Campaign Report — Trump, DeSantis on track for collision?
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Trump and DeSantis throw jabs at each other
Former President Trump is ramping up his rhetoric against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), firing more warning shots against the Florida Republican as DeSantis eschews questions about whether he’ll run for the White House in 2024.
Trump pounces: As our Max Greenwood reports today, Trump went on offense against the Florida governor over the weekend as he made stops in New Hampshire and South Carolina. He told The Associated Press in an interview “it would be a great act of disloyalty” if DeSantis chose to run, and alleged the Florida Republican was “trying to rewrite history” about how DeSantis handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I do think DeSantis is going to run. Ninety-eight percent chance,” one Florida Republican operative told Max. “If you’re DeSantis, I think you’d love to wait until 2028. But you have a particular window. You have to keep the name ID up.”
“On the other hand, I think Donald Trump knows this is his last chance to run,” the operative also said. “The idea of trying again in four years — that’s just too much of a reach, even for him.”
While DeSantis has avoided responding to Trump’s criticism, he pointed to his 19-point margin win during his reelection in the November midterms to quell the former president’s latest criticism on Tuesday.
DeSantis claps back: “If you take a crisis situation like COVID, the good thing about it is when you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions. You got to steer that ship and the good thing is, is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not,” DeSantis told a reporter in response to a question related to Trump’s criticism of him.
“And I’m happy to say in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida.”
Trump’s heated rhetoric comes as polling offers mixed thoughts on how well the former president might fare against DeSantis or other hypothetical challengers in a GOP primary. A Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill earlier this month showed Trump as the favorite among a hypothetical eight-way primary, with 48 percent of GOP voters backing Trump, compared to DeSantis next up with 28 percent.
At the same time, polling from last month, for example, has shown DeSantis maintaining a competitive edge over Trump. The remarks all come as other GOP contenders are speculated to be throwing their hats in the ring. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), for instance, is heading to first-in-the-nation presidential caucus state Iowa next month.
Former Gov. Mitch Daniels not running for Senate
Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) announced Tuesday he won’t run for the seat Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is vacating next year.
“I have never imagined that I would be well-suited to legislative office,” Daniels said in a statement, “particularly where seniority remains a significant factor in one’s effectiveness, and I saw nothing in my recent explorations that altered that view.”
Our Al Weaver wrote that a GOP primary between Daniels and Rep. Jim Banks, who is running for the seat, “would have represented a proxy battle between the establishment and the MAGA wings of the party, with conservative forces lining up behind the sitting congressman.” Read more here.
GALLEGO: ‘DC LABELS DON’T MATTER TO VOTERS IN ARIZONA’
In an interview on The Hill TV’s “What America’s Thinking” last week, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) addressed whether his Arizona Senate bid risks splitting the vote and hurting the left’s chances if Democrat-turned-Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema seeks reelection.
Asked whether a state with a history of electing centrist senators like Sinema and former Sen. John McCain (R) would elect a progressive, Gallego said, “I think these D.C. labels don’t matter to voters in Arizona. They really just care about someone who understands them.”
Gallego said Sinema is more likely to pull votes from a Republican candidate than split the vote on the left.
Contrasts: Gallego’s campaign website says Sinema “blocked legislation to raise the minimum wage, lower the cost of prescription drugs, expand voting rights and more.”
Sinema voted against adding a provision raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour to a COVID-19 relief bill last year, saying the chamber should debate an increase separate from the bill.
Toward the end of 2021, Sinema was involved in scaling back the Medicare prescription drug price negotiation plan included in the Inflation Reduction Act. A release from Sinema’s office last August said the plan will reduce costs and “protect innovation to ensure Arizonans and Americans continue to have access to life-saving medications, and new cures and therapeutics.”
Sinema, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), also opposed eliminating the filibuster, a recent priority for other Senate Democrats, as it would have enabled the party to pass legislation with its slim majority.
Gallego supports getting rid of the filibuster. He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has supported Medicare for All legislation.
Electoral backdrop: Arizona has become friendlier terrain for Democrats in recent years.
- Sinema was the first Democratic senator from Arizona in 24 years. She won the open 2018 contest by 2.4 percentage points.
- Mark Kelly (D) then won a special Senate election at the end of 2020 by a similar margin. He was reelected by around 5 points in 2022 (with a Libertarian candidate receiving 2.1 percent of the vote).
- 2020 was the first time the state voted Democratic in a presidential election since 1996.
- After November’s election, Arizona now has its first Democratic governor in 14 years.
From the right: Gallego told “What America’s Thinking” that, “in Arizona, … no matter how left or right or center you are as a Democrat, you’re always going to be ‘too liberal’ when the Republicans attack you.”
Kari Lake, a Republican who lost last year’s gubernatorial race and is rumored to be considering a Senate run, on Sunday called Gallego “the AOC of Arizona,” referring to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
TRUMP KNOCKS DEMOCRATS’ PROPOSED 2024 CALENDAR IN NH
During his visit to New Hampshire on Saturday, former President Trump said President Biden is taking “revenge on the voters of your state by cruelly and disgracefully trashing this beloved political tradition” of holding the first presidential primary.
“I hope you’re going to remember that during the general election,” Trump said.
Biden placed fifth in the 2020 Democratic primary. He hasn’t officially announced whether he’s seeking reelection but is widely expected to be gearing up for a second bid.
In December: Biden sent a letter to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) Rules and Bylaws Committee saying in part that voters of color should be involved earlier in the primary process.
The committee approved a tentative calendar shifting South Carolina to first and Nevada and New Hampshire together on the second day of primaries. The calendar would also remove the Iowa caucuses and add Georgia and Michigan to the early window.
Since: New Hampshire Democrats have defended the state’s first-in-the-nation status. They’ve also argued the committee imposed an undue burden with the requirement to get state Republicans on board with changing the primary date and expanding early voting, and said the calendar harms Democrats’ 2024 prospects in the state.
A letter from several Democrats, including DNC members and former elected officials, said, “New Hampshire Republicans have begun to use this move to attack New Hampshire Democrats.”
The letter said staying out of the state’s primary could harm Biden’s chances of winning its four electoral votes in November 2024. If the state goes first in defiance of the DNC’s calendar, the state party along with presidential candidates who participate in its primary would face penalties.
Last week, the committee voted to give New Hampshire (along with Georgia) until June to meet its requirements. The original deadline was Jan. 5. The DNC is scheduled to finalize the calendar next week.
A recent pollsponsored by NH Journal found Biden and Trump tied within the margin of error (+/- 3.2 percentage points) in a hypothetical matchup with 40 percent to 39 percent among Granite State voters (with 21 percent undecided).
In a matchup against New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) — who is considering a presidential bid — Sununu leads Biden 48 percent to 36 percent (16 percent undecided).
New Hampshire has voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you Thursday.
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