Good morning from Ahmad bin Ali Stadium where the American World Cup Team will kick of its campaign today at 2 p.m. against Wales…
It was an eventful post-election week—we received more clarity on uncalled races, but the biggest news of the week was the re-emergence of Donald Trump (did he ever leave?). While the former President still maintains the support of a large bloc of the Republican voting base, the ascendancy of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis poses a real threat to Trump’s political comeback in 2024. The announcement was less about timing and political momentum and more about sending a signal to other potential GOP hopefuls, DeSantis included.
A pro-DeSantis super PAC did not get the message. This past week, the group started running ads in Iowa titled “A Nation on the Brink: DeSantis for President 2024.” Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group, released a poll of its members that showed DeSantis was far more favorable than Trump in many states and those margins have only grown following a lackluster midterm performance for many of Trump’s handpicked candidates. In a Texas poll, the GOP primary voters who were surveyed preferred DeSantis over Trump by a margin of 43-32%. Politico/Morning Consult still has Trump leading DeSantis by 14 points among likely primary voters. However, the margin before the midterms was 22.
There also appears to be an appetite among elected Republicans to turn the page on Donald Trump. Senator Cynthia Lumis (R, Wyoming) recently called DeSantis the “leader of the Republican Party” while 86 elected officials in Utah released a letter urging DeSantis to run for President. Bob Heckman, a Republican strategist and veteran of nine Presidential campaigns, recently said in an interview, “I don’t think he’s the prohibitive favorite anymore. I think there are a lot of people in the party and the movement who want to move on from Trump.” He did concede that while he may have lost some of his shine, “he’ll be a formidable candidate.”
More likely than not, the primary will not be a head-to-head matchup with Trump and DeSantis. Other candidates, including Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, have not so subtly indicated they are weighing running and Trump, as was the case in 2016, is hoping a splintered field will help him get across the finish line. Pompeo took a shot at Trump via subtweet, saying, “We need more seriousness, less noise, and leaders who are looking forward, not staring in the rearview mirror claiming victimhood.” Pence recently said, “I think we’ll have better choices” when asked about Trump’s third bid for the Presidency.
During the actual announcement, Trump avoided talk about the 2020 election being stolen in a sign that he, or at least his advisors, realize election denial is a losing message. What he did talk about, and has been doing so more frequently, was executing drug dealers. The specifics of that plan, or legality, have yet to be articulated, but the position certainly gives Trump the veneer of being “tough on crime.” No Members of Congress were present for the announcement (except Madison Cawthorn who lost his primary in May) and only one of his children was there, Eric. Ivanka Trump took to Instagram to announce she would not be involved in her father’s campaign going forward. It was far from the earth-shaking political event that Trump would have hoped (The NY Post put a brilliant “Florida man makes announcement” lede at the bottom of the cover) which just goes to show that Trump as the 2024 GOP nominee is not a foregone conclusion (and he’s lost Rupert Murdoch). DeSantis has held his tongue so far when it comes to Trump, even after being dubbed “Ron DeSanctimonious.” The closest he has come to a public rebuke of Trump was when he told reporters “I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night. ”
Congressional Republicans held their leadership elections this past week despite complaints from some members that they should hold off until after the Georgia run-off. As was the case in the midterms, the Trump wing of the Republican party was soundly defeated. Senator Mitch McConnell, Trump’s nemesis within the party, cruised to reelection as Leader over Senator Rick Scott of Florida, a close Trump ally. The anonymous vote was 37 for McConnell and 10 for Scott. On the House side, Kevin McCarthy won the nomination for Speaker despite over 30 of his members, all close Trump allies, withholding their support. If he is to be elected speaker, he will need the support of almost all of them to obtain a majority on the formal roll call on January 3rd, 2023. Those opposed to McCarthy, many of whom are members of the far-right Freedom Caucus, have not been shy to air their grievances with McCarthy and their desire to vote him out as their leader. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) has been the most vocal about his opposition to McCarthy.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R, Louisiana) cruised through voting to become Majority Leader in the new Congress. The race for Majority Whip, the number 3 position in leadership, was more contentious and Trump was very much a factor. Rep. Jim Banks (R, Indiana) was defeated by Rep. Tom Emmer (R, Minnesota). Banks is a strong supporter of President Trump and is a frequent face on Fox News (Buckley Carlson, the son of Fox News Host Tucker Carlson, works in his office). Emmer, who has run the National Republican Congressional Committee for the last four years, is much more low-profile and more of a moderate. For example, he voted to certify the 2020 election. For GOP Conference Chair, the number 4 position in leadership, members elected Elise Stefanik (R, New York) despite her recent endorsement of President Trump in 2024. Stefanik had been serving in the position since Liz Cheney was thrown out of GOP leadership last year for voting to impeach Donald Trump following January 6th. Stefanik’s full-throated defense of President Trump in his first impeachment trial plucked her out of obscurity and made her a national figure for the GOP. Since then, she has gone all in, transitioning from her past life as a moderate New York Republican.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced this past week that he has appointed a Special Prosecutor to take over the ongoing criminal investigations into Donald Trump now that he is again a declared Presidential candidate. Jack Smith, a former prosecutor, war crimes investigator at the International Criminal Court, and former head of the Public Integrity Division at the Department of Justice, will now be tasked with determining if anyone, including Donald Trump, obstructed the peaceful transfer of power. Smith’s portfolio will also include the probe into Trump’s mishandling of top secret classified documents and the subsequent obstruction. He is no stranger to high-profile cases involving politicians- during his time at DOJ, he brought charges against Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards. Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr made headlines this week when he offered that the DOJ “likely” has enough evidence of wrongdoing to indict the former President.
The week also saw Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats leadership announce they would be stepping down to make way for a new generation of leadership. In a speech from the House floor, Pelosi said “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.” Pelosi had been at the helm for House Democrats for nearly two decades where she was the first woman to become Speaker of the House. The San Francisco Democrat said that passing the Affordable Care Act was her “major” accomplishment. The Human Rights Campaign released a memo outlining her roles in repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” laws, codifying same-sex marriage, and allowing LGBTQ members to serve in the military. Pelosi also whipped her party against the Iraq War and has been a staunch supporter of Taiwan. Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James Clyburn will join Pelosi as backbenchers, offering the new generation of Democrats advice and wisdom. Watching Kevin McCarthy and Republicans try to legislate with a five-vote majority will make her recent accomplishments with a similar majority show to be all the more impressive.
The exodus of Pelosi and other members of leadership paved the way for Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) to be appointed her successor. The 52-year-old from Brooklyn will be joined in Democratic leadership by Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) Currently serving as Conference Chair, Jeffries, more of a moderate, will be the first African American to lead a party in either chamber. Jeffries has been a tireless advocate for New Yorkers and we at O’Donnell & Associates have enjoyed working with him since his days in Albany as a Member of the Assembly.
New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who says he will support Hakeem Jeffries as Democratic leader, on the possibility of both Democratic leaders in Congress will be New Yorkers: “That’s pretty gangster.” However, there is some irony in that the two most powerful Democrats in Congress are from New York where there are a plethora of questions about the state Democratic party apparatus and the efficacy of Democratic State Committee Chair Jay Jacobs. In fact, both Schumer and Jeffries hail from Kings County where there have been even more questions and handwringing about the Democratic Party apparatus.
After a stronger than expected showing in his bid for Governor, Lee Zeldin is angling to chair the Republican National Committee. The current Chair, Ronna McDaniel, has been endorsed by a majority of members but after underperforming in the midterms (and being closely associated with former President Trump), some are wondering if Zeldin can replicate his success with swing voters in New York nationwide.
Last week, State Budget Director Robert Mujica, one of the last few holdovers from the Cuomo administration, will be leaving Governor Hochul’s administration to oversee Puerto Rico’s financial control board. Mujica was respected among Democrats and Republicans for his fiscal knowledge and familiarity with the state budget process. Mujica’s departure also is perhaps an unofficial end of the Cuomo-Senate Republican Majority Alliance. Mujica—who had long served as a top aide to the Senate Republicans during their time in the Majority—was one of many Republicans appointed to senior roles on the first and second floor throughout the former Governor’s tenure... a dynamic that was often a thorn in the side of Democrats in the Legislature.
The resignation also comes as Governor Hochul gears up for the first State of the State Address and Executive Budget Presentation of her full term. She will have to quickly appoint his successor, who will have a large part in shaping and executing the Executive’s vision for negotiations throughout early 2023, a tall task indeed. The current First Deputy Budget Director, Sandra Beattie, is the favorite to replace Mujica.
The clip of the week comes from Georgie Senate candidate Herschel Walker. He told a long and somewhat convoluted account of the proper way to deal with Vampires and Werewolves. Raphael Warnock was quick to take advantage of the gaffe.
Democrats are hoping that Herschel Walker has tied himself to Donald Trump enough that Trump’s unfavorability will rub off on Walker. A new ad released by the Warnock campaign is trying to remind voters of that connection. Money is pouring in for both sides in the run-off but given that Democrats already have 50 seats and will keep the majority, the race is less consequential. Still, Democrats are hoping to win in order to prevent other Democrats such as Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema from having as much influence over the party’s agenda.
Finally, on the optimistic side, the FDA approved a drug that can delay Type 1 diabetes. It is the first treatment in 100 years to alter the course of the disease. Modern medicine is simply a miracle.
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The History of White House Weddings, the Ultimate Public-Private Event
When presidential granddaughter Naomi King Biden and Peter George Heermann Neal tied the knot on the South Lawn of the White House on Saturday, they joined a short list of couples, including presidential children, nieces and friends, and one president (Grover Cleveland), whose wedding days were celebrated in a residence that is a cultural icon. [Read more.]
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