President Joe Biden has put himself in an awkward position as the 2024 Democratic primary inches closer. The Democratic Party voted last February to change its primary calendar, honoring South Carolina as the first state to vote and demoting Iowa and New Hampshire. The DNC spun a yarn that South Carolina should vote first because it has a larger black population, but that seems a neat excuse to cover up the fact that really they are rewarding South Carolina for being the state that revived Biden’s 2020 campaign after humiliating defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Either way, the new primary schedule may come back to bite Biden and the Democratic establishment. New Hampshire Democrats, citing a state law that designates them as the first primary state, has called the DNC’s bluff. They’ve ignored DNC-set deadlines to cede their position while decrying threats that their delegates may be barred from future DNC conventions if they don’t comply. Biden has responded by keeping his name off the ballot, although surrogates are now scrambling to launch a write-in campaign for the president.
It’s an ugly and unnecessary power struggle between a state party and an incumbent candidate at a time when the candidate is struggling with a horrid approval rating. And this self-created problem has only been exacerbated by Minnesota representative Dean Phillips jumping into the race to court these key voters away from Biden.
“New Hampshire’s intransigence was entirely predictable,” Jonathan Martin wrote in Politico, but Biden and the DNC moved ahead with their harebrained scheme anyway.
Such is the case with many of the self-imposed crises that Biden has fallen into throughout his presidency, such as the bungled Afghanistan withdrawal, the border crisis, the violent crime wave, and rampant inflation. Why should his re-election campaign be any different?
On our radar
TUBERVILLE’S ABORTION FIGHT Senate Democrats are planning to use a rare procedural tactic to ram through the 300+ military promotions being held up by Senator Tommy Tuberville, reports Punchbowl News. Tuberville has been blocking the promotions for months in protest of a Pentagon policy that makes it easier for service members to get abortions.
UAW REACHES DEAL The UAW reached a tentative deal with GM, the last of the Big Three automakers with which the union was negotiating, reports the Washington Post. The deal, if approved by union members, would give autoworkers a 25 percent wage increase over the next four-and-a-half years.
KAMALA’S CONUNDRUM Vice President Kamala Harris struggled to explain why the Biden administration’s approval rating is so low during a CBS News interview on Sunday, but insisted that it had nothing to do with their policies being unpopular.
What’s next for Speaker Johnson…
Getting elected speaker may have been the easy part for Louisiana’s Mike Johnson, who has no shortage of hurdles in the upcoming weeks.
One thing he’s managed well so far is the massive cash gap left by Kevin McCarthy. Over the weekend, fundraising emails signed by Johnson helped the National Republican Congressional Committee raise almost half a million dollars, their largest haul in that time frame in almost two years.
Johnson also revealed he is keeping McCarthy’s political infrastructure intact, including allowing the Congressional Leadership Fund to continue business as usual. CLF’s president, Dan Conston, even made a last-minute trip to the Republican Jewish Coalition convention in Las Vegas with the new speaker. This was something of a surprise as Johnson is a client of Jeff Roe’s Axiom Strategies, which has been angling to take a bite out of the congressional GOP apple for quite some time.
Up next, Johnson is staring down a series of overseas challenges, starting this week with a debate over aid to Ukraine and Israel. Johnson and quite a few of his GOP colleagues want to decouple funding for the respective conflicts, arguing that the two issues are unrelated. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell brought Ukraine’s ambassador with him to Kentucky today and wants the aid packages linked, setting the two party leaders up for a potential collision course.
“Our adversaries’ ambitions are not local,” McConnell said in making the push for a massive aid package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.
Generally speaking, Democrats want aid to Ukraine, while Republicans want aid to Israel. Ultimately, with divided government, some sort of compromise seems inevitable in the coming days.
It’s not all expected to be rough waters for Johnson. Broadly bipartisan bills like sanctions on Iranian oil and a resolution condemning campus antisemitism are expected to pass his chamber. He’s also already successfully corralling his own party, having passed an energy and water package last week. Johnson also seems to want to keep the focus on policy; he’s been dismissive of efforts to target Marjorie Taylor Greene, George Santos and Rashida Tlaib. House Republicans so far tell me that Johnson has a huge amount of goodwill and there’s a desire to give him plenty of leeway as he navigates the slim majority.
Nikki Haley rising?
As the globe descends into chaos, one individual is prospering: former UN ambassador Nikki Haley.
In the fight for second place in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, Florida governor Ron DeSantis has steadily remained the favorite. Yet as foreign policy coverage takes over the news cycle and Haley flashes her diplomatic credentials, DeSantis finds himself in deep trouble. According to the latest NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll of likely Iowa caucus goers, Haley is now tied with the Floridian at 16 percent. She climbed ten points from the same survey in August while DeSantis fell by three.
It’s clear DeSantis is worried. In recent campaign appearances, Haley has faced questions about her record on refugee resettlement and China — both issues that have been raised by the DeSantis campaign and its surrogates on social media.
As the GOP field continues to shrink and a third debate approaches, the question of who will eventually face Trump head-to-head becomes more imminent. With DeSantis and Haley training their sights on one another, it seems the answer isn’t a resounding “DeSantis!” anymore.
– Juan P. Villasmil