Trump’s triumphant return to Ohio

February 27, 2023

This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 9

  • Trump at last rediscovers his winning ways
  • Further proof DeSantis is indeed running
  • Mike Braun’s path to the Indiana governor nomination remains straightforward

President 2024

Trump: Former President Donald Trump’s appearance in East Palestine, Ohio was brilliant for a number of reasons. Obviously, he showed that he cares about the dangerous chemical spill that has polluted and fouled the water of the entire area at a time when the Biden administration is clearly falling short and addressing a major regional disaster. 

Where Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a putative future presidential contender, was too busy taking “personal time,” Trump showed up, with pallets of water and cleaning supplies in tow. He bought McDonald’s meals for residents and first responders, and told the people there what they all knew in their hearts: “They were doing nothing for you. They were intending to do nothing for you.”

And this wasn’t just for show. If Trump hadn’t gone, then Biden’s administration really would have done nothing for them. Buttigieg would probably not have even visited the site.

It was refreshing to see Trump reappear with the everyman, working class persona that won him the presidency in 2016. Lately, all anyone has seen of Trump has been the embittered election loser who can’t get over 2020 — the version of Trump who is certain to lose.

In the time since his announcement of his 2024 presidential bid, Trump has done very little that anyone could call impressive. But this was something different — this was the Trump who carried Eastern Ohio in a landslide. (And who just further shored up Ohio as a Red state for at least a generation.)

The liberal elites can mock all they want. This Trump — the one who showed up in East Palestine — is the one who needs to start showing up on the campaign trail. As soon as Trump starts looking forward like this on a consistent basis, and stops looking backward, he can reclaim control of the narrative in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.

DeSantis: In case you are doubting whether Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis plans to run for president, he just released this video over the weekend that can only be teasing a presidential run. 

The script begins: “When the world lost its mind…when common sense suddenly became an uncommon virtue…Florida was a refuge of sanity, a citadel of freedom for our fellow Americans, and even for people around the world.” 

Florida is undeniably a huge success story that contrasts with declining states such as New York, California, and Illinois, which are now all losing population in absolute terms. DeSantis can claim to be part but not all of the reason for Florida’s success, as other factors include warm weather and uninterrupted Republican rule in the state for the last 25 years. Even so, his best chance at the presidency is to run heavily on his record, and even to point out that President Trump, his chief rival, chose to switch his residency to Florida, and that even Democrats such as AOC choose to vacation there, mask-free, during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, he keeps adding long-standing conservative ideas to that record, many of which have never been tried in a state so large. He is currently proposing mandatory use of the E-Verify system — in other words, citizenship verification — in hiring for all employers. The largest states doing so for all employers up to now have been Georgia and North Carolina, followed by Alabama and Tennessee. Currently, Florida law only requires E-Verify for hires by the state and by state contractors. 

DeSantis’s current plans include another week or so of touring to promote his new book — something all presidential candidates do — until the state legislature reconvenes early next month. He will likely announce after the legislature adjourns in May.

Ramaswamy: The Republican race now has an entrepreneur-outsider candidate. Think of Vivek Ramaswamy as the Republican version of Democrat Andrew Yang. Ramaswamy, who previously voted for and supported Trump, won’t get the Republican nomination, but learn how to say his name, because you’re going to be hearing it a few more times this year. 

Governor 2024

Indiana: The path for Sen. Mike Braun (R) to the governor’s office got a bit clearer last week as Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) announced his intention to run for reelection rather than for governor or Senate. So far, Braun faces Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R) and former president of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Eric Doden (R).

Incidentally, this also eases the path for Rep. Jim Banks (R) to run for the resulting open Senate seat without any serious Republican opposition. There is still an establishment effort to find an opponent to banks in the primary, even though the NRSC has already endorsed him.

Whatever happens in other states, Indiana will be a success story for the NRSC’s decision to take sides in primaries this year. But Note that it could end quite badly in some other states.

Washington: The Dispatch reports that former Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R), who lost her seat last year to a Trump-backed candidate (who lost in the general election), is reportedly considering a run for governor of Washington. There aren’t many credible Republican candidates for anything in Washington nowadays, so her chances of advancing from the state’s top-two primary as an underdog against a Democrat will be good if she runs.

Senate 2024

California: It’s not quite what we expected, but it turns out that the Russiagate hoax is at least working out for someone.

A new Los Angeles Times poll shows Rep. Adam Schiff (D) leading the pack in the run for the Senate seat finally officially being vacated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). Schiff, who has been endorsed by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is sitting on more than $20 million in cash, has 22 percent to Rep. Katie Porter’s 20 percent. Rep. Barbara Lee (D) languishes far behind in single digits at 6 percent, and Rep. Ro Khanna (D)  (who has not officially announced) has 4 percent.