Trump wins sympathy, but the outcome is unpredictable

This Week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 14

  • Trump’s indictment imminent
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court race may be the most important this year
  • Why is Asa Hutchinson running?


Wisconsin-Supreme Court: Tuesday’s runoff between former Justice Dan Kelly and Judge Janet Protasiewicz has been billed as the nation’s most important race. This may seem absurd for a state supreme court election, but a victory by Protasiewicz would return the state supreme court to the hands of the far left for the first time since the Walker era. This is why both sides have poured tens of millions of dollars into this race.

If given this power, liberals could attempt to redraw political maps, undo Walker’s popular public employee collective bargaining reform, and cause all manner of political chaos. 

A victory by Kelly would preserve the court’s current 4-3 conservative majority.

 Protasiewicz is actually campaigning on decisions she might make, whereas Kelly is slamming her as soft on crime.

This result on Tuesday could be extremely close, with Protasiewicz slightly favored.

Chicago runoff: This week’s runoff for Chicago mayor between Democrats Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson is another important bellwether. It will once again test an important question about 2024: can Democrats just “woke” their way into power, or will they have to address the looming issue of crime that concerns voters most?

Former teachers union official Brandon Johnson is testing progressive strength in Chicago. The thinking is that if the Left can’t get away with downplaying crime and racializing an election in one of the nations most left-wing jurisdictions, then they can’t do it anywhere. 

The defeat of Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the first round was already a bad sign for this election strategy, but this is not Richard J. Daley’s Chicago. Vallas, who has the backing of the police union, is narrowly favored to win.

President 2024

Donald Trump: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis brought his officially-not-a-presidential campaign to Long Island’s Cradle of Aviation Museum. Supporters of former President Donald Trump showed up in a massive, noisy, honking caravan.

It’s the sort of light-hearted moment everyone looks forward to in a presidential race. But this moment is not really so light-hearted.

President Trump is expected to turn himself in tomorrow and be arraigned on an indictment in Manhattan that reportedly contains more than 30 counts, including at least one felony charge. 

The initial reaction by nearly every Republican has been the same: Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a political animal through and through who lets criminals go and prosecute innocent people who defend themselves, actually campaigned on targeting Donald Trump. He is now following through on his shady political promise with a dubious indictment intended to raise his own profile for a future citywide or statewide run for office.

This is all true. And Trump is very prepared to play the martyr this week, even to the point of requesting a “perp walk” in handcuffs.

Still, this week’s legal proceedings should serve as a reminder that Trump faces more than just one flimsy indictment in New York. He faces potentially less flimsy charges in Georgia (for attempting to interfere in the vote count in 2020) and at the federal level (for his handling of classified documents).

And then there’s the lawsuit he’s fighting this month. Its merits may be paper-thin, but getting sued is no joke. It’s exhausting, even if you’re Donald Trump.

Granted, it would probably be far too brazen for federal prosecutors to go after a presidential candidate yet again, especially after their Russia collusion investigation bombed so badly. But the Georgia case at least remains a threat. And perhaps Bragg has now made it easier for other prosecutors to go after Trump by opening the Pandora’s box of political prosecutions. Trump could be dragged through one legal proceeding after another all this summer and even into 2024.

Make no mistake, this weaponization of prosecution against a former president is completely unprecedented. It’s obviously a dirty trick that has nothing to do with enforcing the law or protecting the residents of New York County. This is why the whole affair has made Republican voters more sympathetic toward Trump even than before. But this is how lawfare works..As the Left finds new ways to weaponize government each day, Trump could find himself increasingly bogged down in one or more courtrooms at a time when he needs to be campaigning for the Republican nomination. For the moment, he’s riding high thanks to a ridiculous political prosecution, but the tables could turn very quickly.

Ron DeSantis: DeSantis received good reviews for his appearance over the weekend at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference

Trump leads DeSantis in most polls. However, even though polls this early mean very little, a super PAC supporting DeSantis produced one giving him a narrow lead over Trump among Republican voters in Georgia. DeSantis leads, 48% to 38% in a head-to-head, and 37% to 36% in a more crowded field including six other candidates.

This comes after recent state surveys showing a DeSantis lead in Iowa and a tie in New Hampshire, where DeSantis will make an appearance April 14.

Asa Hutchinson: As a two-term governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson (R) reportedly kept demanding that Sen. Tom Cotton (R) meet with regional trade officials from the People’s Republic of China. Cotton says he refused, on the grounds that the Chinese plan was simply to threaten to withhold business from Arkansas unless Cotton stopped speaking out against China’s human rights abuses.

Hutchinson also vetoed a bill preventing the mutilation of children through so-called gender-affirming care (here is his explanation of why), despite presiding over a state where such a measure would not have harmed his popularity at all. The least of his problems is the fact that he expanded Medicaid in his state under Obamacare.

And so his decision to run for president is a bit baffling, given what could be described as his total lack of moral authority.

The presidential field is probably already too crowded just between Trump and DeSantis, the two big Republican stars of the era. Some would even argue it is already too big for Nikki Haley, the undoubtedly accomplished former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor who has struggled to carve out a third lane for herself. 

This makes Hutchinson’s sudden announcement of a presidential run on Sunday…well, pretty odd. A former congressman darling of conservatives who served as a floor manager during Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Hutchinson also urged Trump to get out of the race. It’s Hutchinson’s right to say whatever he likes. But If anyone has even less of a path to the presidency than Chris Christie, Hutchinson is the guy.

Senate 2024

Florida: The suggestion that Gov. Ron DeSantis would jump into this Senate race was never anything more than a fantasy. There is no love lost between DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott (R), but he isn’t crazy enough to take on the junior senator with the nine-figure net worth.

The more interesting question is whether any Democrat of note will get in and run against Scott. The four candidates who have currently filed paperwork are non-entities. In spite of Scott’s potential vulnerabilities (including his feud with Mitch McConnell), the Daily Beast could not find any takers in Florida’s congressional delegation. And although the name of former Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) has come up from time to time, she has shown no interest in the race so far. Democrats have no statewide office-holders at this time.

One thing keeping them out of the race might be Scott’s vast personal fortune, reportedly worth as much as $355 million, and his well-earned reputation as a tireless and disciplined campaigner who does whatever it takes to win.

This wouldn’t be the first time Florida Democrats failed to field a serious candidate in a U.S. Senate race in recent years — take, for example, 2010, when then-Gov. Charlie Crist (a Republican at the time) ran as an independent and split The liberal vote. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D) managed only a pathetic 20% showing in that race as Marco Rubio cruised to victory.

And in 2022, former Rep. Val Demings had the entire field of potential democratic candidates step aside for her, only to be humiliated in a 17-point blowout loss. 

Democrats held both of Florida’s Senate seats as recently as 2004, but they have not won a Senate race since 2012 or a governor’s race since 1994.