This week: The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 21
- McCarthy is quietly winning the debt ceiling debate over Biden
- Ron DeSantis to announce for president this week
- Daniel Cameron finishes with a strong blowout win
Amid all of the typical political rancor of the presidential election cycle and the spring legislative session in Congress, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has accomplished something possibly unprecedented in modern political history. He is actually winning a debt ceiling fight against a Democratic president.
No Republican in modern memory has ever succeeded in this before. It may never have happened in the 106-year history of the federal debt limit.
Although it is not the only indication, the ABC News poll out last week tells the story quite well. It shows that only 19% believe the debt limit should be increased without conditions. In contrast, 63% believe that deficit reduction should be a condition of any debt limit increase.
In other words, by a very wide margin, the public is buying the narrative that it’s appropriate to demand spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase. People are not buying the typical Democratic narrative that such demands are the equivalent of taking the economy hostage.
This is what has finally brought President Joe Biden to the table on the debt ceiling — the fact that he is losing the debate in real time, and by a very wide margin.
How did this happen? Simple. House Republicans stuck together and passed a debt ceiling increase. This would not have been possible with the rancorous and unruly Republican Party of the last decade. The key here was a willingness to work together toward an incremental goal — modest spending cuts that most conservatives would consider less than ideal but still good, in exchange for a debt limit increase.
The reason Republicans have the high ground this time, whereas they clearly lost the debate in 2013, was that they actually passed a debt limit increase, whereas Democrats in the Senate, who are forced to work on a more collaborative basis with the other party, cannot even agree among themselves on the debt limit.
It would be premature to declare victory at this point. But whatever Congress and Biden settle on, remember that Biden spent months refusing to act or negotiate at all. He was demanding an unconditional surrender on raising the debt limit of the nation’s credit card without any conditions at all. And now, with the very real alternative on the table of forcing a bit of discipline upon the Treasury, it turns out that most people like the idea. Most people think that giving Biden a mandate to borrow unlimited amounts of money unconditionally is a pretty stupid idea.
Again, this should be a lesson for conservatives. Yes, there are times to be rowdy and uncontrollable, to resist whatever the leadership is calling for. But there are also times when working together is a party accomplishes much more. This could turn out to be one of those times.
Ron DeSantis: The Florida governor will be announcing his candidacy this week. It is widely believed at this point that he is the only Republican potentially capable of defeating Donald Trump for the nomination, if even he can do it. He trails Trump in every recent national poll and most state polls as well.
But don’t get too stuck in this way of thinking. At this point in the 2016 Republican primary, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was the only candidate who could stop former Florida governor Jeb Bush. Obviously, things didn’t work out that way for either of the two, did they?
Now that he is openly running for president, the expectations on DeSantis will be much greater, and the haranguing from TrumpWorld, already deafening at this point, will become significantly louder. DeSantis faces a task similar to that of Barack Obama in 2008, who at first faced overwhelming odds in taking on the clear establishment favorite of his party, Hillary Clinton.
At the moment, all of the inertia in the Republican Party points to a Trump coronation — a race that is over almost before it starts.. The burden is on DeSantis to make the case two voters and Republican politicians, build his own momentum, and win in early states that can help propel him to the nomination.
Meanwhile, DeSantis fans (and Trump fans also) can get a good laugh out of this piece on what is supposedly Biden’s strategy in the event that he has to run against DeSantis. The idea is to show the entire nation how terrible Florida has turned out under his governance.
Kentucky: Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) cruised to victory last Tuesday with a surprisingly strong 48 percent of the vote. Almost as significantly, Kelly Craft fell flat into third place, with 17 percent, behind Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles‘ 22 percent.
The big winners here are Cameron’s endorsers, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell. Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis had been supporting Craft.
Cameron faces and uphill climb taking on Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, But it is a positive sign for him that more than 300,000 Kentuckians voted in the Republican primary, compared to just under 200,000 in the Democratic primary. This is no longer the conservative but solidly Democratic Kentucky of Andy’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear (D).
North Carolina: Last week, Republicans overrode term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto on their 12-week abortion ban. This highlights the incongruity of how a swing state like North Carolina, which appears to be trending rightward, has had Democratic governors for 26 out of the last 30 years.
Former Rep. Mark Walker (R) has announced that he is running for governor. Walker was essentially redistricted out of the House by the then-Democrat-controlled State Supreme Court during the last election cycle, and so he opted to run for Senate. He finished in a distant third place for that nomination after President Trump intervened to endorse then-Rep. (now Senator) Ted Budd in the contentious three-way primary. Trump’s primary goal had not been to stop Walker, but to prevent former Gov. Patrick McCrory, a two-time loser in statewide elections, from winning the nomination, given the likelihood that he would have lost the Senate race last November.
Walker, a conservative, will face Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, who is more conservative or at least more stridently so, as well as second-term state treasurer Dale Follwell in the GOP primary.
Nevada: National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines (R-Mont) is reportedly recruiting Sam Brown to run for Senate against incumbent Democrat Jacky Rosen. Brown, a retired Army Captain disfigured by severe burns from combat in Afghanistan, won just over 34 percent of the vote in the 2022 Republican primary, which former Attorney General Adam Laxalt won.
Daines apparently wants to avoid the nomination of former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, the only Republican to have announced for the race at this point, due to his stolen election conspiracy theories about the 2022 race that he lost for secretary of State.