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10 Republicans to Watch
When you aren't watching Joe Biden
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There is a new paradigm of thinking within some upper quarters of the Republican Party about President Joe Biden and it goes like this: We underestimate him at our peril.
This clear-eyed group can sound like Mike Donilon or Jen Psaki (or Wednesday’s FAKE Ron Klain memo….) in saying that the Biden record now speaks for itself, with the passage of a massive progressive agenda, several landmark bipartisan compromises, a historically successful midterm, the formation and management of the anti-Putin coalition, and a (nearly) fully united Democratic Party.
Giving prominent voice to this revisionist view is Newt Gingrich, who says in an essential read:
Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan both preferred to be underestimated. Both wanted people to think of them as pleasant – but not dangerous. They found being underestimated was a major asset. While people laughed at them, they were busy achieving their goals and getting their programs implemented
Biden has achieved something similar…..
Today there is not nearly enough understanding (or acknowledgement) among leading Republicans that our system and approach failed. We need to rethink from the ground up how we are going to Defeat Big Government Socialism – including almost inevitable second-time Democrat Presidential Nominee Biden.
This is a much bigger challenge than I would have guessed before the election.
So, assuming Biden does in fact run for reelection….
…. who are the Republicans most on the line to stop him from another term?
Here is the Top Ten:
1. Donald Trump
Past or future? Prompter or free form? Iowa rallies or the Mar-a-Lago patio? Proud Boys or YMCA? Lawbreaker or rulebreaker? Pugilist or populist? Election lies or crime/trade/immigration/economy? Donald Trump has been the second-most-talented presidential candidate since Reagan (after Bill Clinton…) and he has been an electoral disaster for his adopted party. What/who will he be for the next two years?
2. Kevin McCarthy
Must execute (1) winning the speakership; (2) governing effectively; (3) keeping the speakership, all while demonstrating the 3D mastery of policy, politics, and the press at which Nancy Pelosi excels. Is weeks away from the majority, which could give him an unprecedented platform for his party in the Trump Era. But he has never excelled at the outside game and, so far, the Democrats are not afraid.
3. Mitch McConnell
Still in the minority, but still with the capacity to call some shots, through the filibuster and his wily ways. Must decide how to approach Biden, McCarthy, and Schumer in the new power structure. He’s already decided how to approach Trump.
4. Ron DeSantis
So far, he’s mostly chosen to define his power, not his party. Not without substance by any means, but still more myth than man, especially to the voters of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. Are the Florida Record and cable news hits enough to sustain his place in the hierarchy through the spring – or does he need some more substantial national plays before then?
5. Whoever replaces McCarthy as speaker
Can’t say who this is or when they take over, but this slot could potentially move a lot higher on the list. Stay tuned…
6. The surprisingly strong 2024 Republican presidential candidate
Someone besides Trump, DeSantis, or Glenn Youngkin is going to catch that spark in the early voting states, on social media, and with a few Fox hosts in a way that gives her (or him) a moment (or two) to define the party and create a sense of possibility. I think I know who it will be, but I’m not saying today!
7. Whoever is in charge of making the media (and public) see the House oversight hearings as successful
As Karl Rove points out, the fresh majority to get it right has to use its new investigative power in a way that speaks to the real lives of real power, not something that is stage managed in a way that looks purely partisan. Republicans have not successfully run a single significant hearing like this in over a generation (Democrats have put on many such affairs during that time), and there is little reason to think they can do it now. But if there is some member or staffer who magically pulls that elephant out of a hat, well, that would be quite something.
8. Glenn Youngkin
Might run. Might not. Might run and revolutionize the party’s image across a range of important dimensions. Might run and flame out quickly. Like DeSantis, still more myth than man, but has the potential to win the White House less like Trump did and more like George W. Bush did, which would warm the hearts of the Gang of 500 and the Chamber types. Also: despite a few missteps, could bring “nice” back to the GOP brand.
9/10. Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita
Two experience hands asked to do the impossible: Make Trump ’24 a perfect hybrid of Trump ’16 and….something else TBD. If they build the staff, the schedule, the issues agenda, and the candidate controls (that still let Trump be Trump – or, at least, some “safe but volatile” version of Trump) – if they do all that and more, there is going to be a heck of a book written about them, which neither of them wants.
* The Associated Press with the latest on China:
More Chinese cities eased some anti-virus restrictions as police patrolled their streets to head off protests Thursday while the ruling Communist Party prepared for the high-profile funeral of late leader Jiang Zemin.
Guangzhou in the south, Shijiazhuang in the north, Chengdu in the southwest and other major cities announced they were easing testing requirements and controls on movement. In some areas, markets and bus service reopened.
The announcements didn’t mention last weekend’s protests in Shanghai, Beijing and at least six other cities against the human cost of anti-virus restrictions that confine millions of people to their homes. But the timing and publicity suggested President Xi Jinping’s government was trying to mollify public anger after some protesters made the politically explosive demand that Xi resign.
With a heavy police presence, there was no indication of protests. Notes on social media complained that people were being stopped at random for police to check smartphones, possibly looking for prohibited apps such as Twitter, in what they said was a violation of China’s Constitution.
* The Washington Post looks at Trump’s standing post-Mar-a-Lago dinner with Nick Fuentes and rounds up the Republican reaction. This story is most significant for two elements.
First, this paragraph that belongs in a time capsule:
The point of a statement denouncing Fuentes, two advisers said, would be in part to stop the Republican criticism of him. “One of his big problems is that he doesn’t like to criticize people who support him,” an adviser said. “If you support him, he’s not going to want to attack you.”
Second, you will laugh and laugh and laugh reading the Post’s extensive quoting of the tut tut tutting of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, as she sounds like Jamie Raskin in her incredulity about associating with the likes of Fuentes.
* Politico on how the Biden White House comms team now likes to embrace MTG as a villain.
* The Associated Press writes up the Georgia Senate runoff, pegged to Barack Obama’s Thursday rally with Senator Warnock, and leans -- as hard as the AP can lean into such things – into what all my sources are suggesting: Herschel Walker is poised to come up short of the goal line.