March 20, 2023
This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 12
- Candidate Biden stares down and unwelcome economic crisis
- Trump’s impending indictment both helps and hurts him for 2024
- Pennsylvania Republicans face another Mastriano problem in the 2024 Senate race
Joe Biden: The sudden collapse of a handful of regional banks contains within a great peril for President Joe Biden (D) as he prepares to launch his re-election campaign. Biden is already deeply unpopular — a survey last week by Quinnipiac found him at 55% disapproval, versus just 39% approval among registered voters. He has a lot of ground to cover to regain popularity in the next 17 months. An economic crisis is the last thing he needs at the moment.
So Biden’s political life is hanging in the balance as regulators and bankers try to save the entire system — otherwise, Biden will only be remembered for bailing out the depositors of Silicon Valley Bank well beyond what FDIC insurance would normally allow.
Meanwhile, the fact that Democrats are well and truly stuck with Biden for a second election cycle has not changed.
Donald Trump: The former president announced on Truth Social, in all caps, that he expects to be arrested this week. The charge really does look like a political witch hunt, given that the supposed offense — a payment of hush money over an alleged affair — has been public knowledge for several years now. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has never met a criminal he wasn’t willing to let off the hook, until now. His involvement should immediately raise suspicion, given his political nature.
Will this impending indictment result in a Trump landslide victory, as Elon Musk has suggested? Probably not. But it will help Trump by reinforcing the victim narrative that has served him so well since he first launched his presidential campaign in 2015. Unless there are some huge surprises in the criminal complaint showing unexpected perfidy on his part, this will make him look more sympathetic, because it really does appear that he’s being railroaded.
On the other hand, any indictment, along with the lawsuit he is currently fighting over allegations of rape and defamation, make a Trump nomination much messier, at least. They make him a difficult person to nominate for president. Not that that stopped him in 2016…
Mike Pence: Speaking of difficult, it is difficult to see a path to victory for former vice president Mike Pence (R). The events of January 6 and the time since have created a massive rift between him and the party base. His accusations on Saturday, that former President Donald Trump was responsible for the rioting and lawlessness at the Capitol, set Pence up as the anti-Trump candidate, for good or for ill.
“President Trump was wrong,” he said. “I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
The problem is, most Republican voters are not anti-Trump, including many of the ones who have gotten over him and would rather vote for someone else. Neither Nikki Haley nor Tim Scott nor Ron DeSantis, nor any of the other potential Republican hopefuls, have been going at Trump quite like this. Yes, they are setting themselves up as alternatives to Trump, but not as his nemesis..
Pence, in contrast, is already framing his expected campaign as the one designed for the anti-Trump Republican vote. The market for this kind of candidate within the GOP primary will be limited.
Ron DeSantis: DeSantis received the endorsement of Rep. Chip Roy (R) this week — his first so far from a sitting member of Congress and his third recent endorsement from someone who might have been expected to back Trump. For him, that’s not bad, considering that he isn’t actually in the race yet.
Meanwhile, just as he used his book tour to his utmost advantage, DeSantis is now using the Florida legislative session to his utmost advantage as well. Yes, he is obviously running a shadow presidential campaign, but it is subtle enough that the ethics complaint filed against him by a Trump-backed super PAC will go nowhere.
Florida’s legislature is currently working on a new “heartbeat bill” restricting abortion, a long-desired tort reform bill, and a universal expansion of school vouchers. The legislative session is supposed to end May 5, at which point DeSantis is expected to announce for president.
Mississippi: in contrast to the recent poll showing Gov. Tate Reeves (R) losing to Brandon Presley (D), a new survey by Mason-Dixon has Reeves leading by seven points.
Even so, Presley has relatively low name recognition, with 37% saying they do not know who he is. With Reeves at only 46% support, there is at least a chance that the Democrat could grow his following. Reeves, in contrast, has universal name recognition. His approval rating in this poll is low but not fatally so at 39% (versus 34% who disapprove).
West Virginia: Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) would hold a narrow lead in a crowded field, or he to jump into the open race for governor. He is reportedly considering doing so. The current governor, Jim Justice (R), is term-limited but widely expected to run for Senate against Sen. Joe Manchin (D), who won’t be making up his mind about running again until December.
Pennsylvania: Former state Sen. Kathy Barnette (R), who stirred up the 2022 Republican Senate primary but finished third for the nomination, is sitting it out in 2024. Perhaps inspired by a recent poll showing her in third place against potential GOP candidates Dave McCormick and Doug Mastriano, She has chosen to bow out.
However, It must be noted that Republicans have a big problem on their hands in the Keystone State, with or without Barnette in the race. Mastriano was badly blown out last year and would be almost certain to lose again in a statewide race against Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D). Yet the primary poll showed Mastriano leading McCormick, 42 to 28 percent in a head-to-head matchup.
With Barnette in the race, he would lead McCormick by even more — 39 to 21 percent. In the event that Mastriano does run, Democrats can be counted on to help him to the nomination, the way Gov. Josh Shapiro did in 2022.
DCCC scandal: The DCCC, the campaign arm of House Democrats, has come under fire for its role in the illegal access of military service records of several Republican candidates in 2022.
The House Judiciary Committee is now investigating this illegal breach, at the request of two of the victims — incumbent U.S. Reps. Zach Nunn (R-Iowa) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.).
Most infamously, Democrats were illegally given access to the records of candidate Jennifer-Ruth Green (R-Ind.), which indicated that she had been sexually assaulted while in the Air Force. Flouting long-standing norms of journalistic ethics, Politico exposed her as a possible victim after the information was leaked to that publication.
Other unsuccessful Republican candidates also had their military files illegally accessed by Democratic operatives.
Republicans are eager to make Democrats’ weaponization of the bureaucracy an issue in 2024. This little scandal puts that on a silver platter for them. They may also find another example in the major leak of personal tax information to the leftist activist group Pro Publica.