Here comes everybody. With former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former vice president Mike Pence and, er… North Dakota governor Doug Burgum set to announce their presidential bids this week, the 2024 GOP primary is starting to feel a little crowded. Maybe too crowded, according to Chris Sununu. The New Hampshire governor had been weighing a run but today told CNN’s Dana Bash that he will not seek his party’s nomination.
After the usual throat-clearing about conversations with one’s family and difficult decisions, the moderate New Hampshire governor who has been critical of Donald Trump said: “I don’t mind who gets into the field, but given where the polls are right now, every candidate needs to understand the responsibility of getting out and getting out quickly if it’s not working.” In other words: don’t hang around too long and prevent the non-Trump vote from consolidating around one name.
Chris Christie, are you listening? When he first started his very public presidential deliberations earlier this year, Christie sketched a political kamikaze mission: a campaign more interested in Trump’s failure than it’s own success. It was an intriguing proposition, not least because of Christie’s peculiarly erratic flip-flopping on Trump over the years. An early endorser of the future president after he suspended his own campaign in 2016, Christie then split with him very publicly after 2020. The Jersey boy prides himself on taking a straight talking approach he takes with Trump, who he says he has known for two decades. And with other candidates hoping to tip-toe their way into a post-Trump future, I confess to finding Christie’s directness, his willingness to taunt and mock the former president, refreshing. Sure, throw a few jabs. Why not? “He’s afraid,” said Christie last week of Trump’s plans to skip at least one of the primary debates.
But can Christie’s campaign serve any kind of purpose? His first problem is his standing with Republican voters. A recent Monmouth University poll found revealed dire numbers for Christie. Among voters who identify with or lean toward the GOP, his favorability sits at just 21 percent, and his unfavorability score is a whopping 47 percent. That isn’t just higher than every other Republican presidential candidate this cycle, it’s higher than any presidential candidate polled by Monmouth in the last decade.
And so, whatever the merits of Christie’s arguments, is he the right messenger? Given his unpopularity, a worst case scenario in which Christie harms his own cause is not too hard to imagine.
Another risk is that Christie loses sight of why he joined the race in the first place. Pay consultants enough and they’ll tell you “We can win this thing, Chris!” Now you’d hope Christie is a savvy enough not to fall for such flattery, but politicians — especially ones with presidential ambitions — aren’t famous for their self-awareness. If Christie was in it to win it, not just to take down Trump, he’d need to spend most of his time tackling Ron DeSantis: clear the lane as the Trump alternative before taking on the frontrunner. And Christie has found the time between anti-Trump barbs to knock the Florida governor.
In her column last week, Peggy Noonan presented a win-win road ahead for Christie: “He has been told that if he takes down a bad guy and loses, he goes down in the history books, and if he takes down a bad guy and wins, even better. Seen this way he can’t lose.” Except that isn’t how it works. Either Christie’s candidacy is designed to maximize Trump’s chance of defeat or designed to maximize his own (extremely slim) chance of victory. They are two different campaigns. After he makes it official tomorrow, we’ll soon see which one he has chosen.
On our radar
AN UNLIKELY PRIMARY WEDGE ISSUE Donald Trump’s unlikely, and rather odd, soft spot for Kim Jong-un is no secret. This weekend Trump congratulated Chairman Kim on North Korea’s election to the WHO. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, called Kim a “murderous dictator.”
AXE CALLS MANCHIN DEAD MAN WALKING Former Obama advisor David Axelrod has called West Virginia senator Joe Manchin a “dead man walking” in his effort to hold on to his seat in deep-red West Virginia. “He knows that he can’t win reelection in that state,” he said.
Ukraine’s offensive appears to have started
Ukrainian deputy defense minister Hanna Malyar has asserted that her country’s forces are, at least on a localized basis, “shifting to offensive actions.” This comports with other reports that Ukraine is on the attack, such as around Bakhmut, where Wagner’s Yevgeny Prigozhin indicated that “part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost.” Word is also circling about a Ukrainian move in Zaporizhzhia, and Russia earlier stated that it had repulsed a Ukrainian attack in Donetsk, claiming hundreds dead, but this has not been confirmed independently.
There are a few things to consider as Ukraine’s counteroffensive appears to be underway. One is that these disparate attacks — which are occurring along a stretch of the frontline that is hundreds of kilometers long — could be meant to probe or stretch Russian defenses. The Institute for the Study of War has indicated that Russia has insufficient combat reserves to support their frontline needs, and others have made similar comments about Russian forces being spread too thin. Attacking across the frontline, even if those attacks are intermittent, limited, or unsuccessful, serves to keep the Russians guessing, disperse their forces, and pinpoint areas of opportunity.
One should also be wary about disinformation. Russia will try to manipulate the media environment to paint itself in the best light possible for its domestic audience. All parties to a conflict will try to spin the account in their favor, and events on the ground only become clear with time.
Cornel West is running for president
The left-wing academic and activist Cornel West announced today that he is running for president as a candidate for the People’s Party. It is far from West’s first foray into politics; I saw him stump for Bernie Sanders in 2020. Will his candidacy matter? If West’s announcement video is anything to go by, he won’t be shy about attacking Joe Biden. Accusing Biden of being a “milquetoast neoliberal” (if only!), West says he is running because “neither party wants to tell the truth about Wall Street, about Ukraine, about the Pentagon, about Big Tech.” Biden now has two Democratic primary challengers and one dissident left-winger gunning for progressive votes. Marianne Williamson, RFK Jr. and Cornel West make for an eccentric trio who agree on quite a lot.
From the site
PRESIDENT BIDEN JOB APPROVAL
Approve 41.4% | Disapprove 55.6% | Net Approval -14.2
DIRECTION OF THE COUNTRY
Right direction: 33% | Wrong direction 60%
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