President Joe Biden said the quiet part out loud Tuesday, telling donors at a campaign event that he might not be running for re-election if former president Donald Trump were not in the 2024 race. It’s just bad optics for any presidential candidate, let alone a highly unpopular one, to admit that they aren’t super excited about what they’re doing. Senator Rand Paul had a similar moment on the 2016 trail when he was asked if he was still running for president. His response? “I don’t know; I wouldn’t be doing this dumbass live streaming if I weren’t.” Hilarious, but doesn’t exactly strike confidence in the voting base.
Biden’s moment is worse, obviously, because it hints what many already believed to be true, which is that the leader of the free world is not even in control of his own destiny. There are seemingly powers beyond Scranton Joe pulling the strings. Those puppeteers apparently believe that Biden has the best chance at beating Trump. It’s not the worst logic in the world to think that the guy who took down the incumbent in 2020 could pull off a repeat victory, except for when you consider how many factors have changed since then. Biden’s cognitive deficiencies have been on full display for three years, inflation is still higher than when Biden took office, the border is a disaster, violent crime has racked American cities and multiple parts of the world are at war. The polls reflect American discontent: Trump leads Biden in nearly every major swing state and voters trust Trump more on the top issues of the economy and immigration. The polls also suggest that Biden is a unique problem, as even Vice President Kamala Harris performs better against Trump. Democrats can read these tea leaves too, so I keep wondering if there must be some other reason Biden is running since victory doesn’t seem to be the priority.
Meanwhile, Trump was in rare form during a town hall event with Fox News host Sean Hannity last night. He appropriately laughed off recent media accusations that he will be a radical dictator in a second term, jesting that he would only be a dictator on “day one” in order to secure the border and restore domestic oil and gas drilling. He feigned blowing over President Biden like a candle, and said climate envoy John Kerry “must be stopped.” His tone was light, but he hit all of the issues that matter to voters. It was a moment that should remind the Democrats it would be tough for anyone, let alone Biden, to defeat him come November.
On our radar
WRAY CRUCIFIED FBI director Christopher Wray appeared in front of Congress on Tuesday and, under scrutiny from Republicans, suggested his agency couldn’t admit the Hunter Biden laptop was real in 2020 because it was an “election season” and dodged when asked if anyone had been fired over an FBI memo targeting traditional Catholics as potential “extremists.”
MINTY FRESH The Biden administration will again delay a ban on the sale of menthol cigarettes, according to reports, due to concerns that the move could hurt Biden politically with black voters during an election year.
ANTISEMITISM ON CAMPUS A group of college presidents from Harvard, MIT and Penn declined to say that students calling for the elimination of the state of Israel would be considered “harassment” under campus policy. The presidents said it depended on the “context” of such statements during congressional testimony on Tuesday.
McCarthy hits the ‘eject’ button
Former speaker Kevin McCarthy announced today that he’s calling it quits at the end of the month following a chaotic year for House Republicans. It’s unclear what his next steps will be, and his departure will further shrink a disintegrating GOP majority amid a string of retirements and the expulsion of Representative George Santos.
McCarthy’s legacy is inseparable from his unceremonious ejection from the speakership earlier this year, but his allies argue that he accomplished a lot while helming the House GOP. His political operation, run chiefly out of the Congressional Leadership Fund, spent more than half a billion dollars electing House Republicans. McCarthy stands as one of his party’s most successful and prolific fundraisers and leaves a significant gap that his successor, Representative Mike Johnson, has been working tirelessly to fill.
Jeff Miller, McCarthy’s longtime consigliere, told me he wants Americans to understand “how fucking awesome [McCarthy] is.”
While his time in elected office is over for now, the sky is really the limit for the former speaker. Some Republicans are already eager for him to dip his toe in the ongoing battles over congressional redistricting. McCarthy has also hinted at staying heavily involved in House Republican politics, potentially working to vanquish some of his intra-party foes.
As for who will succeed the powerful Republican, all eyes now turn to his former staffer, California assemblyman Vince Fong.
Tuberville backs down
Tommy Tuberville has called an audible on his Senate playbook that had the Alabama Republican (and former standout college football coach) blocking the confirmation of about 425 military promotions for ten months in protest of the Pentagon paying for service members to take time off and travel for abortions.
“Mr. Tuberville said on Tuesday that he had decided to lift the blockade after senators hatched a plan to temporarily go around the chamber’s rules to allow confirmation of almost all military nominees as a bloc,” reports the New York Times. “That would have been a major break with tradition and a step many senators in both parties were reluctant to take.”
“I’m releasing everybody,” Tuberville said. “I still got a hold on, I think, eleven four-star generals. Everybody else is completely released from me. But other than that, it’s over.”
ABC News reports the Senate confirmed more than 400 nominees after Tuberville ended his blockade. Afterward, President Joe Biden said what Tuberville and his fellow Republican supporters did was “pointless,” while Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “Let this incident be a warning — no one, no one should attempt this in the Senate again. The senior senator from Alabama has nothing to show for his ten months of delay.”
“It’s been a long fight,” Senator Tuberville said. “We fought hard. We did the right thing for the unborn and for our military, fighting back against executive overreach.”
Liz Cheney for president?
Former Republican congresswoman and national security state nepo baby Liz Cheney is reportedly mulling a presidential run in the hopes of stopping Donald Trump from winning a second term. Cheney appeared across news programs this week to promote her new book Oath & Honor, which coincidentally are also potential names for a new Biden dog after bite-happy Commander finally gets the boot. Cheney warned that the US was “sleepwalking” into a dictatorship with former president Trump and posited that he would never leave office if elected again.
Republican strategist Ned Ryun told The Spectator that he doesn’t think Cheney has the “guts” to really run for POTUS, but guessed that if she did, she’d end up hurting Democrats more than Trump: “The more fractured the field, the more the merrier for Trump. He has a very hardcore base of voters. Liz Cheney will not be taking votes from him.”
“Look at what happens when there is a four- or five-way race. Trump’s lead expands. Add one more person. I think it gets even bigger,” Ryun asserted.
Andrew Clark, GOP strategist, founder of Relentless Strategies and rapid response director for the 2020 Trump campaign, also laughed off the idea that Cheney could pose any threat to Trump.
“Liz Cheney’s idea that she could peel voters away from Trump and sway the election is her ultimate delusion of grandeur,” Clark said. “She was wiped out in her last GOP primary election, in a state her family represented for decades, even with Democrats re-registering as Republicans to try to save her. The only ‘base’ Liz Cheney has to draw on is Trump-hating Democrats or anti-Trump Republicans who would never vote for him in the first place.”