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Happy Friday! Is anyone else confused about why South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is posting infomercial-style videos about products she likes?

Up to Speed

  • Breaking news this morning from Fulton County, Georgia: Judge Scott McAfee has ruled in part against the motion to dismiss the election-interference and racketeering charges against Donald Trump and his co-defendants. Additionally, McAfee also ruled against disqualifying Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the case. McAfee’s ruling states that while the evidence presented about Willis’ romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired, Nathan Wade, does not require the dismissal of the charges, there does need to be a remedy: Either Willis and her office step aside and let a new prosecutor to handle the case, or Wade can withdraw from his position in Willis’ office. The ruling will likely be appealed by Willis and/or the Trump co-defendant who raised the initial motion, GOP operative Michael Roman.
  • A week after announcing they would move forward with a presidential ticket, the centrist group No Labels revealed its process for selecting its nominees. In a video posted online Thursday, Chairman Mike Rawlings explained how its 12-person panel—which includes former Sen. Joseph Lieberman and retired Adm. Dennis Blair—will make a recommendation for a ticket that will then be voted on by its 800 delegates. “If this ticket receives majority support from No Labels delegates, they will be given the official nomination and appear on the ballot as the No Labels unity ticket,” Rawlings said. “Once the unity ticket is nominated, No Labels’ work is done and the unity ticket will assume the task of building a campaign and capturing the hearts and minds of the American people in the 2024 election.” It’s unclear when the recommendation and delegate vote will occur, with the only timeline No Labels is providing for its online convention as “later this spring.” 
  • Will independents inherit the Senate? Probably not, especially since one of them, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, announced she won’t run for reelection in the upper chamber. But that’s not stopping others from considering the idea. First, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, who pleaded not guilty to his latest raft of bribery charges, is considering running for reelection as an independent in 2024. NBC News reports that Menendez would need to get 1,000 signatures by March 25 to run as a Democrat, but only 800 signatures and a later deadline (June 4) to qualify as an independent candidate. A number of Democratic candidates have declared they are running for his seat, though Menendez has not said whether or not he is running again. 
  • And CNN reported Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has asked Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to reconsider his decision to retire from the Senate. But instead of Manchin running as a Democrat in deep-red West Virginia, Schumer suggested he run as an independent. “I think that’s a long, long, long-shot scenario,” Manchin told CNN. “So I don’t anticipate that happening. I don’t anticipate running.” He would have until August to decide whether to file as an independent.
  • Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will announce his running mate at an event in Oakland, California, on March 26. As Politico reported earlier this week, among the names Kennedy’s campaign is considering are New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, and motivational speaker Tony Robbins. 

Trump Guts RNC in Major Staff, Strategy Overhaul

Former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on March 9, 2024, in Rome, Georgia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally on March 9, 2024, in Rome, Georgia. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Of the 60 paid Republican National Committee staff fired by the new party and executive leadership installed by presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, roughly 40 worked in the field department, a critical component of the RNC’s voter turnout operation, sources told The Dispatch.

Those cashiered include senior personnel overseeing field operations in key battlegrounds: state directors, deputy state directors, and state data directors. Additionally, approximately six of the 10 Washington-based staff running the RNC’s data analytics program—which plays a crucial role in the party’s get-out-the-vote efforts—were dismissed. (Politico first reported news of the layoffs; the Washington Post reported Wednesday that the RNC’s communications director, data director, and political director were let go.)

In another move, RNC digital and fundraising staff are moving from the committee’s main office on Capitol Hill to Trump campaign headquarters in West Palm Beach, Florida, where they will be fully integrated with the former president’s 2024 team. Sources tell us none of the 60 personnel dismissed work in the finance department, which is notable given criticism from some Trump loyalists that RNC fundraising is underperforming.

Asked for comment, an RNC spokesperson on Thursday forwarded an undated memorandum issued to the “Republican National Committee” by new party chairman, Michael Whatley, outlining some of the changes and the purpose behind them. “As is tradition and governed by applicable law, the RNC is merging operations with the Trump campaign. We are now a united operation and a united front,” he wrote in the memo.

Earlier this month, Trump tapped Whatley to serve as RNC chairman, and his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, for RNC co-chairman. The move pushed out Ronna McDaniel and her deputy, Drew McKissick, from the two top posts. The RNC approved the former president’s picks in a subsequent vote held during a regular spring meeting in Houston. Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign adviser, is overseeing changes at the RNC at the presumptive GOP nominee’s behest.

LaCivita has hired former RNC official Sean Cairncross to carry out his mandate day to day as chief operating officer. And as Whatley stated in his memo, it’s longstanding practice for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to assume control of the RNC. Trump achieved this status Tuesday when he secured more than the 1,215 necessary convention delegates with his win in the Georgia GOP primary. 

But the scope of Trump’s RNC overhaul and merger with his campaign has some RNC members concerned—in an unusual move, both entities now have a single political director, James Blair. Election Day is less than eight months away; early voting in some of the targeted swing states begins even sooner. They worry that, at this late date, Whatley’s goals, as stated in his memo, of “reorganizing the field program” and “reimagining what our data operation looks like,” could backfire. 

Notwithstanding Whatley’s assurances to the contrary, some RNC members also fret the RNC under Trump’s leadership will be singularly focused on the campaign to oust President Joe Biden, to the detriment of providing voter turnout and data analytics support for down-ticket races. This is a major RNC responsibility, even in election cycles when the White House is contested.

“This is more aggressive than most presidential campaigns as far as taking control of RNC operations, but generally consistent with previous cycles,” an elected RNC member said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. “But this can’t just be about the Trump campaign. While winning the White House is the top priority, we need the Senate, House, and state and local seats.” 

“The timing is not great,” added a second RNC member. “There are many high quality staff people who were let go.”

But Republican operatives we spoke with outside of RNC and Trump circles say the changes being pursued by the former president and his advisers aren’t necessarily unwarranted. The committee was described to us by various experienced GOP strategists as both “bloated” and “stale.” In other words, they said, the committee staff had grown too large, and the personnel serving in key positions were not as effective at their jobs as they should be. 

And although these Republican operatives conceded making wholesale changes to the RNC this close to the November 5 election was risky, they expressed confidence in LaCivita. A veteran strategist based in Virginia, LaCivita has a history of fixing struggling campaign operations late in the game after being brought in to take over for failing leadership. The fact that he is spearheading changes at the RNC is particularly reassuring to some inside the party.

“The RNC needed a change of mindset,” a Republican operative with down ticket clients on the 2024 ballot said. “It wasn’t operating like a campaign entity.”

For the staff impacted, however, the mass firing seems more about performative symbolism than strategic effectiveness. 

For years, political professionals and activists associated with Trump’s loyal base of supporters have complained that the RNC is overpopulated with personnel who emanate from the Ronald Reagan wing of the party and are disloyal to the former president. These people have coveted RNC jobs for themselves. So they might find it interesting, say GOP operatives critical of the layoffs, that at least some portion of the staff affected is being given an opportunity to stay on after all.  

“Chairman Whatley is in the process of evaluating the organization and staff to ensure the building is aligned with his vision of how to win in November,” Cairncross wrote in an email to staff members who were sacked. “During this process, certain staff are being asked to resign and reapply for a position on the team,” reads the email Cairncross sent to those who were sacked. “If you choose not to reapply, your last day of employment will be March 31, 2024.”

In the email, obtained by The Dispatch, Cairncross misspelled his name as “Carincross,” which was just another example to one critic of the changes at the RNC that the moves being made are haphazard and not thought through very well. “They just want to bring in their own people; it’s about power and control,” this Republican insider said.

The Two Katie Britts

It’s been just over a week since the State of the Union address and the Republican response to President Joe Biden by Alabama Sen. Katie Britt. While the freshman senator’s performance was widely criticized for its melodramatic, unsettling tone, Britt appears to be a popular, well-liked member of the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

Our colleague John McCormack dives into this contradiction—a promising young senator who has made a good first impression on everyone except the American people—in a profile of Britt for the site. Here’s an excerpt:

Britt’s melodramatic and cringe-inducing delivery of the GOP’s official response to the State of the Union was panned across the political spectrum, but until that point she had a reputation for being almost universally well-liked. “We’ve become friends since we first got here,” Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania told The Dispatch in the Capitol on March 6. “We’ve had dinner together. She visited me at Walter Reed, and she’s just great.” Other Democratic senators, including Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Peter Welch of Vermont, have also heaped praise on the 42-year-old freshman senator who has only been in office for 14 months. 

Britt had a leg up on her fellow freshmen because she began her career in the Senate as Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby’s press secretary, and, after working as a lawyer, returned to work as Shelby’s chief of staff. “She’s obviously not a newcomer to the Senate, even though she’s a new senator,” Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told The Dispatch. “She knows the place extremely well and she’s able to hit the ground running. I think she’s fantastic.” 

Much of Britt’s strength in politics and legislating comes from doing what has become a lost art of politics—being likable, charismatic, and seeming to express a genuine interest in other people. “Katie has this ability to make you feel like you’re the most important person in the room,” Angi Horn Stalnaker, an Alabama political consultant, told The Dispatch.

Read the whole thing here.

Notable and Quotable

“This finding is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing.”

—Judge Scott McAfee, on Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis, March 15, 2024