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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

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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: dstrauss@tnr.com and gsegers@tnr.com.

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 AL.com

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

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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: dstrauss@tnr.com and gsegers@tnr.com.

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.

Burgumentum

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: dstrauss@tnr.com and gsegers@tnr.com.

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: dstrauss@tnr.com and gsegers@tnr.com. (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.

WandaVision

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: dstrauss@tnr.com and gsegers@tnr.com.

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.