3: The number of years “El Chapo’s” wife served in prison for helping him run his criminal empire before being released from custody on Wednesday
8: The number of working days the U.S House has left to fund the government before shutdown
65.6%: The percentage of women working full-time, year round in 2022
136: The number of years Johnson & Johnson has had the same script logo until it’s change this year
2023: The first year a sitting president did not visit one of the 9/11 attack sites on the anniversary
2 Million: The number of doors to date knocked by a Ron DeSantis-aligned super PAC
The Race to be 47
Welcome to a Special Edition of The Weekender – This week, it’s all about the individuals vying for the White House. We have President Biden and the Democrats. Former President Trump and all that comes with him. Fresh faces vs. tailored political careers. Economic Growth vs. Interest Rates. Ukraine vs. Russia. Republican Populism. Age vs., well… age?
In the coming 14 months, each candidate will deploy different strategies, tactics, and approaches, but all Republicans on the field not named Donald Trump share the same goal: taking down the former president. Trump, showing no interest in joining the debate stage this early, waits in the wings. His supporters seem unwavering in their dedication, and he happily watches from above, resting on his 55.1% poll rating among Republican voters (four times more support than his closest rival).
As the second GOP Presidential Primary debate is just around the corner, GOP hopefuls are making headlines. Here are some of the areas GOP hopefuls made waves this week:
The Ultimate Trump Card (55.5%)
By all accounts, former President Trump should theoretically be facing an uphill battle to secure meaningful support in the GOP primary. He’s carrying a significant amount of baggage, but his polling numbers remain as resilient as ever. He’s the first president in United States history to be indicted, as he faces a total of 91 felony counts in four jurisdictions. These charges span alleged hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, hoarding classified documents, efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and election interference. He’s playing a unique hand: rather than downplaying the scandals, he’s underscoring them. Rather than evidence of his misbehavior, he loads his cartridge with the court cases to prove the system is rigged against me, you, and him.
Trump, aged 77, is just a few years younger the President Biden. While 61% of voters support setting a maximum age limit for presidential candidates, 63% think Trump is too old to effectively serve another four years. Still, he maintains a substantial majority support from GOP primary voters at 55.5%. This, in addition to his devoted voter base, can likely be tied to Republican leadership backing his re-election. As of last week, 10 senators and more than 70 House members announced they are backing his second term.
Despite his unwavering success to date, he is not alone in pursuit of the Oval Office. Learn all about his competitors below.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis DeFining Americanism (14.2%)
Governor DeSantis likes to tout his successes as governor of Florida. The state, which has largely become the darling of the Republican Party, rebounded post-COVID, and, according to many, has set an example of the efficacy of conservative ideology. And DeSantis likes to talk about it.
One of DeSantis’ largest accomplishments has been revamping the education system to change how America is discussed and taught in Florida classrooms. He signed several policies into law, including required implementation of “patriotic programs” to have “comparative discussion of political ideologies such as communism and totalitarianism, that conflict with the principles of freedom and democracy essential to the founding principles of the United States.”
The Stop WOKE Act banned lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and the workplace in a direct attack on the “Critical Race Theory” typically taught in graduate degree and doctoral courses.
On the campaign trail, Governor DeSantis has leaned into his faith and social conservatism to rally support for his campaign from evangelical conservatives – a key voting group in First in the Nation Iowa Caucuses. He constructed the “Faith and Family Coalition.” The national campaign coalition of pastors includes two dozen Iowa pastors from 18 counties in addition to others across the U.S. The strategy is time-tested as, in 2016, entrance polls found more than two-thirds of Republican caucus-goers self-identified as evangelicals.
Vivek Ramaswamy Playing a Different Kind of Religion Card (7.3%)
This week, Ramaswamy generated attention not from his witty soundbites or hip-hop skills, but for something more personal. On the Iowa campaign trail, the entrepreneur was asked his opinion about Jesus Christ. He explained that in his Hindu faith, Jesus is “a” son of God and not “the” son of God. “I’m Hindu, and I’m proud of that. I stand for that without apology. I think I’m going to be able to be more ardent as a defender of religious liberty.”
But can the religious right get on board? Maybe. This staple slice of the GOP expressed initial resistance to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, but eventually embraced his policies and candidacy for the White House. The demographic has also been stalwart in support for Donald Trump, who is twice divorced, entangled in scandals with a porn star, and under investigation for alleged criminal activity. It is not impossible for the evangelical community to look past religion and vote for policy – should the right leader emerge.
Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s “Hard Truths” Serum (5.9%)
Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as ambassador to the United Nations under former President Trump, has presented herself as a member of the “new generation of leadership.” Her objective is to speak truths to the American people, rather than bombastic language, in the hopes of winning over their vote. The strategy is apparent; during the first presidential debate, she solidified her pro-life stance during an interaction with Pence, who favors federal regulation, by saying “don’t make women feel like they have to decide on this issue when you know we don’t have 60 Senate votes.”
This week, international affairs were in her crosshairs, separating herself from other conservatives beginning to question the U.S.’ involvement in the Russia/Ukraine conflict.
“I’m going to tell you my hard truth, because I don’t think Americans get the hard truth on this… Russia said after they take Ukraine, it’s Poland and the Baltics, and then we’re in a war because those are NATO countries. That’s what we’re trying to prevent. If Ukraine wins, not only do we take care of everything Russia is doing, it sends the biggest message to China not to invade Taiwan, it sends a message to Iran to stop building a bomb, it sends a message to North Korea to stop testing ballistic missiles. That’s why we’re doing this.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence Popping Off on Populism (4.9%)
Mike Pence has set his course for being the statesman on the stage as he warns of the imminent threat of populism. He knows its danger first-hand as he had a target on his back during the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. As the mob gathered outside the seat of U.S. government, gallows were erected as the crowd cheered “Hang Mike Pence!” One can only imagine how frightening a position that must have been, but in Pence’s perspective, it makes him uniquely qualified to run against his former running mate.
This week at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Pence said: “When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, he promised to govern as a conservative.
And together, we did just that … But it’s important for Republicans to know that he and his imitators in this Republican primary make no such promise today.” Pence said if the GOP continues its current course, the party’s legacy may live on in “some populist fashion, but then it will truly be, in a cruel twist, Republican in name only.”
Former Vice President Pence is not setting himself up to be the savior of America from the Democrats; however, he is running to be the savior of the Republican Party from its populist temptations.
In June, The Hill assessed that Chris Christie could be a “wild card” in 2024 with the potential to “scramble the contest.” In the months since, Christie has proven himself as a bulldog in the race, calling out Vivek during the debates, and most notably attacking Donald Trump.
This week, Christie sat down with CNN Politics and suggested Trump – if successful in 2024 – would use the Department of Justice to punish his political enemies. He also vowed to follow Trump around the country if he doesn’t agree to debate. “I’m sure he’s not coming to the Reagan debate. We’ll give him another chance in Alabama. But if he doesn’t come there, then I’m going to follow him around the country. Wherever he goes, I’ll go. And we’ll wind up talking to each other one way or other. And he knows that’s true.”
Tim Scott has been described as a combination of a people-person and a policy wonk – characteristics many seek in a future president. And while Scott has fought to keep policy at the center of his campaign, this week his name made headlines for a singular different reason: his love life. Scott has never been married and has kept his dating history out of the public arena, and electing a bachelor president hasn’t happened since America’s 15th president, James Buchanan, in 1857.
Unlike the 19th century, where the New York Evening Post criticized Buchanan in an editorial that called him “half a man,” for being single, it appears many voters don’t care about Scott’s relationship status. Reporting from the Iowa State Fair, the Washington Post quotes one voter saying: “What matters to me is that he’s in favor of putting the family unit back together.” Scott says the scrutiny of his relationship status is nothing new. “It’s like a different form of discrimination or bias. You can’t say I’m Black, because that would be terrible, so find something else that you can attack.”
President Joe Biden: The Age Old Play of Running on your Resume (67.5%)
President Biden is proud of his presidential resume, and he is expected to lean into it on the campaign trail. While he casts himself as an American protector having beaten former President Trump, many hypothesize his legislative scorecard will go to work for him. His successes in working with Republicans on initiatives like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are well-received across the aisle. The Democrats stand behind the Inflation Reduction Act, his actions to support Ukraine defense efforts, pardoning all prior federal offenses for simple marijuana possession, and bolstering American manufacturing through The CHIPS and Science Act.
Despite doing much of what he and his fellow Democrats promised, 70% of Americans and 51% of Democrats believe President Biden should not run for re-election, with age being a prominent concern. Still, 88% of Democrats say that if President Biden runs, they will either definitely or probably vote him back into office. Democratic brass is excited about President Biden’s re-election as they see him as the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt, but they know that voters aren’t sold.
The United States does not have political dynasties akin to the monarchies of Europe, but the Kennedys are about as you can get. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., AKA RFK, is the son of U.S. Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy and the nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. While there is a deep American reverence for this family, especially his iconographic uncle, he has yet to fit the mold of the ideal statesman candidate. Namely, he’s known to frequently espouse fringe ideas, like HIV not being the cause of AIDs,Chinese and some Jewish people being immune to COVID-19, and the 2004 presidential election being stolen.
RFK’s strategy to run as a populist outsider is an interesting decision given his heritage, but he currently sits as the primary contender to President Biden on the blue ticket. He does, however, bring strong name recognition based on his family’s prior success and a track record of environmental dedication that could appeal to some Democratic voters.