Good Friday Morning! Especially to me! I’m off traveling this week on vacation. But the writing never stops. I didn’t watch the debates this week because of that, but I’ve got broader thoughts on where we are in this Presidential election cycle. Both Democrats and Republicans are doing the same thing – links to follow.
- Target closed 9 stores due to issues with retail theft. All the cities involved are Democratic bastions. I found this fascinating because the same day that story was published, I read a CNBC report with this headline: “Retail theft isn’t actually increasing much, major industry study finds.” Later on, multiple videos and reports came out of Philadelphia showing groups crashing through high-end stores, stealing everything. And in Baltimore, a tech CEO was brutally murdered by a man “suspected of raping a woman days earlier and was already under surveillance, according to police who initially withheld that information from the public.” If we squint, it’s possible to square this disparate messages. But the only way to do that is to say that broadly, there’s no uptick in crime/retail theft. But that there are pockets of intense issues in Democratic stronghold cities. That’s far more nuanced than our political discourse, though.
- The UAW strike is expanding. Ford has managed to sidestep these expansions, while GM and Stellantis have not. Biden’s decision to embolden the strikers by appearing with them breaks a longstanding Presidential tradition of appearing neutral during strikes. In truth, the Biden admin has to reverse its image on unions after they hosed railroad workers in the lead-up to the 2022 midterms. Biden had no interest in appearing with the rail strikers, but with no election, he’s doubling down on the “Picket Line Joe” image. The UAW strike is a classic economy story – but given how far Detroit automakers have fallen, with factories shifting to the south/sunbelt where unions lack a stronghold, this strike means significantly less than any previous.
- The WSJ is reporting that the US/China seem headed for a Biden/Xi summit. The last time either leader formally met was in 2022 at the G20, something Xi skipped this year. The WSJ report included this nugget: “Xi also wants to show to the Chinese public that he has got China’s most important bilateral relations under control, especially at a time of a deepening economic malaise, according to people close to Beijing. In particular, the people said, the Chinese leader wants to see if restoring economic discussions with Washington may help slow down the pace of U.S. restrictions on high-technology transfers to China.” Shorter version: Xi wants to try and boost his economy through better trade with the US. It’s clear China’s economy is in a far worse situation than anyone realizes, or that the CCP will admit. Speaking of the CCP – the Washington Post wants you to know that saying “Chinese Communist Party” is potentially racist. I’m not kidding.
- Axios had a report this week on the White House having one goal for Biden the next year: make sure he doesn’t fall. It’s the usual thing you’d expect for such a story. But it contained this nugget: “Biden’s doctor has recommended exercises for balance, which he called “proprioceptive maintenance maneuvers.” What the maneuvers entail is unclear. “I have never heard the term ‘proprioceptive maintenance maneuvers.’ It is not a clinical term in standard use,” said Professor James Gordon, associate dean and chair of the Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California.” Axios asked the White House to clarify what this was, and no one gave them an answer. Axios buried the lede on this story, in my opinion.
Where you can find me this week
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A Steep Price: The 50-year Quest to Disband a Tea Board – Conservative Institute
Donald Trump – The Pro-Choice Republican – Conservative Institute
New York Evicts and Dishonors Veteran – Conservative Institute
The Campaign Freakout Season
As we enter October, we’re hitting a typical milestone in every Presidential cycle: the primary freakouts. Democrats and Republicans are looking around, saying, “Is this person really the best option???” The answer at this stage is a resounding “Yes.” It may seem like primaries are a long way off, but the blocking and tackling of a successful campaign is happening now.
I was thinking about this while watching duel storylines this week across both parties. On the right, Robert Costa at the Washington Post published a piece about how Republican donors are getting skittish about the primary field. These donor types don’t like Trump, nor do they care for the current non-Trump field. Who is the new savior they are floating? Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
We’ll skip over all their positive reasons for wanting Youngkin to run for President. None of that matters. If you ride in as the late-entrant White Knight to save the Republican Party from Trump, you must be guaranteed success at this stage. And that’s just impossible.
You have to dig many paragraphs into Costa’s story before you hit the theory of Youngkin’s lane:
The various Youngkin 2024 theories go something like this: If Virginia’s state legislature goes Republican on November 7, Youngkin could claim he flipped a state that Joe Biden won in 2020. If the governor then signaled interest in exploring a run, supporters could rush to collect signatures for him to get on the ballot in delegate-rich states, many of which have December deadlines. If he got in, he’d make a play for Iowa and build a campaign with an eye on staying in until the convention.
The ballot deadlines would present huge hurdles for Youngkin. He would likely miss some key contests in Nevada and South Carolina, which have October filing deadlines, forcing supporters to scramble to get him on the ballot in delegate-rich states holding primaries throughout March, beginning with Super Tuesday on March 5.
Here’s Youngkin’s plan: wait until 60 days before the Iowa caucuses begin to build an overnight campaign there despite having no endorsements, ground game, or presence. From there, aim for Super Tuesday. There’s no way he wins or places high in Iowa with that kind of campaign. He’d then miss out on the next few states – New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina – before being eligible again.
Youngkin would be a nonentity or ineligible for the first few races before being competitive. That’s not a winning strategy. Other candidates with a similar plan include Mike Bloomberg, Wesley Clark, Rick Perry, and Fred Thompson. None of them faired well. And I believe the Republican primary will likely be over after the South Carolina primary. There’s a path to a competitive DeSantis/Trump brawl, but it’s not the most likely outcome. If you’re waiting until after the first five states to compete, it’s a losing strategy.
I’ll always be grateful for Mike Bloomberg, though. He proved that you need more than just a billion dollars to win a race. He entered the 2020 Democratic Primaries and threw money everywhere. Then he went on a debate stage and got annihilated by Elizabeth Warren on national television, ending any shot he had.
I like Glenn Youngkin and his administration. I have several law school connections with his cabinet staff and think he’s a great governor. But he’s not riding to the rescue. The sheer logistics of him entering the race prevent that right now, let alone waiting until mid-November. And if he entered, he would not dominate the polls. He’d be in the mix with the other non-Trump options.
There’s no escaping the reality of the field. Donald Trump is in first place, and the next person in the polls is Ron DeSantis. I like the rest of those people, but there’s no real shot for the rest. The case for Youngkin is similar to one for DeSantis, Haley, Scott, or the rest.
On the Democratic side, it’s a slightly different dynamic. They don’t have an active primary, but there’s a jockeying for what comes after. I’ve written about Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom trying to maneuver around each other. But people are just ignoring the reality here, too.
The reason this is an issue is polling for Biden. ABC News/Washington Post released a brutal poll last weekend for Biden. Tellingly, 74% of all Americans think Biden’s age and health are issues this cycle. Even worse, Biden is losing in this poll to Trump by ten points – 52-42.
My general rule is not to get overexcited or depressed over any poll – throw them in an average like RealClearPolitics and look for trendiness. But even there, the race is a dead heat, with Trump holding a +1.1 lead over Biden.
At multiple points over the early and late summer, reports leaked that Democratic donors were having similar conversations to the ones Republicans have had regarding Youngkin and other candidates. Ted Cruz even wildly speculated this week that Democrats would replace Biden with Michelle Obama.
I don’t believe the Michelle Obama “rumors.” She’s enjoying her celebrity lifestyle and has never shown the same drive that Hilary Clinton had for the office. Everyone knew Hilary Clinton wanted the White House before Bill Clinton ever left. That was abundantly clear. Michelle Obama is living in the Oprah celebrity space, and I doubt she wants to leave that.
The other complication is this: if Biden steps down, there’s an obvious successor – Kamala Harris. You can point to her abysmal polls all you want. She’s the clear successor to Biden and will not leave that spot without a fight. If Biden steps aside, she will demand to be his successor – as would any politician.
Harris wouldn’t be alone. Gavin Newsom wants it, as does nearly the entire Democratic field from 2020. The idea that Michelle Obama will parachute in for the convention and solve the divide is unlikely. There are very real rifts regarding the post-Obama legacy, and personal ambition will outweigh what others say.
Democrats have also painted themselves into a corner politically. Biden’s entire presidency has been predicated on saying, “I’ll put black women in critical positions of the government.” If Biden and Democrats pivot from that to saying, “We’re pushing Kamala Harris aside for Gavin Newsom,” it would split the entire party apart. There’s a reason Biden wants to shift the start of the Democratic Primaries to South Carolina. It emphasizes the Black voter’s impact on party dynamics.
All that to say this: Democrats have two choices for 2024: Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. There’s no one else coming. They don’t have a White Knight, either. Regarding a “surprise switch out” at the convention, let me say this: if you’re going to be the “Party of Democracy,” but you turn around and use your convention to nullify whatever your primary voters decide – good luck with that plan. “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it plays out.”
I led off by saying that it was freakout season. We hit this every President cycle right about now. Journalists are gift-wrapped stories by wealthy donors or people in the race trying to describe others as “weak.” Every cycle hits a point where both parties scramble for a bit to see if they can find the magic candidate. That person never materializes.
If this strategy worked, Mike Bloomberg would have succeeded. That man set a billion dollars on fire trying to win the nomination, and it didn’t work. It won’t work for anyone in this cycle, either. The field is set. The real question now is when does the winnowing begin?
Between now and November, we will witness multiple candidates drop out. The bar for making the debate stage is about to jump, and some candidates must leave. Early exit contenders include Tim Scott, Asa Hutchinson, Will Hurd, Doug Burgum, and Vivek. Mike Pence is in a bind, too.
The next debate should only have DeSantis, Haley, and Trump if he decides to show up. That’s the field right now. There’s no point in thinking otherwise. That’s partially why the freakout is happening now, just before consolidation begins. If you don’t like your choices, you may believe there’s one more shot to shake up the field.
But that won’t happen. A new person will re-fracture the field, setting back consolidation by a month or so. You can also read this freakout on the Republican side as a Trump campaign ploy to keep the field fragmented. Trump’s campaign believes fragmentation benefits him. Maintaining that will boost him in the primaries. If fragmentation vanishes, there’s no clear sense of where those voters will land. They could go to Trump, but they also might not.
For Democrats, they’re stuck. They’ve got two bad choices. Their only hope is to beat Trump again. That’s why Democrats are spending every waking moment trying to boost Trump. This freakout stage will last about a month or so longer before the winnowing begins and people turn towards Iowa.
The race is ramping up now with dropouts and Iowa looming.
Links of the week
Donald Trump gave a speech at Drake Enterprises in which not everything was as it seemed with people holding ‘union members for Trump’ and ‘auto workers for Trump’ signs – despite not being union members or auto workers themselves – The Mirror
IRS agent said CNN has Hunter Biden email where Hunter claimed legal ‘stuff’ would go away under Biden admin: In another message, Hunter Biden discusses giving away his family’s ‘only asset’ – Fox News
Joe Biden Personally Requested Meeting with Hunter’s Chinese Business Partner, Text Messages Suggest – Washington Free Beacon
Biden Bombshell: President’s brother told FBI family tried to help Chinese firm buy US energy assets – President’s brother told agents Hunter Biden believed CEFC company was tied to China’s president– JustTheNews
Why Is TED Scared of Color Blindness? The organization’s tagline is “ideas worth spreading.” But they attempted to suppress mine. – Coleman Hughes, The Free Press
ChatGPT can now see, hear, and speak – Open AI
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Can’t make it up: The day Sen. Menendez was called on to resign for corruption, Dem. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse had him sign a letter opposing the “corrupting force” of dark money “undermining faith in democratic institutions.”
Satire of the week
Sinking Ship Running Out Of Rats – Waterford Whispers
Thanks for reading!