be retiring from politics — and now Banks appears to have a relatively clear field.
The problem is, NRSC interventions in primaries don’t always work out this cleanly.
Montana: Still no word from Sen. Jon Tester (D) as to whether he will run for reelection in 2024. The only other Democrat who would really have a shot at keeping this seat is former Gov. Steve Bullock, who lost his Senate bid in 2020 against Sen. Steve Daines (R).
North Carolina: As expected, the newly Republican state Supreme Court will hear cases on both voter ID and redistricting. The justices are expected to undo the partisan Democratic rulings on those two issues quickly and cleanly. This will presumably allow Republicans to draw a map that gives them better prospects for keeping or building up their U.S. House majority in 2024.