Ron DeSantis has declared war on woke. Donald Trump yesterday declared war on the word “woke.” Speaking in Urbandale, Iowa, yesterday, the Republican frontrunner said: “I don’t like the term ‘woke,’ because I hear the term ‘woke, woke, woke.’ It’s just a term they use, half the people can’t define it, they don’t know what it is.”
Close textual readings of Donald Trump’s stump-speech riffs are a dangerous game, but in this case a difference of opinion over word choice goes to the heart of Team Trump’s plan to paint DeSantis as a career politician who speaks in jargon, in sharp contrast to their candidate’s direct language and quick wittedness.
A memo by Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio obtained by Axios today gets at the same distinction from a slightly different angle. Fabrizio rebuts the idea that DeSantis is more electable than Trump. To do so, he argues that “when swing state voters learn about certain DeSantis positions, his support craters. And contrary to conventional wisdom, the six-week abortion ban and his fight with Disney, while still electorally fatal, aren’t the worst of the bunch.”
Fabrizio road tests a series of anticipated Democratic attack lines against DeSantis and finds that they cause his support to crater. Among them is the Florida legislation at the heart of the “book ban” controversy in the state. When voters learn about the policy (albeit framed in a critical manner), support for DeSantis drops by twelve points.
DeSantis isn’t about to retreat from the “war on woke” being central to his primary campaign. But Trump’s comments on the word, as well as Fabrizio’s polling on the Florida schoolbook issue, demonstrate the governor’s challenge as he hopes to turn culture warrior credentials into a primary win.
That challenge is two-fold. First to look like you’re simply sticking up for common sense, rather than fighting a weird culture-war crusade. On the substance of an array of culture war issues, Republicans have the overwhelming majority of the voters on their side. But they do less well at framing those issues in favorable terms. DeSantis must prove that he can do so. Far better to talk about “restoring sanity” (as he does) than to boast about a “war on woke.”
Asked by NBC’s Dasha Burns about the word “woke” and Trump’s comments in a press gaggle today, DeSantis said: “Look, we know what woke is. It’s a form of cultural Marxism. It’s about putting merit and achievement behind identity politics and it’s basically a war on the truth. And as it has infected institutions, it has corrupted a lot of institutions. So you’ve got to be willing to fight the woke. We’ve done it in Florida and we proudly consider it a state where woke goes to die.” Not exactly catchy.
Second, he must demonstrate that he can win these fights. In the early days of this primary, DeSantis has made delivery a distinction between himself and Trump. Getting bogged down in fights, with Disney or over school books, undercuts that message. Trump, having made no such claims, can simply use wokeness as a punchline and bank on the voters knowing he’s on their side.
On our radar
BIDEN DOWN The president took a tumble yesterday, reportedly tripping over a sandbag on stage at an Air Force graduation. The White House said the eighty-year-old commander-in-chief is “totally fine.” Twitter founder Jack Dorsey retweeted footage of the fall commenting, “Open the Democratic primaries and debates. This isn’t fair to anyone.”
JOBS UP Hiring is surging with 339,000 jobs added last month, the Labor Department said today. The number beat expectation, caused stocks to rise and left central bankers in an unenviable position ahead of their June interest rate decision.
Mad Manchin yells at journos
Senator Joe Manchin is furious — and he’s letting reporters know.
Sources close to the West Virginia senator tell Cockburn that Manchin is fuming over a recent article in Fox News giving credit to House Republicans, and not Manchin, for the approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The new major pipeline could help Manchin politically as he faces a perilous path to reelection next year.
“Manchin is furiously calling reporters himself to push back on it,” according to a West Virginia source, despite that “the truth is that he played a relatively minor role in finally getting MVP done.”
Fox followed up on its Manchin piece by reporting a phone interview that Manchin did with a Fox journalist — but that phone call was far more heated than Fox’s coverage would suggest.
“I mean, my God, for the whole year I’ve had the living crap beat out of me, back and forth and everything,” Manchin said in the Fox story; the embattled senator called accusations that Republicans in the House helped shepherd the MVP in the must-pass debt ceiling bill “bullshit.” His language certainly seems to imply that he was heated; his anger over this story has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill.
Recent polling shows Manchin underwater with voters in his home state; Cockburn previously reported that Manchin is eyeing the presidency of West Virginia University. At least Manchin didn’t call Cockburn to scream at him after he scooped that news in his May 19 gossip column…
Revealed: first Republican presidential debate requirements
The Republican National Committee today confirmed the criteria for presidential candidates to qualify for their first primary debate, which will take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday August 23.
Alongside the standard requirements of being eligible to run and a declared candidate with the appropriate FEC paperwork filed, to make the cut, a candidate must:
- poll at least 1 percent in three national polls OR 1 percent in two national polls and 1 percent in one early-voting state poll (Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina) recognized by the RNC
- meet the polling requirement no later than forty-eight hours prior to the first debate — and the polls must be conducted after June 30
- have a minimum of 40,000 unique donors with at least 200 unique donors per state or territory in twenty or more states or territories
- present evidence of this no later than forty-eight hours prior to the first debate
- pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee
- pledge not to participate in any debate not sanctioned by the RNC
Should it be required, a second day of debates will be held on Thursday August 24.
It is not clear at this time how the RNC plans to respond if a candidate chooses to break the pledge to support the eventual GOP nominee.
“The RNC is committed to putting on a fair, neutral and transparent primary process and the qualifying criteria will put our party and eventual nominee in the best position to take back the White House come November 2024,” RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
Ahead of the 2016 election, the RNC’s first debates took place in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 6, 2015. Seven weaker-polling candidates took part in the undercard debate in the early evening: Carly Fiorina, Jim Gilmore, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum. Then in primetime, the ten highest-polling candidates locked horns: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Scott Walker.
Unlike then, The Spectator understands that if more than ten candidates meet the qualification requirements, the Republicans are likelier to do as the Democrats did in Miami in 2019 and split a mix of high- and low-polling candidates across each night.
From the site
PRESIDENT BIDEN JOB APPROVAL
Approve 42.1% | Disapprove 55.6% | Net Approval -13.5
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION
Joe Biden 60% | RFK Jr. 20% | Marianne Williamson 8%
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