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Because the 2024 elections start now

The Race to Defeat Ted Cruz Is Getting Crowded

PLUS: Why Jamie Raskin isn’t running for the Senate

Texas Senator Ted Cruz
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Texas Senator Ted Cruz

The top

And then there were two. 

That was the situation when, on Monday, Texas State Senator Roland Gutierrez formally jumped into the Senate race to unseat Senator Ted Cruz. The addition of Gutierrez means there are two high-profile candidates in the Democratic primary to take on Cruz. Until Gutierrez’s announcement Representative Colin Allred was far and away the front-runner in the primary.

In the past, the most high-profile Democrats running for office (Beto O’RourkeWendy DavisM.J. Hegar) have all effectively had their primaries to themselves, allowing them to focus on their then-likely Republican opponent in the general election. 

And they all lost.  

But that was then and this is now. Every election is different and this time Democrats have Cruz’s 2021 absence from the state during a big power outage and the 2022 Uvalde shootings to criticize him on, in addition to all the regular knocks on Cruz. Oh, and then there are also Texas’s strict abortion laws. 

Then again, this is Texas, the reddest of the red states and divided primaries do affect the outcome of an election. One veteran Democratic campaign manager who’s worked in Texas put it this way:

Both of these campaigns are going to have to be splitting their attention to do a lot of work.… There’s enough factions in Texas right now. You gotta get your party on board. You gotta get groups on board—and by the way Texas is a crab bucket. Texas is fighting to pull everybody to get to the top but they pull each other down in order to do it. And you don’t have time for that right now. The stakes are too high. There’s too much work to be doing that. They need to learn how to get along and to start winning—this doesn’t help that. This is going to have people pick sides and more dangerously it’s going to put people on the sidelines. Luckily they’re still running against Ted Cruz.

Polling is sparse but a Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation poll from May found Allred leading the primary field with 33 percent and then Gutierrez with 22 percent. Now, it’s early, it’s just one poll, and all the other caveats, but Gutierrez’s entrance means this will likely be a divided primary. Democrats will have to hope it won’t be too divided. 

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Which fundraising announcements have surprised you the most ahead of the end of the third quarter? Are you excited to see the new Mission Impossible movie?

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Lessons from 2022

“It all comes down to turnout” is a cliché for a reason. A new report from Pew Research Center shows that Republicans won the House in 2022 in large part due to higher turnout by GOP voters, with 71 percent of those who supported Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election voting in the 2022 midterms, compared to 67 percent of people who had cast ballots for Joe Biden.

“This report offers, to some degree, some guidance to the parties about who they need to turn out if they hope to win,” said Andrew Daniller, a research associate at Pew Research Center. While these results “are not shocking revelations,” they further confirm that Democrats need to turn out women in greater numbers relative to men, and younger voters compared to older voters, for example. “Those are the kinds of things, if we assume turnout is the biggest factor here, that the parties probably need to focus on if they want to do well in the next election,” Daniller continued.

The report sheds further light on some of the narratives that have recently swirled among the political commentariat: the idea, for example, that Republicans are making gains with Hispanic voters, who have historically supported Democrats. Hispanic voters continued to support Democrats in 2022, but by a much smaller margin than in 2018. This was due not to changes in party affiliation, but to “asymmetric changes in voter turnout,” according to the report. 

“Our interpretation is that Hispanic voters who tend to be Republican voters may not have shown up in 2018, but did show up in 2022,” said Daniller. “By the same token, there are some Hispanic voters who went to vote in 2018, and had they voted in 2022, might have been inclined to stick with the Democrats—but they didn’t actually turn out in 2022.”

The report also found that the vast majority of voters stuck with their partisan preferences, with just 6 percent crossing party lines between midterm elections. But Daniller noted that, of those voters who changed their preferences between 2018 and 2022, Republicans gained ground particularly with rural voters and with white, non-college-educated voters. Among rural voters, for example, Republican candidates earned support from 97 percent who supported them in 2018, while Democrats held onto only 91 percent.

“We’re in an era when almost every election is determined by two, three, maybe four [percentage] points,” Daniller said. “So even if we’re only measuring the impact of persuasion as affecting a [percentage] point or two, it’s very possible that [that] could swing a national election.”

Although turnout in 2022 was not as high as it was in 2018, it was still largely unprecedented for a midterm election in the modern era. Because presidential elections tend to see higher participation rates than midterms, it’s entirely likely that party turnout will determine the outcomes in 2024, not just of who ends up in the White House, but who maintains or gains control in the House and Senate.

“2022 suggests to me that we might just be in an era where we’re going to see higher turnout. And it may not always be as high as 2018, but it might be high for a few years to come,” Daniller said.

Raskin’s reasons

Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin surprised some political observers when he announced last week that he would not run for Senate. Raskin had been publicly mulling a bid after longtime Senator Ben Cardin announced he would retire at the end of his term. TRU spoke with Raskin about his decision, and whether he’d consider a bid in the future. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.

TRU: Why did you end up making this decision?

 Jamie Raskin: It’s been a convergence of things. I’m in the thick of this struggle to defend democratic institutions against this MAGA attack on the rule of law, and I feel like I’m in a significant position to do that as the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee. If we take the House back, I’ll be the chair of the committee.

I’m being called upon by a lot of colleagues to help them out in the country and I think I can contribute to their campaigns in lots of different ways. That was one part of it.

My family’s been through a lot. In the week before the Fourth of July, this guy got picked up at the Obamas’ house with firearms and Molotov cocktails in his car. And he’d come to our house first, he visited one of the schools where my kids went to school. And a lot of things converged just to say that perhaps it’s not the right time to do that.

On the other side of it, I was getting tremendous encouragement and some pressure from people in Maryland [to run for Senate]. And that’s the part of it that still tugs at me. I love our state, as well as the country, and I don’t want to let people down. And I said in my letter that I would remain attentive to everything that’s happening in the race, and I would do whatever I could to make sure that we elect a strong, true-blue Democrat.

TRU: Do you think if a Senate seat came open again in the near future, you would consider running?

J.R.: In normal times I think it would have been a relatively easy choice to run for the Senate, precisely because I love not just the district so much but the whole state. It would have been an opportunity to interact with the state. But I just felt that it would take me out of the day-to-day defense of democracy against this continuing effort by Trump and his acolytes to overturn our institutions. 

I found it a very close choice, two excellent choices. A lot of it came down to that I prefer to spend the next year helping to elect a Democratic majority in the House, which is so essential, rather than running against Democrats. Perhaps there’s a way of doing both, but I wasn’t able to figure out at that point how to do it.

TRU: Do you have any plans to endorse in the primary?

J.R.: I haven’t gotten to any of that stuff yet. It’s still very, very early in the campaign season. But I was just so besieged by people calling and texting and wanting to meet that I felt the need to say something now in order to focus on my work.

News and views

Local flavor

Complaint alleges opponents of Alaska’s ranked choice voting formed church to skirt disclosure laws, by Iris Samuels in The Anchorage Daily News

Nebraska GOP donations yet to bounce back a year after tumultuous convention, by Erin Bamer in The Omaha World-Herald

Slotkin raised nearly $3M for Senate bid in second quarter, by Melissa Nann Burke in The Detroit News

Rebecca Cooke announces bid to unseat Derrick Van Orden in Wisconsin’s purple 3rd Congressional District, by Lawrence Andrea in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Court upholds protective order against lobbyist who stalked WA lawmaker, by Jim Brunner in The Seattle Times

Montana Democrat Monica Tranel announces run for U.S. Congress, by Noah Corrin and Bradley Warren in ABC Fox Montana

Army veteran Sam Brown enters U.S. Senate race, by Gabby Birenbaum and Noel Sims in The Nevada Independent

Iowa lawmakers pass 6-week ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion ban; Reynolds to sign bill Friday, by Stephen Gruber-Miller, Katie Akin, and Galen Bacharier in The Des Moines Register

Democrats want to take on Rick Scott next year. They still need to find a candidate, by Max Greenwood in The Miami Herald  

Long reads

Ohio Republicans’ devious plot to stop voters from legalizing abortion, by Grace Segers in The New Republic: Republican state lawmakers have scheduled an August election that could make it more difficult for Ohioans to change the state constitution—just months before a vote on a proposed amendment to enshrine abortion rights in the state.

America is moving on from Covid. That’s not good for Ron DeSantis, by Dave Weigel in Semafor: “Ron DeSantis, whose battles against mask and vaccine mandates made him a Republican star, has lost ground as voters move on from the pandemic.”

 The influencer who came to Congress, by Eric Cortellessa in Time: “To some, [Anna Paulina Luna is] a dangerously effective new version of the millennial MAGA politician ready to tear down the institutions of government in pursuit of an ultraconservative revolution. To others, she’s something more, the vanguard of a potentially significant turn in American politics.”

 Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Winston the Winner

This week’s Pet of the Week is Winston whose human is Laura Engquist. As of Monday, Winston is a one-year-old mini goldendoodle who was born in southwest Missouri and now lives in Washington, D.C. He loves going on long walks, hanging out with his pals at the Salt Line, and sprinting through the Capitol sans a leash. 

Mondaire Jones’s Plan to Win Back a Seat in Congress

PLUS: Some eye-popping fundraising numbers—both good and bad.

Mondaire Jones on Capitol Hill
Jemal Countess/Getty
Mondaire Jones on Capitol Hill last year

The top

Former Representative Mondaire Jones launched his comeback bid for Congress on Wednesday. Jones, the first of two openly gay Black men in the House, was elected in 2020 to represent a district just north of New York City. But after a newly drawn congressional map placed him in the same district as Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, then the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Jones opted to run instead in a lower-Manhattan and Brooklyn district. Jones lost in the primary to now-Representative Dan Goldman, and in a stunning upset, GOP Representative Mike Lawler defeated Maloney.

Now Jones is seeking to reclaim the lower–Hudson Valley district, rolling out his campaign with endorsements from more than 100 local officials. Joe Biden carried the old 17th congressional district by 20 percentage points, compared to 10 percentage points in the new district. (The governor and attorney general of New York are appealing for the right to redraw the map.) But Lawler isn’t the only opponent Jones is facing: First, he will need to prevail in the primary, which includes Liz Gereghty, a former member of the Katonah-Lewisboro school board and the younger sister of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The Run-Up spoke with Jones about his campaign, and the challenges ahead. The interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

The Run-Up: Mike Lawler won this district in a bit of an upset in 2022. Why do you think that you’re the best candidate to defeat him?

Mondaire Jones: Well, Mike Lawler has also told a number of people that, had I been the Democratic nominee, he would not have run against me, because he thought that he would have lost against me. I think that speaks to the fact that even Mike Lawler understands the strength of my candidacy, and for good reason. My constituents were very pleased with my record of delivering tangible results for the people of the lower Hudson Valley, and I for one never imagined that one day I would wake up and see a redistricting debacle in New York state like what we saw last year.

I’m from this district; in particular, I’m from Rockland County, which is a critical voting bloc. I am someone who is very committed to representing the communities that raised me. And I think you see that in the testimonials, both in the video that I released today and in the many months to come on what will be a very long campaign.

[Author’s note: When I asked Lawler’s campaign if Lawler said he would not have run against Jones, a spokesperson replied, “Let’s just say, not exactly …” then continued: “While it’s true that Congressman Lawler told people he was surprised that Mr. Jones ran away from the 2022 race and carpetbagged to another district instead of fighting for his seat, Mike was then—and is now—more than happy to run against someone with Mr. Jones’s far-left voting record.”]

TRU: Do you feel like you have unfinished business in Congress?

M.J.: I do. The work of saving democracy itself is unfinished, [including] the Senate filibuster of voting rights legislation and other democracy reforms that I co-authored. And now fascism is even more ascendant within the Republican Party, with the likely Republican nominee for president saying he will pardon the insurrectionists from January 6. The work of protecting basic freedoms, like the freedom of women to have an abortion, is unfinished work. We passed the Women’s Health Protection Act [in the House], but now we have to do it again in the House and in the Senate. And I definitely want to continue lowering the cost of prescription drugs, not just for people on Medicare, which we were able to do in the Inflation Reduction Act last year, but for people throughout our society regardless of their age.

We still have a uniquely American epidemic of gun violence in this country, largely because of Republican obstruction of commonsense reforms like assault weapons ban[s] and universal background checks. We have to get Mike Lawler out of Congress and restore the Democratic majority in the House in order to pass that legislation once and for all.

TRU: You mentioned that redistricted map. It’s arguable that the Republican majority this year ran through New York. Why do you think that so many districts in New York flipped Republican, and how do you correct that this time around?

M.J.: There were unique things happening in New York state politics last year, and uniquely bad decisions that were made by certain Democrats that collectively created the crisis we are now experiencing in this country, where New York and California are responsible for the Republican majority in the House. A self-described Republican drew, single-handedly, the congressional maps that we are now living with, which is why there is litigation as we speak to have the Independent Redistricting Commission redraw those maps.

In the 17th district, there was a lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee and feeling wrong [about] redistricting that led [people] to either not come out to vote, to leave their ballots blank, or to even vote for another candidate for Congress.

TRU: You wouldn’t be willing to say who those “certain Democrats” who made “uniquely bad decisions” are, would you?

M.J.: [Laughs] Oh, no. I think it’s a matter of public record.

TRU: You already have the National Republican Campaign Committee and a primary opponent of yours, Liz Gereghty, saying that you left your constituents in the lurch by running in the 10th district in 2022, and now running in the 17th district. How do you respond to those criticisms? And do you think that your voters might be a bit resentful of that?

M.J.: It is extraordinary to see a Democratic candidate for Congress adopt GOP talking points regarding the nightmare redistricting last year that everyone saw for what it was. My constituents know that I didn’t wake up one day and decide not to represent the community that raised me and that means so much to me. They understood that my decision to avoid a bruising Democratic primary in a swing district was intended solely to increase the likelihood that they would continue to be represented by someone who would protect democracy and freedoms like abortion, and continuing to cut costs for working people like the family I grew up in. My constituents, to a person, whether I am in the grocery store or just walking streets, do not blame me for redistricting last year, and have urged me to represent them once again. That is exactly why I’m doing this.

TRU: Can you tell me a bit more about your strategy for reaching out to voters and ensuring that your community really feels as if you care about them and want to represent them?

M.J.: We have a four-county strategy of engaging with voters of all political stripes. It’s why I’m so proud that on the list of 109 in-district elected officials and party chairs, I’ve got a lifelong Republican who serves on the Rockland County legislature speaking to my effectiveness and endorsing my campaign. That is what being rooted in the community, and having grown up in Rockland County in particular, means for my candidacy and for this district.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! What was the goal of Ron DeSantis’s homophobic campaign ad? How did you celebrate your Fourth of July weekend/Tuesday?

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Segment two

For political reporters it’s the most wonderful time of the year: the time when campaigns have to file quarterly finance reports. There are always tons of gems hidden in these if you know where to look and are a political junkie. Because this has been an annoyingly weird workweek, we decided to devote some space here to rounding up some of the big Federal Election Commission quarterly fundraising reports. They are below:

  • Representative Adam Schiff, who is running for Senate, raised an eye-popping $8.1 million.
  • Senator Tammy Baldwin raised $3.2 million, her campaign announced.
  • Senator Bob Casey raised $4 million, his campaign announced.
  • Representative Colin Allred raised $6.2 million, according to The Texas Tribune.
  • The Arizona Republican Party had less than $50,000 in cash reserves, according to Reuters.
  • Missouri Democrat Lucas Kunce raised $1.2 million, according to The Kansas City Star.

Document of the week

In light of this being the first TRU after July 4, this week’s document is the Declaration of Independence. Image courtesy of the National Archives.

News and views

Local flavor

Mayor for Hire: Francis Suarez’s wealth boomed while he promoted Miami as tech capital, by Sarah Blaskey, Tess Riski, and Joey Flechas in The Miami Herald

Meagan Wolfe finds herself back where she started as elections chief: In the middle of a firestorm, by Molly Beck and Jessie Opoien in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Zeldin’s inroads highlight changing dynamics in Assembly for Democrats, by Joshua Solomon in The Albany Times Union

Ohio abortion rights supporters file more than 700K signatures to make the November ballot, by Jessie Balmert in The Columbus Dispatch

Some Dems worry Newsom’s 28th Amendment plan could open up a constitutional Pandora’s box, by Shira Stein and Sophia Bollag in The San Francisco Chronicle

Defeated for governor last year, Darren Bailey sets his sights on Congress and a downstate GOP primary with Mike Bost, by Rick Pearson in The Chicago Tribune

Long reads

What Democrats can accomplish when they control a whole state, by Grace Segers in The New Republic: “The party had a Minnesota legislative ‘bonanza,’ passing abortion protections, paid family leave, and a child tax credit, among a raft of new laws.”

DeSantis, furries, and Trump merch: I went to the Moms for Liberty summit, by Kate Briquelet in The Daily Beast: “Conservative parents, Bible-thumpers, and atheist moles all gathered in Philly over the weekend to court GOP candidates and thunder against the woke.”

The DNC has a primary problem, by Ross Barkan in The New York Times Magazine: “The White House wanted South Carolina to vote first in 2024. The Democratic National Committee obliged. It hasn’t gone according to plan.”

The push for legal weed faces hostile ground in red states, by Mona Zhang, Paul Demko, and Natalie Fertig in Politico: “There are increasing signs of a legalization backlash in deep red America: Voters in four states—Arkansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and South Dakota—have rejected adult-use referendums in the last nine months.”

Conservatives go to red states and liberals go to blue as the country grows more polarized, by Nick Riccardi in the Associated Press: “Americans are segregating by their politics at a rapid clip, helping fuel the greatest divide between the states in modern history.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Yankee Doodle Dandy

This week’s winner of our weekly pet photo contest is Yankee Doodle, submitted by Representative Chris Deluzio. Yankee Doodle is a rambunctious, patriotic little sweetie who loves freedom but hates fireworks (a hot yet correct take). He lives in western Pennsylvania with his humans: Deluzio, his wife, Zoë, and their three kids. Happy Independence Day/Week from Yankee Doodle!

The Powerful Democratic Senator Who Wants to Race Harleys With Mike Pence

Gary Peters is revving Dems’ engine for 2024. Plus, a new political group is pushing a universal basic income.

Senator Gary Peters
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty
Senator Gary Peters

The top

Earlier this week, the TRU Detectives sat down with Senator Gary Peters, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Peters, the junior senator from Michigan, is one of the lesser-known Democratic senators in American politics. But make no mistake, he is a major player in Democratic politics. He is the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, whose portfolio includes a range of national security and anti-terrorism topics. A businessman who served in the Navy Reserve, Peters is well liked among Washington Democrats and chaired the DSCC in 2022, when Democrats dramatically exceeded expectations in the midterm cycle and successfully defended every incumbent Senate seat—the first time that’s happened since 1934.

Some highlights of our interview with Gary Peters:

“Some of the same issues are at play [in 2024 as in 2022]. One will be candidate quality. There was no question a big factor in our victory last cycle was the fact that our candidates were clearly superior to what the Republicans put forward. Our incumbents and candidates were able to raise the resources they needed. They ran great campaigns, and they were more in line with the issues voters care about.”

“Clearly the Dobbs decision was a factor.… That’s still going to be a big issue. Abortion is not going away in this election. The Republicans are completely out of step with where a large majority of the American people are. And we’re going to run good campaigns. Even if you have a better candidate, that doesn’t mean you automatically win an election. You have to run strong campaigns. A big part of our victory last time was the fact that we invested unprecedented amounts in the ground campaign, going door-to-door, starting conversations with voters not just a couple of months before the election but over a long period of time. Build up that kind of infrastructure. In fact I made a strategic decision [for] the DSCC last cycle that we would spend more money on our field operation than we did on television and that kind of media. It was the first time in the history of the [committee] that we did that.”

“Reproductive freedom was front and center on the ballot: incredibly powerful in turning folks to turn out. I remember getting pushback from a lot of folks because we were talking about abortion a lot in the campaign and folks said, ‘Why are you doing that?’ and ‘Well, let me remind you our Democratic candidates are primarily talking about economic issues … but they were talking about [abortion as a component of] economic freedom, and they were doing it for one reason: It worked. It was incredibly powerful to turn out people, especially young voters. It was amazing.”

“When you look at who did the worst in these elections, they were election deniers, and a lot of Republicans had election deniers on the ballot, and I was just so encouraged by the results that they lost. They lost. That was not a popular thing to take in a general election. It helped them win primaries.”

The Run-Up: If Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee again, will Democrats be talking a lot about election denying?

Gary Peters: Absolutely.

In many ways, I look at my job more as a mayor than a U.S. senator. What is important in my state? What is important in the individual communities in my state? How can I make a difference in their people’s lives for the things that they care most about? And there are some common themes, but there are also some things that are unique.… So you’ll see tailored messages in all of our states because that’s how senators do their jobs every day. They’re always fighting for people in their individual communities, and we have a lot of successes to talk about.

TRU: Where is the DSCC on the Arizona Senate race? Will the committee endorse either Sinema or Gallego? Is there a timetable on endorsing?

G.P.: In Arizona it’s still early. We’ll have to wait and see how that unfolds. You mentioned Kyrsten Sinema has not made an announcement that she’s running. We’re not endorsing anywhere right now. We’re doing our early work of investing in states that we know we can’t let a Republican win. So in Michigan there are a number of folks running … but our focus is, how do we build the infrastructure in Michigan so whoever our candidate is will have the opportunity and the resources necessary to win? I work with Kyrsten Sinema. She’s a member of my Homeland Security Committee. She’s a valuable member of the committee and works with us very closely on a variety of issues, but she’s not announced her intentions so we’ll have some time to see what unfolds in Arizona. But in the meantime, we’re going to be focused on building up the infrastructure in key states and we’re going to be absolutely focused on making sure that, whatever happens, a Republican does not win in Arizona.

TRU: The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been endorsing candidates in primaries this cycle. In the past, the DSCC has done that, but it’s been a while. Will the committee do that this cycle?

G.P.: Actually last cycle was the first cycle in a while that that didn’t happen. When I came in, last cycle, I did not endorse and that was my intention, not to close the door. There could be a reason why we’d have to endorse, but if we had good candidates running, my view is, let the people in the state decide who they want to have as their nominee in the race and then we will be supportive. But having said that, although we may not be involved in a primary, that doesn’t stop us from investing in a state.

TRU: When did you start riding motorcycles? What was your first Harley?

G.P.: When I started I think I was 11 or 12, actually. I really wanted this little minibike. There was this little minibike that I dreamed [of having], and I went to my mom and I said, “Mom, I really want to have this little minibike,” and she said, “Well you’re not going to have that because they’re too dangerous. I’m not buying you a little motorcycle. It’s not going to happen unless you buy it yourself. If you can’t buy it yourself, you’re not getting it.”

And I went out and got myself a paper route for the Pontiac Press, at that time—it’s a different paper now.

I worked a little over a year and a half delivering my papers and saving up my money, and I went to my mom and said, “Mom, I have the money. I can buy that now.” She was not particularly pleased, but there was no way she could renege on that, so I went to the dealer with my dad and bought it, and from then I’ve been riding ever since. It is kind of my therapy.

TRU: Would you race Mike Pence? He rode a Harley recently at Joni Ernst’s Roast and Ride fundraiser.

G.P.: Race him? Yeah, especially on the new one I have. I’m on the Pan America Harley. It’ll take anything he’s riding, so I’d be happy to do it.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Do you think Ron DeSantis has made a crucial strategic error in allegedly angering the Republican women of New Hampshire? What are your July Fourth plans? Who’s most correct on this Jessica Sidman Twitter thread about the most overrated and underrated restaurants in D.C.? Will you be watching the season premiere of The Witcher this weekend? Should Henry Cavill stay as Geralt? Did you watch Extraction 2?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

No more Moore

The Supreme Court this week dismissed the once-fringe “independent state legislature” theory, which has become increasingly mainstream among Republican politicians and played a prominent role in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The decision in Moore v. Harper has far-reaching implications for future elections. Accepting some portion of the independent state legislature theory could have resulted in unchecked partisan gerrymandering, wherein state legislatures under one-party control could divvy up congressional districts without judicial oversight.

The decision could also affect the 2024 presidential election. In 2020, supporters of President Donald Trump attempted to use the independent state legislature theory as justification to overturn the election results. Hilary Harris Klein, the senior counsel for voting rights at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, said Tuesday that accepting the theory could have opened a legal can of worms with an “absolute tsunami of litigation challenging state court decisions.”

“Any of those challenges that could have been lodged may still be attempted. We cannot say they won’t be attempted, but they should be shut down very swiftly by lower courts,” Klein said. “I think that we have, thankfully avoided this immense amount of election chaos and uncertainty that we could have had going into 2024, if any version of this theory had been adopted by the court.”

Moore v. Harper was brought to the Supreme Court after North Carolina’s highest court ruled that its congressional districts were illegally gerrymandered to benefit Republicans. The state Supreme Court later reversed that decision, after Republican judges obtained the majority. The ruling will have little effect on North Carolina, given that the state court has already issued a ruling on its congressional map.

“While the court made the right decision in dismissing a fringe and extreme legal theory outright, we know that the authoritarian forces behind this case will not give up so easily,” argued Neha Patel, co–executive director of State Innovation Exchange, an interstate network of legislators committed to advancing progressive policies. The North Carolina legislature, for example, is likely to redraw its congressional map to favor Republicans once more. Patel also pointed out that several Republican-led state legislatures, particularly in the South, have recently introduced and passed restrictive legislation affecting voting access.

But this ruling could also affect a state like Wisconsin, which has an incoming liberal majority that may choose to strike down the state’s gerrymandered congressional map. That, in turn, could help determine which party takes control of the House after the 2024 elections. The ruling is also a blow to Ohio Republicans, who ignored a state Supreme Court order to redraw the congressional map ahead of the 2024 election, citing the independent state legislature theory.

But others raised concerns about the powers the Supreme Court reserved for itself in this decision. “In our view, democracy dodged the bullet that shouldn’t have been fired,” said Stasha Rhodes, campaign director of United for Democracy, which advocates for more serious checks for the Supreme Court. “This independent state legislature theory is so extreme, it really had no business at the court in the first place.”

Rhodes argued that the court left the door open for “serious meddling and mischief” in future elections, particularly at the presidential level, in an aside which our colleague Matt Ford likened to a “judicial version of a Marvel post-credits scene.” As law professor Rick Hasen argued in Slate, this decision could allow the Supreme Court “to second-guess state court rulings in the most sensitive of cases,” as it did in Bush v. Gore.

Efforts to overturn election results likely will not go away in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Arizona, Patel argued. “That’s still an ongoing fight,” she said. “This case has been years in the making … and so what we do from here on out, it’s years in the making to come.”

Hot universal basic income scoop

Remember Michael Tubbs? The former mayor of Stockton, California, who got national attention for pushing for a universal basic income during his tenure? Well, he’s back and taking the lead in a new 501(c)4 organization aimed at supporting lawmakers in favor of introducing an income floor. Tubbs and Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter are running the group, whose existence is being first reported by The Run-Up. It will be called United for a Guaranteed Income, or UGI.

According to a copy of the announcement, which your TRU detectives got their hands on: “United for a Guaranteed Income will advocate for anti-poverty legislation at the local, state and federal level, support candidates that are working to create an income floor in the United States, and mobilize Americans to join the fight. This will be a seven-figure campaign through 2024, and will grow from there.”

United for a Guaranteed Income is really an evolution of the work of mayors in our country in trying to get a guaranteed income,” Tubbs told Daniel. “The idea is to build on the momentum we’ve seen, the success the pilots, the champions have created, and really organize with a unified voice and speak to the federal government and state governments about the need to make a guaranteed income a policy. So it’s really about the evolution from piloting to policy and having the capacity to do so and to use the political system to achieve that goal.”

UGI has raised $500,000 to start, according to a spokeswoman for the group.

Document of the week

This week’s document is a fundraising invite for Representative Ruben Gallego’s Senate campaign. The interesting thing about this fundraiser is that the headliner is none other than former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The fundraiser was first reported by NBC News.

News and views

Local flavor

On the trail: Trump-DeSantis split-screen moment in N.H., by Paul Steinhauser in The Concord Monitor

Sarah McBride announces run for US House seat to become first trans member of Congress, by Meredith Newman in The Delaware News Journal

Supreme Court sends case over Louisiana congressional maps back to 5th Circuit, by Sam Karlin in The Advocate

At Texas-Mexico border, Ron DeSantis unveils immigration platform with Trump in mind, by Patrick Svitek and Renzo Downey in The Texas Tribune

Republican Tim Sheehy enters U.S. Senate race, by Holly Michels in The Billings Gazette

In major ruling, US Supreme Court rejects elections theory put forth by NC Republicans, by Danielle Battaglia, Avi Bajpai, and Lars Dolder in The Charlotte Observer

Gov. Kay Ivey calls special session to redraw Alabama’s congressional districts, by Mike Cason in

Is the Confederate flag still an issue in Mississippi elections? Chris McDaniel campaign tries to revive it, by Geoff Pender in Mississippi Today

An unlikely duo is key to Adam Schiff’s Senate campaign: Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump, by Joe Garofoli in The San Francisco Chronicle

Long reads

DeSantis voters: Angry at Fauci, anxious about ‘Cinderfella,’ tiring of Trump, by Hannah Knowles, Colby Itkowitz, and Dylan Wells in The Washington Post: “The Florida governor is appealing to the GOP’s right flank as he tries to peel support away from Donald Trump. But many are still drawn to the former president, who leads by a wide margin in the polls.”

Inside the mind of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., by John Hendrickson in The Atlantic: “What had initially been written off as a stunt has evolved into a complex threat to both Biden and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. Put another way: Kennedy’s support is real.”

Meet the Democrat who warned us about Kyrsten Sinema, by Daniel Strauss in The New Republic: “Andrei Cherny, whom Sinema beat more than a decade ago, is running in one of the country’s most competitive House races.”

‘Ego, pure delusion and fantasy’: How the 2024 GOP field got so big, by Adam Wren in Politico: “The hottest club in GOP politics right now is the party’s presidential primary. The calculus of every longshot is that anything could happen. And the likely, worst-case scenario? It isn’t that bad at all.”

Hakeem Jeffries is staging a takeover of the New York Democrats. His hope to become Speaker may depend on it, by Edward-Isaac Dovere in CNN: “Hakeem Jeffries’ path to winning the majority and becoming speaker runs through his backyard in New York, and he is methodically staging a takeover of Democratic House campaigns in the state to make it happen.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Miso soup

This week’s winner of our weekly pet contest is Miso, submitted by her human, Shefali Luthra of The 19th. Miso is a cat of contradictions: She hates to be picked up, but she loves a very gentle belly rub. Miso also hates the rap duo Run the Jewels (specifically Meow the Jewels) and Porgs but loves watching The Sopranos and playing with dumbbells and bike pedals.

Chris Christie’s Weird Appeal Among Democrats

PLUS: The politics of abortion, a year after the Dobbs ruling

Chris Christie at an event in New Hampshire
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Chris Christie at an event in New Hampshire earlier this month

The top

This weekend marks the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. In the wake of that momentous ruling, abortion has been a critical issue in special elections, midterm contests, and ballot measures. Abortion rights advocates say that the passage of time will not dim the matter’s salience with voters but will continue to motivate them to turn out at the ballot box.

“Abortion is a kitchen table issue for voters,” argued Angela Vasquez-Giroux, the vice president of communications and research at NARAL Pro-Choice America. “There’s not a single person in the United States whose life is not affected by the Dobbs decision, and I think that the sooner we begin to understand that, the easier it will be to understand why voters are reacting and acting the way they are.”

December poll by PerryUndem, a Democratic public opinion research firm, found that 64 percent of first-time voters in the midterms were motivated by the Supreme Court’s decision overturning the right to an abortion, and 59 percent of registered voters said that the issue would motivate their vote in the long term.

“It arguably, I think, made the difference between what should have been a pretty massive red wave and what wasn’t,” said Christina Reynolds, the senior vice president for communications at Emily’s List.

recent Gallup poll found that a record high of 69 percent of Americans say abortion should be generally legal in the first three months of pregnancy, and 61 percent believe overturning Roe was a “bad thing.” Support for abortion has particularly increased among women, with 40 percent saying that the procedure should be legal under any circumstances. 

As Republican-led states pass increasingly stringent laws severely restricting or banning abortion, Reynolds argued, voters will make their voices heard at the ballot box. She contrasted those policies with steps taken by state governments in Minnesota and Michigan to protect access to abortion.

“The more we illustrate what can happen if you vote this way, if you ensure that you are represented by people who will protect your rights and not rip them away, the more voters will be inspired to come out,” Reynolds said. Tuesday’s primary elections in Virginia offered another example of the salience of abortion rights, with a primary challenger toppling a Democratic incumbent state senator who has described himself as “pro-life.”

In a Wednesday press conference on marking Dobbs’s first anniversary, Representative Suzan DelBene, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that Republicans’ positions on abortion would “cost [them] the House majority.” Senator Gary Peters, chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, highlighted key states where the Democratic incumbents support abortion rights, such as Ohio, Wisconsin, and Arizona.

Senator Tammy Baldwin pointed to an April election in her home state of Wisconsin where a pro–abortion rights candidate overwhelmingly won a state Supreme Court seat. That court may consider an 1849 statute restricting abortion in the state. “It will remain a very significant issue for Wisconsinites, and so I believe that it will be a major topic in the 2024 elections,” said Baldwin, who is up for reelection.

USA Today/Suffolk University poll published this week reflects this trend: The survey found that one in four Americans say state efforts to restrict abortion have made them more supportive of abortion rights. (For their part, anti-abortion advocates at the Susan B. Anthony List are pressing candidates to support a 15-week abortion ban, Semafor reported.)

Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, who is up for reelection this year, promised Wednesday that she would make abortion a key campaign issue. “As long as I’m here, and Senate Democrats remain in the majority, we won’t let a restrictive abortion ban pass,” she said.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Is Hunter Biden’s proposed plea deal a “slap on the wrist” or justice being served? Is this CNN poll showing Trump losing steam an outlier or a sign of things to come?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Chris Christie’s weird Democratic appeal

There’s something about Chris Christie that Democrats seem to find—maybe not appealing but less atrocious than other Republicans. That’s the situation in this Republican presidential election, at least. On Pod Save America, for example,  the Pod Save bros occasionally like to give Christie a softer drubbing than they do other GOP candidates. On a recent episode, Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer played a clip of Christie’s raison d’être for running (which is to defeat Donald Trump, contra almost any other candidate in the race). “​​I loved it,” Favreau said. “Of course. Of course. How could you not love that?” Pfeiffer similarly said later in the episode that most of the Republican primary field has “the same problem, which is: How do you make a case against Trump when you were just slavishly defending every terrible thing he did six months ago? At least Christie says he’s wrong.” 

This sentiment isn’t exactly new or unique. Going all the way back to 2014, Democrats have found Christie appealing if the only other options are Republicans. According to a Christian Science Monitor article from that year titled “Is Chris Christie the Democrats’ favorite Republican?” the then–New Jersey governor was Democrats’ “favorite possible GOP candidate.” 

Christie, formerly both a U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey and top-tier Republican presidential candidate (certainly in 2012, when he passed on the race, and arguably in 2016), is still able to go on conservative-leaning networks and podcasts and prosecute the case against Trump. Over on the Ruthless podcast, which is somewhat of a conservative Pod Save America analog, Christie recently said Trump “intentionally hid dozens of boxes of documents from his own lawyer … I mean look, it is a tough indictment, and I guarantee—having done something like this for seven years—is that that’s about a third of the evidence. You never put all your evidence in the indictment—ever.” These are just things to which conservatives won’t listen coming from a liberal but which a card-carrying, abrasive Republican can say. 

What’s more, Christie isn’t exactly popular among Republicans. When he finally decided to run for president in 2016, he bet the barn on a good New Hampshire showing, only to meet embarrassingly dismal resultsposting behind Trump, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz, former Florida Governor Jeb(!) Bushand Senator Marco Rubio

Christie’s popularity isn’t exactly rebounding. According to FiveThirtyEight, Christie is currently “more unpopular than ever among Republican registered voters: His national net favorability rating in the latest Monmouth poll was -26 points (21 percent to 47 percent).” The former Garden State governor, though, isn’t exactly an old-school liberal Republican from New Jersey. He recently said that while he thought the original Roe v. Wade ruling was “wrong,” voters wouldn’t have to worry about a federal abortion ban if he is elected president. 

All of which is to say that, given the current crop of Republicans vying for the party’s presidential nomination, it’s understandable why Democrats might see Christie as the least nefarious of the various candidates. Too bad for Christie that Democrats don’t decide who wins the Republican nomination.

Document of the week

This week’s document is a fundraising invite for President Joe Biden featuring Biden, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, and Pritzker’s wife, first lady M.K. Pritzker. Pritzker, it’s worth noting, has been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, but it’s clear as long as Biden is running, the second-term governor is eager to support the sitting president to lead the Democratic Party. 

News and views

Local flavor

Ohio Supreme Court OKs August election for plan to make it harder to amend constitution, by Haley BeMiller in The Columbus Dispatch

Democratic National Committee ‘alarmed by’ Alabama party losing diversity caucuses, by Brian Lyman in

Meet the next generation of LGBTQ+ rights activists in New York, by Rebecca C. Lewis in City & State New York

DeSantis aside, few presidential hopefuls heading to early state Nevada, by Gabby Birenbaum in The Nevada Independent

London Breed saved herself. Can she save San Francisco? by Josh Koehn in The San Francisco Standard

Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s sole congresswoman, will run to fill Carper’s Senate seat, by Meredith Newman in The Delaware News Journal

Aird ousts Morrissey in Senate primary; Bagby beats Gooch, by Michael Martz in The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Long reads

He’s deeply religious and a Democrat. He might be the next big thing in Texas politics., by Adam Wren in Politico Magazine: “James Talarico confounds Fox News hosts, fights the culture wars by quoting scripture, and has fellow Democrats talking about his statewide future.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis used secretive panel to flip state Supreme Court, by Beth Reinhard and Josh Dawsey in The Washington Post: “Leonard Leo, the key architect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority, led the advisers who helped DeSantis reshape the state court.”

Team Trump suspects his former chief of staff is a ‘rat’, by Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley in Rolling Stone: “Earlier this year, Donald Trump sent some of his lawyers and political advisers on a ‘small fact-finding mission,’ as a person with knowledge of the matter describes it to Rolling Stone. The former president wanted to know, according to that source and another person close to Trump: ‘What is Mark doing?’”

The Virginians who can’t vote on Tuesday because of Glenn Youngkin, by Alex Burness in Bolts Magazine: “Under Youngkin’s predecessor, Virginians automatically regained the right to vote upon leaving prison, an approach that would have made Hawkins eligible to vote. But Youngkin has revived the state’s lifetime ban on voting for people with felony convictions.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Taco Thursday

This week’s winners of our pet photo contest are Shrimp Taco (front) and Señor Don Gato (back). Submitted by Emily Perlstein of NARAL, Shrimp and Señor are polar opposites in terms of personality—the former pathologically friendly, the latter allergic to all non-Emily human connection—but they agree on their love for each other. They may have one brain cell between the two of them, usually in use by Señor, but their cuteness knows no bounds.

What If Trump’s Indictment Doesn’t Change a Thing?

PLUS: Congress tackles A.I., and GOP senators stay neutral.

Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The top

Artificial intelligence arrived in the Capitol this week as lawmakers got the first of three closed briefings on the suddenly everywhere technology. The briefing was about where A.I. is today and was conducted by MIT professor Antonio Torralba, an expert in the field. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, speaking on the Senate floor, described it as a senators-only hearing about A.I.’s “capabilities, its applications, its limitations, and its challenges.”

Tuesday’s session was part of the scramble both Democrats and Republicans are undergoing to try to figure out how to respond to A.I. technology in politics. Caucuses are forming. Lawmakers are holding subcommittee hearings. Republicans hope that the technology can help improve border security. Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has testified on how the technology will impact “our society, economy, and ultimately national security.”

The hullabaloo is as frantic in the campaign sphere. There have been predictions that A.I. will produce a waterfall of deep-fake video and audio clips (there are already a few disturbing examples thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s campaign, as well as phony clips of Nancy Pelosi and former Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas).

The optimistic flip side is that A.I. will make it easier for underdog candidates to compete, especially by helping streamline some lower-tier campaign jobs—what Democratic strategist Colin Strother characterizes as “brute” work, such as rapid response or microtargeting. “If you can automate all of that, then these previously time-intensive, labor-intensive and therefore cash-intensive campaign functions get a lot easier to do and a lot cheaper to accomplish,” Strother told Roll Call.

So that’s the positive. The negative, again, is that A.I. will put the practice of spreading misinformation into overdrive. But let’s take a breath here. It’s not like misinformation in campaigns is anything new or new in just the past few years. The fear, though, is that with A.I.’s good will come a lot of bad as well.

“It’s going to be an accelerant and a scaler of things that are both nefarious and positive, things that people have already been able to do,” said Teddy Goff, a Democratic strategist who was the new-media guru for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. “There’s been the ability to mislead voters dating back to people putting flyers on trees that claim something or other. Then obviously push polls are a whole other thing. So misleading voters as to what candidates have said and done is not a new tactic, but this could allow people to do it faster and more convincingly, at greater scale.”

Goff added, in terms of targeted disinformation: “It’s sort of an extension of the trends that we’ve seen in every election in memory, where those who want to muck around [in] our elections have more tools at their disposal to do it faster and smarter and at greater scale.”

Goff, though, cautioned that the worst-case scenario isn’t a news cycle in which a campaign is caught perpetuating a very convincing A.I. deep fake.

“That’s actually probably the preferable scenario,” Goff said. “Even that preferable scenario is bad. As we all know, more people are probably reached by the lie than are reached by the fact check, that’s one. Two, I think, even when something is successfully debunked or fact-checked, the whole incident has worsened the dynamic where nobody knows what to trust and everyone thinks everything else is lying; everyone thinks information ought to be taken with a grain of salt. I think that’s, basically, bad for democracy, bad for Democrats, and I think bad for people’s mental health and bad for society.”

The worst-case scenario is different, Goff continued.

“What’s also likely to happen is millions of deep fakes all the time making it onto people’s feeds, sometimes individually targeted or targeted toward tiny little subcommunities,” Goff said. “Not exactly going viral but reaching 100 or 10,000 people at a time, well below the pay grade of any professional fact-checking operation, and I think the aggregate impact of that at scale could be impossible to track and hugely deleterious to democracy and also [to] the only one of our two parties that believes in protecting our democracy.”

Indictment indifference

For the sake of argument, let’s agree that getting indicted and arrested for hoarding classified documents in a resort bathroom is, generally speaking, not great for a presidential candidate. But Donald Trump isn’t any candidate—he’s a former president who has bounced back from scandals that would wipe out any other politician’s career a thousand times over.

There’s conflicting conventional wisdom as to how the latest indictment news will affect Trump’s candidacy. One theory, that it will only strengthen him as a candidate, points to polling showing that his previous indictment, by the Manhattan district attorney, bolstered his support among Republican voters. Others believe that it may help him in the short term but could further alienate voters in a general election.

But there’s a third possibility: What if this doesn’t change anything? What if Trump still becomes the Republican nominee, facing off against Joe Biden, and the country gets to experience 2020 Part II: Electric Boogaloo? According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, a plurality of Americans believe the federal grand jury was correct to indict Trump, with predictable splits along party lines. Yes, he is the first-ever former president to be federally indicted—but voters’ beliefs about him are likely baked in, regardless of what he has allegedly done.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found that support for Trump among Republican and Republican-leaning voters remains unchanged in the wake of the indictment, with 53 percent saying they would support him in the primary. The poll also found that in a head-to-head matchup, Biden would narrowly lead Trump by 48 percent to 44 percent.

“I don’t think this changes Donald Trump’s profile,” Senator Josh Hawley said. “I think people who hated him will be like, ‘See, I knew I hated him.’”

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Do you think Trump’s indictment and arrest will change anyone’s mind? Are you also tired of constantly dealing with presidential campaign news when we’re still a year and a half away from the general election?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Senate Republicans stay neutral

While many House Republicans have flocked to endorse presidential candidates, GOP senators have been more circumspect, often declining to wade into the primary. Trump has garnered support from 10 conservative senators, while North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum’s two home-state senators have endorsed him, and Senator Tim Scott has the support of South Dakota’s two senators. But no other candidate has earned a senatorial endorsement, and many Republicans in the upper chamber seem happy to stay out of the game.

Senator Marco Rubio said that he had spoken to “most of” the candidates— including the governor of his state, Ron DeSantis—but did not plan to endorse in the near future. “I don’t think my endorsement is going to decide [anything],” Rubio said. “Frankly, I don’t think endorsements from senators right now are going to change the outcome.”

That sentiment was echoed by Senator Cynthia Lummis, who said she hadn’t heard from any of the campaigns about an endorsement but her “inclination is to not endorse in the primary.” Senator John Cornyn did not respond directly when asked if any campaign had reached out and asked for his endorsement, only saying: “Well, I like Tim Scott an awful lot, but I’m not going to get involved in the primary.”

Hawley, however, indicated that he believed an endorsement in the primary would be a moot point. “I think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. I just think it’s inevitable,” he said. “No offense to anybody else.”

Document of the week

This week’s document is a fundraising invitation for Virginia House Minority Leader Don Scott, a Democrat. The fundraiser on Tuesday was headlined by special guests former Governor Terry McAuliffe and Congressman Bobby Scott, both Democrats.

News and views

Local flavor

Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher says he will not run for Senate in 2024, leaving an open GOP field, by Lawrence Andrea in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Anti-Boebert campaign PAC accuses Colorado congresswoman of defamation, by Nick Coltrain in The Denver Post

​​Georgia GOP elects election deniers to key posts, by Greg Bluestein and Mark Niesse in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Why what happened in 2021 Arizona election ‘audit’ still matters, by Robert Anglen in The Arizona Republic

Feds Got Permission To Trace Ald. Jim Gardiner’s Phone Calls As Part Of FBI Investigation, Court Records Show, by Ariel Parella-Aureli in Block Club Chicago

Scott Wiener is quietly amassing female leaders’ support in his campaign-in-waiting for Nancy Pelosi’s seat, by Joe Garofoli in The San Francisco Chronicle

Haley Stevens endorses Elissa Slotkin for U.S. Senate, by Riley Beggin in The Detroit News

‘Food for everyone.’ Trump detours to Versailles to court Hispanic voters after arraignment, by Michelle Marchante, Ana Ceballos, Linda Robertson, and Jimena Tavel in The Miami Herald

Long reads

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is content in Little Rock. For now. by Grace Segers in The New Republic: “[Sanders’s] prominent knack for partisan warfare, and early legislative successes, have cemented her as the Republican governor to watch in the not-quite-post-Trump era.”

This California Democrat might be the future of the party, by Jonathan Martin in Politico Magazine: “As his party attempts to reclaim the majority next year, [Aguilar is] embracing a new role: mentor, guide and, he hopes, eventually leader for the next generation of California Democrats emerging and arriving in Washington.”

Can Elise Stefanik become MAGA’s messenger in chief? by Abigail Tracy in Vanity Fair: “Once a Paul Ryan protégé, New York Republican Elise Stefanik has morphed into one of Donald Trump’s biggest cheerleaders. She’s now being charged with keeping the House GOP on message for a critical election cycle—and as Trump indictments mount.”

Colin Allred wants to be Beto O’Rourke—without the losing, by Sam Brodey in The Daily Beast: “Allred has a needle to thread with his candidacy. He needs to capture the excitement that O’Rourke generated, while not generating the GOP backlash. He wants to build a movement, while not raising the alarm for Republicans so they rally to Cruz’s side.”

The next Georgia? Biden campaign targets North Carolina to reshape 2024 electoral map, by Joey Garrison in USA Today: “Biden’s reelection campaign is targeting North Carolina as a top state to try to flip in 2024, with Democrats convinced that the Tar Heel state’s booming suburbs with college-educated voters around Charlotte and Raleigh’s Research Triangle, combined with its sizable Black population, make it prime for a Democratic pickup.”

No Labels, Mo’ Problems

This week saw several articles interrogating the motivations of No Labels, the controversial organization floating a third-party presidential bid. Here’s a roundup of some of our favorites:

No Labels’ latest recruit: The North Carolina ex-governor behind the infamous “Bathroom Bill,” by Daniel Strauss in The New Republic: “Pat McCrory oversaw the most contentious, divisive four years in the Tarheel State’s modern history. This is transpartisanship?”

No Labels likely to back off third party bid if DeSantis emerges as GOP nominee, by Shia Kapos in Politico: “That No Labels is hinging its third-party effort in part on Trump’s fate underscores that the group’s calculus is not tied tightly to ideological considerations.”

Democrats meet with anti-Trump conservatives to fight No Labels 2024 bid, by Michael Scherer in The Washington Post: “Their mission: to figure out how to best subvert a potential third-party presidential bid by the group No Labels, an effort they all agreed risked undermining Biden’s reelection campaign and reelecting former president Donald Trump to the White House.”

No Labels is helping a firm that raises money for right-wing extremists, by David Corn in Mother Jones: “The self-proclaimed centrist group is using a vendor that assists election deniers, MAGA Republicans, and the radical Trump right.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Cammie and Sammie

This week, we’re featuring Cammie and Sammie, submitted by Lauren Zelt of Zelt Communications. Cammie, a tan American foxhound, was adopted from Rural Dog Rescue in 2018. Lauren describes her as “the sassiest hound around,” who loves long walks and Ray LaMontagne (don’t we all?). Sammie, a black beagle, was adopted from Lucky Dog Animal Rescue in 2019 and currently reigns as the king of snuggles and carrier of his three favorite toys—Lamby, Pony, and Mr. Shark, in that order.

The Republicans’ Ballooning 2024 Field

PLUS: How to save democracy, according to David Pepper

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Michael M. Santiago/Getty
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

The top

Three Republicans jumped into the presidential race this week. Playbook fittingly called it “Longshot Week”: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum may be the latest Republicans to join the field, but they most likely won’t be the last—there are always wild cards and unexpected additions in any modern-day presidential field. Their repercussions are generally marginal, however.

Not this time. For months the consensus has been that a larger field of candidates is actually better for Donald Trump. There’s evidence for this thinking: Pollsters say again and again that his base simply doesn’t move from him, regardless of the former president’s actions or scandals. Actually that understates Trump’s hold on his supporters: The more embattled he is, the more they circle the wagons around him. Given the various lawsuits in which Trump is embroiled and the constant complaints he makes about how there’s some kind of vast conspiracy against him, his supporters are circling him very closely.

That leaves only a chunk of the Republican electorate for the ever-increasing number of candidates to fight over.

Nikki Haley got in, Tim Scott got in, [Ron] DeSantis got in, and we didn’t see a lot of erosion at all from Trump,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “In fact in some ways his support got stronger with every announcement. So really it’s basically once we went from two viable contenders to three, it doesn’t matter [at] this point because everyone who’s coming in [as] the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh are all, as of right now, fighting over the same group of non-Trump supporters.”

As the field of non-Trump candidates grows, however, is there one behind whom the anti-Trump bloc of the Republican primary electorate could coalesce? Maybe a Scott or a Christie?

“No, it’s not clear at all,” Murray said. “They represent about 30 percent of the Republican electorate—the people who want to move on from Donald Trump. And it’s whoever the non-Trump candidate is. If there’s one, that’s who they’ll get behind. If there’s more than one, then [the vote] just splits up. It’s not like one in particular has a better chance than others. Except for Ron DeSantis, but his support has eroded significantly over the past few months.”

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary put it this way: “It’s not that complicated. I do think a bigger field helps Trump,” he said. “We saw this in 2016; I think we’re going to see this in 2024: Trump is most vulnerable in a one-on-one head-to-head race.… The math is pretty straightforward in that regard. I think Trump probably pops a bottle of—I wouldn’t say champagne—but probably pops a bottle of Diet Coke at Mar-a-Lago every time a new Republican gets in.”

Trump and his team seem aware of this dynamic. Trump ominously wishes each new candidate “good luck” when they enter the race.

“Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race,” Trump said after Scott formally announced his candidacy. “It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable.”

The irony here is that all these other candidates are fighting to make sure Trump isn’t the Republican nominee again, although most of them refuse to directly say that.

The rest of the primary field has another problem: They need to figure out how to distinguish themselves from each other in addition to Trump.

“What is it that you have that is so unique relative [to] anyone else jumping into the race?” Republican pollster John Couvillon said. “In other words, if you’re a Doug Burgum or a Perry Johnson or Asa Hutchinson or one of those guys, you’re going to have to find a way of standing out in regards to catching the attention of donors and voters.”

That fact alone highlights another motivator. Some of these candidates aren’t really running to be president. They’re running for visibility or a Cabinet position in the next Republican administration. But there too, if Trump is president again, the fact that they challenged him will be a pretty big mark against them.


Unless you live in North Dakota or are deeply invested in its politics, Burgum’s announcement that he is running for president may have been the first time you heard of him. While Christie and Pence are long shots, they at least have the national name recognition that Burgum lacks. In terms of the old-school Republican campaign Burgum appears to be launching, with a heavy emphasis on American leadership and energy policy, his closest analog in the primary may be Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas. Burgum could be even less well-known nationally than Hutchinson, who some will recall was a House manager during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but he does have one significant advantage: money, and lots of it.

Before entering politics, Burgum was a successful software executive. With a net worth of more than $1 billion, he largely self-funded his gubernatorial campaign, and can replicate that strategy in a presidential primary. Money isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing! “One of the contexts in which campaign cash can be very helpful is early on in a primary when the candidate is not very well known,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes. Even if this presidential bid is unsuccessful—as it is very likely to be—Burgum can spend enough money to boost his name recognition, making him a politician to watch for in future elections.

North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer told TRU that Burgum has a “great personal story,” as well as “the resources to tell that story in a few important early states.” Cramer has endorsed Burgum, and continued that he believed the governor could appeal to voters with his low-key style. “I guarantee it won’t be loud and screaming, and it won’t be offensive to anybody, and it may not be sexy enough to break through, but if everyone else kills each other, there will be a very good story to tell,” Cramer said.

Burgum told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in May that “there’s a value to being underestimated all the time,” noting that he handily won the 2016 gubernatorial election despite being an underdog without any state party support in the primary. Cramer said admiringly that Burgum was “a turd in the punch bowl in North Dakota,” a political outsider who advanced from the business world to the governor’s office.

Trump’s team remains unimpressed. “Unlike Ron DeSantis, Doug Burgum doesn’t have to point to relatives to claim Midwestern credentials. He was born and raised there,” Karoline Leavitt, spokesperson for the Make America Great Again PAC, said in a statement. “However, like Ron DeSantis, Doug Burgum will waste millions of dollars only to lose to President Donald Trump in Iowa.”

But Cramer argued that observers shouldn’t count Burgum out just yet. “He will almost certainly exceed everybody’s expectations,” Cramer said. “Now, you can’t have expectations much lower than people have right now for him.”

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Which Republican presidential candidate do you predict will drop out first? What did you think of New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s decision to stay out of the presidential race? What’s your most anticipated TV show of the summer (Grace is particularly looking forward to Justified: City Primeval)?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

David Pepper’s guide to saving democracy

The former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, is out with a new book on how to approach the crises that have beset the country’s democratic system. He spoke with TRU about Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual for Every American and his thoughts on the country’s future. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Run-Up: Why do you think democracy is in danger and needs to be saved?

David Pepper: If you take a close look at what’s happening in all these states—if we saw that same set of events happening in another country, we would recognize it as a full-fledged assault on democracy. And the kind of steps we’re seeing in these states, whether it be censorship or attacks on rule of law, rigging elections so the outcomes are guaranteed, empowering a minority to do what it wants, even if the majority disagrees—I mean, all those things are five-alarm fires when it comes to basic notions of a healthy democracy.

TRU: You argue that the factions subverting democracy in order to maintain power succeed because they are constantly on offense. Given that the opposite faction, the small-d democracy faction, is often on defense, how do you go on offense without resorting to those same tactics of gerrymandering or voter suppression?

D.P.: Going on offense means get to where the battle is, and fight it all the time. The battle is not just a few swing states during federal years, it’s power at the state and local level, especially the statehouse, whenever there are elections there, and in between those elections gearing up for that.

Where we need to get much stronger is taking steps that when they break the law, when they do things that are just unacceptable politically, we do a lot better job of aggressively holding them accountable. Whether that be local prosecutors taking on lawlessness like we’re seeing in Georgia, whether it be private lawsuits, whether it be people losing their bar license because they’re lawyers who violate ethics rules—we can go on offense without becoming what they’ve become. But going on offense means doing it in different places, being far more aggressive, and seeking accountability wherever we can.

TRU: In your book, you say that everyday Americans should incorporate democracy into personal mission statements. Could you talk a bit more about that dynamic, about saving democracy as an individual versus as a collective society?

D.P.: Collectively is how we’ll do it. But the power of the collective effort will only come when enough people decide, “This is part of who I am.” Once you’ve made the commitment, “Hey, this is part of who I am, I’m fighting for democracy, I’m an American, I want to live up to that”—it’s really, I hope, empowering to people, because then they can see, “Wow, there’s so much more that I can do.”

Once you have enough people saying, “It’s part of who I am,” then all of a sudden, every workplace, every nonprofit, every geographic location, like an apartment building, can be a hub of democracy.

It’s only too late if we don’t see the threat for what it is. Or if we quit, or if we don’t change our strategies to actually deal with it. But if we do all that, especially if enough Americans step up and say, “This is going to be part of my core mission,” I think we certainly can win the day long term and just keep fighting for democracy.

TRU: What gives you hope for democracy?

D.P.: It’s always a continuing battle. The 2022 election was a great moment where certain pieces of the right kind of infrastructure succeeded.

2022 hopefully shows a lot of people that there is an infrastructure building, [but] it needs to be scaled up. If it just stays static, it’s not good enough. We need to scale it up. But there’s momentum around the right approach that some are building. It’s happening organically from the grassroots on up. But ’22 should give people hope, that if we keep building in the directions that ’22 showed success, we actually I think can make progress in the final thing.

If we simply keep doing what we’re doing, and only focus on a few swing states and the presidential—then I think we squander a good opportunity. I do think there is a moment of time right now that we can take advantage of, if we’re really smart about it and we’re willing to adjust some of the way we do things.

Document of the week

This week’s document is a fundraising invite for DeSantis’s campaign, in two weeks in Washington D.C. We noticed that multiple headliners have ties to Florida or even the last Florida governor who ran for president (Jeb!). The fundraiser underscores how DeSantis is leaning on his home field advantages in these early days of campaigning.

News and views

Local flavor

‘This law specifically targets us’: Idaho families sue to block trans health care ban, by Ryan Suppe in the Idaho Statesman

‘I expect to see severe damage’: Safety risk concerns mount as Congress fast-tracks Mountain Valley Pipeline, by Mike Tony in the West Virginia Charleston Gazette-Mail

AG’s office slammed for ‘irrelevant posturing’ and ‘hyperbolic allegations’ in TikTok case, by Elissa Maudlin in the Indianapolis Star

Sununu forgoing run for President, with no decision yet on fifth-term as governor, by Michaela Towfighi in the New Hampshire Concord Monitor

Newsom threatens DeSantis with kidnapping charges after migrants flown to Sacramento, by Mackenzie Mays and Melanie Mason in The Los Angeles Times

Attorney general approves wording of proposed referendum to repeal education law, by Neal Earley in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Doug Burgum announces presidential run, joins crowded field of GOP candidates, by Patrick Springer in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Long reads

Ron DeSantis’ joyless ride, by Mark Leibovich in The Atlantic: “DeSantis is the ultimate performative politician when it comes to demonstrating outrage and ‘kneecapping’ various woke abuses—but not so much when it comes to the actual in-person performance of politics.”

After missteps with some Hispanic voters in 2020, Biden faces pressure to get 2024 outreach right, by Will Weissert and Adriana Gomez Licon in the Associated Press: “Biden is hardly the first politician to strike a sour note trying to connect across cultural lines, but the blowback he encountered illustrates a bigger challenge facing the president and his party as he seeks a second term next year.”

How a fringe legal theory became a threat to democracy, by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker: “Lawyers tried to use the independent-state-legislature theory to sway the outcomes of the 2000 and 2020 elections. What if it were to become the law of the land?”

Republican lawmakers are making it harder for power companies to pivot away from coal. Their constituents may be paying the price, by Isabelle Chapman, Casey Tolan, and Ella Nilsen in CNN: “Republican legislators and state officials are making it harder for power companies to retire coal plants even when it makes clear economic sense to do so—propping up the ailing industry at the cost of higher energy prices for their constituents.”

How Christie and Trump’s relationship flourished, then deteriorated, by Maggie Haberman in The New York Times: “The two men had a relationship that could be genuinely warm, and at other times transactional. Now they are vying for the presidency in open hostility.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

BFFFFs (Best Furry Feline Friends Forever)

This week, we’re honoring Brodie (left) and Maddie (right), submitted by Luke Kraemer and Pat Morgan. After they adopted Maddie this February, the two cats became instantly inseparable. According to their humans, they do something new every day—including, today, being featured in this newsletter!

Who Wants to Crown Ron DeSantis?

PLUS: debt ceiling fatigue and Chris Christie chronicles

Reynolds, DeSantis, and Feenstra pose holding spatulas and meat while wearing red aprons.
Rebecca S. Gratz for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Congressman Randy Feenstra flip meat on the grill for a photo op during the annual Feenstra Family Picnic.

The top: Kingmakers

There was a time when presidential candidates went out of their way to shamelessly woo local elected officials—especially in certain states like New Hampshire. This was the only time in most of these low-level lawmakers’ careers when senators, governors, Cabinet secretaries, and kooky business people treated them like kings. Remember when then–New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was frantically texting New Hampshire sheriffs and state senators as he tried to keep his doomed 2016 presidential campaign alive? (But hey, there’s always 2024!) Or how about when Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were feuding over the endorsement of the most backbenchy of backbenchers in the Nevada legislature? The practice goes a long way back. We’re talking before 2012 and well beyond even the days when a former state party chair in South Carolina endorsing then-Senator Barack Obama was big news.

As with so much in American politics, though, Donald Trump’s 2016 victory turned the practice of endorsements on its head. Suddenly, local lawmakers’ disgust at a presidential candidate didn’t spell certain doom. After Trump won, his endorsement and that of his lieutenants (briefly) mattered more than the old nods. But even in these relatively early days of the 2024 presidential race, Republican candidates are trying to use lesser-known lawmakers as launching pads for top-tier status.

In Iowa, for instance, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was more than happy to be Representative Randy Feenstra’s guest at the annual Feenstra Family Picnic. Senator Tim Scott and his team got especially creative, handing out roses to all the women at a New Hampshire Republican Women’s event.

But more important this time around will be endorsements from leaders of ideological blocs of the Republican Party—like the FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Van Der Plaats and Club for Growth’s president, David McIntosh. About a year ago, Jonathan Swan and Lachlan Markay at Axios laid out the groups that matter for Republicans: Trump, his family and aides, Club for Growth, and the Susan B. Anthony List, among others

“Lots of folks” claim to be kingmakers in their ideological blocs, Doug Gross, the former chief of staff to then–Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, told The Run-Up by email, citing Bob Van Der Plaats with evangelicals as an example. “But with so many claiming so few, suspect it will be [whoever] can rally the Never Trump moderates behind one candidate.”

So while candidates can give out as many roses as they like, in the end what will probably matter the most is which candidate gets David McIntosh.

Who cares about the debt ceiling?

In last week’s newsletter, we wrote about who the American people would blame if the United States defaulted on its debts, throwing the national and global economies into chaos. This week, we seek the answer to another question: Is the public actually paying attention to the debt ceiling crisis to begin with?

“No,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz told The Run-Up, when posed that very question. “I think they would have paid very close attention had we got to the deadline, but it just sounded like a normal political fight. Which it was not.”

Therein lies the rub: Congress is generally so dysfunctional, and so prone to last-minute showdowns, that this battle seems par for the course in a deeply polarized body. The debt ceiling is also a rather obscure topic to grasp, with many conflating it with the separate issue of funding the government.

“Americans just want us to figure it out and work together,” Democratic Representative Scott Peters said. He added that he believes people are “turned off by the us-versus-them” and are more interested in following the NBA Finals than yet another congressional showdown. “People don’t connect the importance of what we do with their daily lives. I can see why people check out,” Peters continued.

The lack of attention and understanding may actually contribute to our ongoing cycle of periodic debt ceiling showdowns. If Americans see this as just another fight, they won’t punish their representatives and senators for flirting with default.

When asked if he believed the public was paying attention to the fight over the debt ceiling, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer joked: “What? You mean it could be just us?” Nevertheless, he expressed hope that the debt ceiling fight, and the deal to resolve it, could highlight the potential for bipartisan action in Congress.

“​​I think they might look at it and go, ‘Look at that, they might actually do it. They might have actually found a common ground and compromise,’” Cramer said. “Maybe it restores their hope. I hope that’s the outcome.”

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Which Republican presidential candidate will conquer Iowa? Can Kevin McCarthy stay speaker for much longer? If so, what’s your over/under on how long he lasts? What did you think of the Succession finale? Are you also shocked and horrified that we’re almost halfway through 2023?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and (We’ve already started getting some new comments since we started putting the newsletter on the website—keep ’em coming!)

Document of the week

This week’s document is the filing for the new pro–Chris Christie super PAC. It emerged a few days ago, just a little ahead of Christie’s expected announcement of a second go at the presidency (he crashed and burned in 2016). And in true Christie fashion, the super PAC is called Tell It Like It Is.

The pop culture segment

In April, Semafor reporter and friend of the newsletter Kadia Goba profiled Representative Jamaal Bowman, a sophomore Democrat who has quickly become one of the strongest progressive voices in the House. It’s a great interview, but Grace was particularly struck by an analogy Bowman made comparing himself and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to famous rappers.

“Hakeem is more like Jay-Z and I guess I’m more like Busta Rhymes,” Bowman told Kadia. Interest piqued, TRU asked Bowman which rappers he would liken to the other Democratic leaders, Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. After a few weeks of consideration, we have his answers.

“I’ve talked to people about it. So, Katherine Clark is Queen Latifah, and Pete Aguilar is B-Real from [rap group] Cypress Hill,” Bowman said. However, he continued, he hasn’t yet decided how he would characterize Democratic Policy Committee Chair Joe Neguse and Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu. Stay tuned, loyal readers, for further updates.

News and views

Local flavor

Massachusetts has passed just 10 laws this year, the fewest to open a legislative session in decades. It’s a sign of the times, by Matt Stout in The Boston Globe

Rep. Chris Stewart plans to resign from Congress, by Bryan Schott in The Salt Lake Tribune

NC bill takes more power from governor and gives it to GOP-held roles, by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan in The Charlotte Observer

Montana ConCon delegates challenge new barriers to citizen-led ballot initiatives, by Sam Wilson in The Billings Gazette

Ron DeSantis kicks off 2024 presidential campaign in Iowa: ‘The stakes couldn’t be higher,’ by Katie Akin in The Des Moines Register

Senate candidates who hope to replace Feinstein try to define themselves as they court Democratic activists, by Seema Mehta and Laura J. Nelson in the Los Angeles Times

Mike Pence to announce presidential campaign with June 7 rally in Des Moines, by Stephen Gruber-Miller in The Des Moines Register

Long reads

Greg Casar charts a lonely progressive path in Texas, by Dana Liebelson in The New Republic: “Political experts say there’s no current path for him statewide. But in his new role, Casar views that challenge from a different perspective: Rather than trying to adapt his views to the average voter, he wants to find places where he can bring more Texans onboard.”

‘Numbers nobody has ever seen’: How the GOP lost Wisconsin, by David Siders in Politico Magazine: “Even Republicans here are acknowledging that the state has now shifted leftward, and abortion has a lot to do with that. The end of Roe v. Wade last year effectively reinstated Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban, which is already being challenged—and those challenges will likely be decided by the state Supreme Court.”

Chris Christie gets a super PAC ahead of his likely 2024 bid, by Maggie Haberman in The New York Times: “The former governor of New Jersey, who has been at times both a confidant and a rival of Donald Trump, will have some outside help in his effort to win the Republican primary.”

Want to stare into the Republican soul in 2023? by Alex Sammon in Slate: “At a party filled with booze and grievance, some of the party’s richest patrons looked to the future. Not everyone liked what they saw.”

Got a long read you’d like us to include? Shoot us an email when it publishes, and we’d be happy to share it in next week’s newsletter.


This week’s pet of the week is Wanda, whose humans are John Mercurio of the Motion Picture Association and David Gray. Wanda loves tennis balls, playing fetch, and long hikes (but not getting caught in the rain). You can win her over with a little peanut butter and some nice pets.

Inside the Debt Limit Blame Game

PLUS: Mississippi’s hottest political race, and a conversation with Ben Terris

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The top

This week, we were delighted to have Washington Post Style reporter Ben Terris join us for a special edition of The Run-Up Live. Ben’s new book, The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses Its Mind, will be published on June 6. We spoke with Ben about some of his favorite stories and characters from The Big Break, how writing a book differs from writing profiles, his thoughts on the brokenness of American politics, and where he sees cause for hope. Here are some excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

On whether Tim Scott believes he can be elected president: I think that he thinks something good will come from this. And could that be president? Sure, he probably thinks so. I mean, he’s lived a life where he’s accomplished things that everybody told him he could never accomplish. It’s been very impressive. He’s very religious; he probably feels called to this in one way or another. And he can always say, “Look, I’m the spiritual core of this party right now. And we need somebody like me out there to bring down the temperature.” And maybe there’s value in that. But it’s not really surprising to me, because the guy’s been moving up forever, and eventually you move up high enough and, oh, there’s the White House, right? Like, there’s not that many things to look for anymore.

On how Donald Trump changed Washington: They’re all the same creatures in Washington, but it’s a little bit more toxic, a little bit like everything could grow to greater proportions. And so it’s a weirder place than it’s ever been. But I don’t know if he fundamentally changed every part of it. The same kinds of people are doing the same kinds of things. They’re just doing it in grosser ways.

On why Republican politicians stand by Trump: He’s got the base. The base loves him; that’s not going to change. The more he gets attacked, the more that this maybe 25 to 35 percent of the country is going to support him no matter what. And that’s a big number in primary politics. And then in Washington, I think people just are a bunch of weathermen, watching which way the wind blows on that. And they see, “OK, well, if he’s going to be the front-runner throughout, then yeah, I’m not going to start attacking him on TV, I’m not going to start disinviting him to CPAC,” or whatever. Of course, they’re gonna connect with him because they think he’s gonna win, and that’s their meal ticket.

On whether he has gotten jaded about Washington: A lot of people come to Washington specifically to do good. There’s this idea of Washington that it is purely filled with swamp things and cynical creatures. And they get a lot of attention because they’re important, and I give them attention in the book. But I spent time … with a lot of people who are just here to do the work. And I find that kind of inspiring.

On writing about people who shape politics behind the scenes: That’s sort of the gamble I’ve taken with this book, right? There are big-name people throughout, but the main characters are the real Washington people. And I think that’s more interesting, in a way, than getting big-name senators to give me interviews. I’d rather be around the people that make it work.

Check out the rest of our conversation with Ben Terris here.

Debt limit blame game

Listen, everyone knows defaulting on the debt would be really, really bad. We know it, you know it, congressional Republicans know it, the White House knows it, the world knows it. But rather than screaming into the void yet again about how defaulting on the debt would be really, really bad—because clearly no one is listening—we’ve decided to participate in one of Washington’s favorite pastimes when it’s mired in an entirely predictable and preventable mess of its own making: the blame game.

If the worst happens, and the American and global economies are pushed into a tailspin, and people don’t receive their Medicare or Social Security benefits, and interest rates spike, and China looks on gleefully as our position on the world stage is undermined by our own political unwillingness to act—sorry, sorry, we said no void-screaming!—everyday Americans are going to blame someone. Will they fault President Joe Biden, who bullheadedly said he wouldn’t negotiate for months, incorrectly betting that Republicans would blink first? Or will they blame House Republicans, who held the economy hostage so Speaker Kevin McCarthy could keep his gavel?

Some not totally terrible news for Biden, who loves to overuse the phrase “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative”: The American people may not be happy with how he’s handling the situation, but they’re even more annoyed by Republicans. A CNN poll released this week found that 59 percent of Americans believe Biden has acted irresponsibly on the debt ceiling, while 64 percent believe Republicans have not acted responsibly. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found that 38 percent of Americans think Democrats and Biden are acting more responsibly, compared to 37 percent who feel the same about McCarthy and Republicans.

In terms of blame: An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, also released this week, found that 45 percent of Americans overall would mostly blame congressional Republicans if the country defaulted on its debts, while 43 percent would primarily blame Biden. However, 47 percent of independents would mostly blame Biden, which is not great for a president who will need to swing independents in the upcoming election. Those findings echo an ABC News/Washington Post poll from earlier this month, which showed that 39 percent of Americans would blame default mainly on congressional Republicans, compared to 36 percent who would mostly blame Biden. Meanwhile, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of Americans are worried a default would hurt them financially—again, not great for politicians looking to get reelected in 2024!

But Biden is staying out of the spotlight, while McCarthy and his lieutenants are talking to the press constantly. When asked during one of his many press scrums whether he believed the public would fault the GOP, McCarthy replied: “I don’t see how they would blame Republicans.” “If you want to blame Republicans for solving problems, we’ll take that blame,” he continued.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, shot back: “That means [McCarthy] knows he’s to blame. If you have to say it that many times, you’re to blame.” When asked whether she believed Democrats would shoulder any blame, Jayapal replied, “I really don’t.” “It is not us that are trying to tank the economy, crash the economy. It is not us that are trying to take away benefits,” she said.

Congressional Democrats are getting antsy that the White House will make too many concessions to the GOP, even as Republicans may need dozens of them to vote for a final deal. There’s an ongoing battle to define the conversation on the debt ceiling—in the press and among the public—and it’s not one Democrats are winning right now (even if they have been given a messaging gift by Matt Gaetz). 

This may all become moot, and economic catastrophe averted thanks to a last-minute deal. But even if that’s true, the president and members of Congress shouldn’t be surprised if the American public dislikes them all the more for playing high-stakes chicken with their livelihoods and economic security—again.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Are you Shalanda Young or Steve Ricchetti, and if so, how close are you to a deal actually? Who should Americans blame for the debt ceiling debacle? What did you think of Ron DeSantis’s Twitter Spaces presidential announcement? Do you think it was a smart move for him to appeal to the base, or a strategic error given the site’s irrelevance for most Americans?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Mississippi’s Marjorie Taylor Greene

Down in Mississippi, there’s an under-the-radar contest that has outsize importance. Races for lieutenant governor don’t usually attract much attention, even around the state in which they’re taking place. But Mississippi voters ignore this race at their own risk. That’s because of both the power of the lieutenant governor and the candidates running for the job. The lieutenant governor of Mississippi, unlike other states, is the president of the state Senate, giving whoever has that role broad authority to assign committee chairs and essentially advance or halt legislation. The incumbent running for reelection is Delbert Hosemann, a Republican. 

Hosemann is being challenged in the Republican primary by state Senator Chris McDaniel. TRU followers with a passion for Mississippi politics (like Daniel) will think of McDaniel as a bit of a household name. He was the upstart state senator who gave establishment Republicans a real scare in the 2014 Senate cycle, when he challenged the late Senator Thad Cochran. That race turned out to have a bunch of bizarre twists and turns. Years later, McDaniel would run again to the same, disappointing, result. But since then, McDaniel’s efforts have borne fruit in the form of a hard-right cult following, à la Roy Moore in Alabama—or even Donald Trump. One longtime Republican operative derisively described him as the “Marjorie Taylor Greene of Mississippi.” 

In January, McDaniel jumped into the lieutenant governor’s race.  Since then, he has been hit with questions about his fundraising and donations. In April, McDaniel returned $460,000 to the American Exceptionalism Institute, a dark-money organization that funneled funds to other state PACs—including one that backed Republican Blake Masters in his bid for Arizona Senate. It’s become something of a pattern. Hosemann’s team also recently challenged how much McDaniel said he raised and called for an investigation. 

But the differences between Hosemann and McDaniel aren’t just campaign-related. Hosemann came around to supporting changing the state flag to remove its Confederate elements. McDaniel not only opposed that, he actively worked against the change, further underscoring his ties to neo-Confederates. 

This might be a little-discussed race in a smaller state, but the characters involved are representative of some larger trends in American politics. It’s worth paying attention to. 

Document of the week

Yesterday was Ron DeSantis Announces™ Day, where everyone in DeSantis’s nascent political orbit finally got ready for the big event—and all the press expected to finally know if he’s been worth the hype or not. In that vein, one of the earliest outside efforts to lay the groundwork for the Florida governor, Ready for Ron, changed its name to Ready to Win. The super PAC, run by Republican strategist Ed Rollins, has been eclipsed by the Never Back Down super PAC run by Republican strategists Jeff Roe and Chris Jankowski. The filing suggests the Ready to Win super PAC still plans to use the Ready for Ron moniker: “Ready to Win will operate a special project under the name Ready for Ron.” Note also, though, there are indications Rollins may be “souring” on DeSantis, so the name change may be about creating some distance from the newest Republican presidential candidate. 

The pop culture segment

Toward the end of our conversation with Ben Terris, we asked what his favorite political books are. He highlighted titles by Mark Leibovich, and particularly This Town. “That book really is great. It captures a moment. It’s super fun,” Ben said. “Mark Leibovich is an incredibly lively writer, and he makes it seem effortless.”

This Town was published in 2014, and politics have changed in the past decade. “It is a different Washington that he’s covering, which is why I feel like [The Big Break], in a way, really needed to be written,” Ben told us. “If there wasn’t another take on what it’s like to be in Washington, [This Town] would, sort of, be the last book about it.”

So, if you’re a fan of This Town—and hey, you’re reading this newsletter, so I would guess you are—check out The Big Break.

News and views

Local flavor

Gov. Moore addresses book banning, curriculum restrictions in graduation speech, by Pamela Wood in The Baltimore Banner

Cameron still mulling potential running mate as GOP talks unity, by McKenna Horsley in The Commonwealth Journal

‘We’ve got a real dilemma’: How ‘Never Trump’ Republicans view DeSantis vs Trump, by Alex Roarty in The Miami Herald

Judge rules against Kari Lake, affirms Hobbs as AZ governor in election signature verification trial, by Stacey Barchenger in The Arizona Republic

Rounds, Thune endorse Tim Scott’s presidential bid, by Josh Chilson in South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Gun safety advocates see signs of progress in first session after Uvalde shooting even though raise-the-age bill stalled, by Alejandro Serrano in The Texas Tribune

Democrats made a big bet on themselves, by J. Patrick Coolican in The Minnesota Reformer

House committee wraps probe into Swalwell’s contact with suspected Chinese spy without action, by Shira Stein in The San Francisco Chronicle

Long reads

The Casey DeSantis problem: ‘His greatest asset and his greatest liability,’ by Michael Kruse in Politico: “She can ameliorate some of the effects of his idiosyncrasies. She can also accentuate, even exacerbate, his hubris, and his paranoia, and his vaulting ambition—because those are all traits that they share.”

As S.C. abortion vote nears, GOP women rebuke the men: ‘It’s always about control,’ by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post: “Three times over the past eight months, as the chamber’s GOP leaders have sought to prohibit most procedures starting at conception, [State Senator Sandy] Senn—flanked by a bipartisan bloc of the Senate’s only women—has hustled to thwart what she views as attempts to ‘shackle women.’”

Inside the garden of evil, by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic: “[Harlan] Crow is like most people, in that he feels he has acted with the purest and most honorable intentions. He is unlike many, though, in thinking that the world should take his word for it—and that if it does not, that’s the world’s fault, and not his.”

Does Eric Adams still think it’s easy to be mayor? by Errol Louis in New York: “Even if the Mayor doesn’t realize it, the hard part began a long time ago. And he should recognize that New Yorkers don’t care whether Adams feels like he has an easy job: What matters is whether he’s doing it well.”

Do Americans really want “unbiased” news? by Peter Kafka in Vox: “Both [CNN and The Messenger] are trying to position themselves as an antidote to ‘biased media,’ and promise to deliver down-the-middle news. The problem is there’s not much evidence that people are clamoring for that, which makes it hard to envision a light at the end of the tunnel for either company.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Georgia peach

This week’s pet of the week is Anna from Georgia. Her human is Kelsey VanZee. Anna was adopted in May 2014 from Clayton County Animal Control. Anna is a classy canine that loves water and jazz music. 

Tim Scott Tiptoes Toward 2024

PLUS: Lawmakers eye A.I., and a quick and dirty election round-up.

Al Drago/Getty Images
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott

The top

There’s a handful of likely Republican presidential candidates who want you to know that they’re really actually, super seriously, almost ready to announce their presidential campaigns. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his team (and super PAC) have been about as coy as a monster-truck rally about his plans. Former Vice President Mike Pence is going to New Hampshire to sample the fast-food offerings, as one does (no one does just that, actually), and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has a big event scheduled at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater, in a few days. It’s pretty clear he’s running. Why else would he be adding big-name Republican muckety-mucks to his team?

DeSantis and Pence have both been rather deliberate as they’ve road tested their themes for their upcoming presidential campaigns. Pence plans to portray himself as his own man (you know, like Jeb!) and as a “classical conservative.” DeSantis seems to be focused on the fact that he’s more of a winner than Donald Trump. His team sees a waterfall of support and money coming in the millisecond he officially jumps into the race, according to this Jonathan Martin joint.

But Scott is a bit of a mystery. He clearly prefers an optimistic approach to running for president instead of the “American carnage” theme that the last Republican president loved. But there have been moments, as Scott sorts out what he’s all about, that have been comically vague. “I think my candidacy is really designed around what the American people want to talk about, what their priorities are, and what their issues are,” the South Carolina senator said during a recent stop in Iowa, according to the Associated Press.

Well … yeah … but in the same article, Scott also said he felt conservatives are “starved for hope.”

A Republican close to Scott’s likely presidential campaign described it as “constructive conservatism.”

“Polls show that a majority of Americans are worn out by the state of politics and don’t want a 2020 rematch. Tim Scott would run as a breath of fresh air and seek to unify the GOP and nation around constructive conservatism,” the Republican told The Run-Up.

In private meetings with donors, Scott has said he wants to take a “kill-them-with-kindness approach, and he maintained that positivity is core to his personality and to his potential campaign,” according to a New York Times report on Scott’s prototype presidential campaign. But Scott also plans to defend himself in the face of attacks. At the very least, whenever Trump is asked about Scott’s candidacy—and it’s a when not an if—the former president will predictably and clumsily try to offer a backhanded compliment of sorts that will really just be some kind of crude insult. It’s what Trump does. The real question is how the kind and optimistic Scott plans to respond. If he laughs off Trump, it’s hard to imagine a flock of Republican voters rushing to the South Carolina senator’s side.

Nevertheless, durability looks increasingly like the name of the game in this Republican presidential primary. Whichever candidate can outlast the others may actually best Trump in the end. Donald Trump benefited from his rather unique “Teflon Don” approach to politicking. If Scott wants to go far in this primary, he will have to bet on being “Teflon Tim.”

About the night before last night

In case you missed it, there were elections this past Tuesday. Here’s a short roundup of the results we found most interesting:

Kentucky governor’s race: Attorney General Daniel Cameron won the Republican nomination to face incumbent Governor Andy Beshear. Cameron won the primary with 48 percent of the vote, with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles getting 22 percent support and former Ambassador Kelly Craft getting 17 percent.

Former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker won a divided Democratic primary to face Republican David Oh in the general election for mayor. Note that Parker beat, among others, Helen Gym, whom progressives had seen as a rising star.

In Colorado, Yemi Mobolade won the mayoral election for Colorado Springs. Mobolade will be the first Black mayor of the city. He will also be the first non-Republican mayor.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Are you Zac Moffatt, Generra Peck, or former Governor Bill Haslam? Is Biden’s campaign too slow to get off the ground? Should the Senate cancel the Memorial Day recess to deal with the debt ceiling? Did last week’s episode of Succession give you election-related PTSD? Daniel is intent on finding Swedish gin after reading this Esquire list. Do you have some? Is Raquel Leviss on Vanderpump Rules the most villainous villain of all the Bravo shows?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Pretty fly for an A.I.

Congress is beginning to realize that it may want to take this whole artificial intelligence thing seriously. Although not exactly pioneers in regulating emerging technologies—see: “The internet is a series of tubes”; the complete failure to address the rise of social media—lawmakers of both parties agree that A.I. is not something they can ignore.

Sam Altman, CEO of the company behind ChatGPT, testified before a Senate subcommittee this week about the ramifications of A.I. technology and the need to install guardrails. Altman also met with House members on Monday and Tuesday.

“Mr. Altman and others in the industry are saying, ‘Please regulate us. We need Congress to step in and do something,’ and so we’re already behind the eight ball in my view,” said GOP Representative Mike Johnson, who co-hosted a bipartisan dinner with Altman on Monday evening. “I think all of us want to make sure that it’s used for good and not ill. The specifics of how that’s done is—we’re in uncharted waters. But there’s a lot of goodwill.”

Altman said in the Tuesday hearing that he was “nervous” about how A.I. could interfere with election integrity. It’s a concern shared by many members of Congress, including a group of senators who introduced legislation this week to require that any ads that use A.I.-generated images or video include a disclaimer.

“There was a time in which campaign finance was a bipartisan issue because people on both sides were really concerned about its impact. And I think that this is one of those things where both sides are concerned about how it can impact their elections,” said Democratic Senator Cory Booker, one of the co-sponsors of that bill.

GOP Senator Josh Hawley, the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that hosted Altman on Tuesday, told The Run-Up that he was worried about how A.I. could influence “behavior modification” in elections, citing a study that found A.I. could predict public opinion. Hawley, who has not signed onto the bill co-sponsored by Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Michael Bennet, expressed support for its basic principle.

“I would think that’s a pretty darn good idea. Yeah, that to me seems to be a pretty low bar,” Hawley said.

News and views

Local flavor

St. Anselm’s officials ‘deeply troubled’ by Trump’s remarks at forum; Sununu calls audience reaction ‘embarrassing,’ by Paul Feely in the New Hampshire Union Leader

California Democrats further torn after seeing Sen. Feinstein’s return to Washington, by Seema Mehta and Benjamin Oreskes in the Los Angeles Times

DeSantis in Iowa calls for ‘positive alternative’ to Biden. Though absent, Trump’s presence was felt, by Brianne Pfannenstiel, Katie Akin, and Stephen Gruber-Miller in the Des Moines Register

NC enacts new abortion restrictions as Republicans override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, by Avi Bajpai in the Charlotte Observer

Kelly Craft’s big spending in governor’s race led to embarrassing loss, by Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier Journal

Democrat Donna Deegan becomes first female mayor of Jacksonville, by Hanna Holthaus and David Bauerlein in the Florida Times-Union

The voters who propelled Cherelle Parker to victory, by Aseem Shukla, Kasturi Pananjady, and Leo Cassel-Siskind in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sara Innamorato leads a huge night for progressives by winning the Democratic primary for Allegheny County executive, by Adam Smeltz in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Long reads

Why the DeSantis braintrust thinks it can actually beat Trump, by Jonathan Martin in Politico: “DeSantis’ high command recognizes that the catnip-for-junkies national polling has shifted toward Trump this year, but they believe they retain a fundamental advantage.”

How Kyrsten Sinema uses campaign cash for her marathon habit, by Sam Brodey in The Daily Beast: “On at least six total occasions since 2019, Sinema has participated in a race while engaging in fundraising activity—and covering expenses—in the area of the competition, according to a review of public campaign finance and competition records.”

A bouncy, fresh brand of Trumpism, by Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic: “The Millennial candidate [Vivek Ramaswamy] is a bit like the GOP version of Andrew Yang: a get-up-and-go business bro who does something vague in the new economy, and who seemed to wake up one day and ask himself, Why not run for president?

Eric Adams is starving New York City’s universal pre-K program, by Fola Akinnibi in Bloomberg: “The mayor inherited America’s leading early childhood education system. Now a depleted education department can’t even pay providers.”

Who is Leonard Leo’s mysterious dark money king?, by Nina Burleigh in The New Republic: “America needs to know who Barre Seid is, what kind of country he wants, and just how massive an impact his $1.6 billion gift can have on our political discourse.”

Frank Luntz can’t quit, by Ben Terris in New York: “The GOP’s wunderkind pollster swore he was finished with Washington—except that penthouse with Kevin McCarthy.” (Check out Grace and Daniel’s conversation with Ben in TRU Live next Tuesday!)

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Best o’ Pesto

This week’s winner of our pet photo contest is three-legged wonder Pesto, submitted by Meghan Meehan-Draper. Pesto lost his leg due to lack of care from a previous owner but was rescued as a kitten and has brought joy to his adopted family ever since. Pesto’s hobbies include running, climbing, and regular zoomies up and down the stairs. He also loves people and has the gift of (cat) gab.