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Dean Phillips Giving It the College Try in New Hampshire
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Dean Phillips Giving It the College Try in New Hampshire

Plus: A super PAC is going big to give Nikki Haley a ‘strong showing.’

Happy Wednesday! We hope our readers on Capitol Hill are resting up after a wild Tuesday of intraparty and interparty near-violence.

Up to Speed

  • Nearly 300,000 people attended a demonstration in Washington to show support for Israel in its war against Hamas, according to organizers, who said an additional 250,000 people watched remotely. The “March for Israel,” as the rally was dubbed, attracted several top Democrats and Republicans, including House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. The show of solidarity with the Jewish state was organized to counter hundreds of pro-Palestinian rallies that have taken place across the United States since October 7, when Hamas attacked Israel and targeted civilians for murder, torture and kidnapping, leaving more than 1,200 dead.
  • More American voters support Israel than not, per fresh polling from YouGov, although that support varies by demographic. According to the survey, 37 percent of U.S. adults side with Israel “in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” while 15 percent side with the Palestinians, with 27 percent saying they support both sides equally and 21 percent saying they are unsure. But the poll shows that the older you are, the more likely you are to side with Israel. Among 18-29 year-olds, backing for Israel versus backing for the Palestinians breaks down 26 percent to 24 percent; among 30-44 year-olds it breaks down 28 percent to 20 percent; among 45-64 year-olds it breaks down 42 percent to 10 percent; and among 65+ it breaks down 54 percent to 7 percent.
  • Chris Christie says he has qualified for the fourth Republican presidential debate, scheduled for December 6 and hosted by NewsNation. The former New Jersey governor announced this week that his underdog campaign has surpassed 80,000 donors and met the polling threshold, metrics that if verified by the Republican National Committee would earn him a spot on stage in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. 
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson endorsed Donald Trump for president this week, saying in a Tuesday interview with CNBC he is “all in” for the former president’s 2024 bid. The Louisiana Republican’s decision to back Trump is hardly surprising, although the move could be problematic for members of the House Republican conference who are running for reelection in districts that supported Joe Biden in 2020. That year, Johnson was one of the architects of Trump’s legal effort to overturn the results of his loss to the future 46th president. “We have to make Biden a one-term president,” Johnson said.
  • Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom is running for Congress in 2024, a candidacy Republicans are calling a “recruiting coup.” Dahlstrom is challenging Rep. Mary Peltola, a Democrat who won a 2022 special election to fill Alaska’s vacant, at-large House seat and secured a full-term in the November general election a few months later. Alaska chooses its elected representatives via ranked-choice voting, a process that has discarded party primaries and provided a pathway to office for centrists of both parties. House Republicans are defending a narrow four-seat majority.
  • New Jersey first lady Tammy Murphy is running for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, she announced Wednesday. Murphy is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who is facing federal bribery charges but who so far refuses to abandon his 2024 reelection bid. Rep. Andy Kim also is seeking the Democratic nomination for Senate in the Garden State.

How Generic Can One Man Get?

Rep. Dean Phillips holds a rally outside of the New Hampshire Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for president on October 27, 2023, in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images)
Rep. Dean Phillips holds a rally outside of the New Hampshire Statehouse after handing over his declaration of candidacy form for president on October 27, 2023, in Concord, New Hampshire. (Photo by Gaelen Morse/Getty Images)

The New Hampshire Democratic primary is in an odd spot this year: Stripped by party honchos of their first-in-the-nation status, but obliged by state law to go first anyway, the state party is pushing forward with a purely symbolic primary that won’t include President Joe Biden on the ballot. Rep. Dean Phillips, who last month launched a longshot primary bid against the president, hopes to benefit from the unusual situation: He’s made New Hampshire his primary focus as he strives to show many Democrats are ready to move on from Biden.

Is there any electoral juice to be found for a guy like Phillips? Andrew headed up to Dartmouth College this week to get a firsthand glimpse of the Minnesota lawmaker’s “more in sorrow than in anger” primary pitch:

“I have great respect for President Biden,” he says at Dartmouth. “I believe he was the only man, the only candidate who could have beaten Donald Trump in 2020. I also believe that he’s probably the only Democrat who could lose—and probably will—to Donald Trump in 2024.”

“This is not a campaign of destruction against the president,” he continues. “To the contrary, it is a campaign to prevent the destruction of democracy.”

Phillips, 54, is a cheerful and warm public speaker, although his remarks in Dartmouth tack so thoroughly to the center—constant “we’re not so different” anti-partisan bromides, asides about his GOP friends in Congress, stories about conservatives with whom he’s found meaningful common ground—that it’s odd when he bristles at a questioner who describes him as a moderate. “I’m a progressive,” he shoots back. “If I’m branded as a centrist or a moderate—probably because I’m a white man—I can’t do anything about it.”

The kernel of Phillips’s argument can be found in a New York Times poll this month that showed Trump beating Biden—but losing to a generic “Democratic candidate”—across a series of key swing states in a possible 2024 rematch. “I’ve never aspired to be generic,” he says at Dartmouth. “I’ll be your generic Democrat if that means I can defeat Donald Trump much more ably than President Biden can.”

But Phillips has faced fierce blowback from a party apparatus constructed of Democrats arguably even more generic than he: After all, they continue to support the Democratic president.

When I ask Phillips about this party resistance, he replies that “There’s a massive operation designed to undermine right now rather than promote thoughtful alternatives. Which I think is the most hypocritical, bizarre outcome of a significant American party you could possibly imagine.”

Watching him speak, it’s hard to avoid the sense that Phillips has followed the logic of that “generic Democrat” poll exactly far enough to conclude that some other Democrat ought to run, and no farther. Why should this man—not a generic Democrat, but this particular Democrat, be the president? “I’m running for president,” Phillips says, “because I deeply believe that we can get this done and we can have some fun and bring a lot of optimism and hope back to a country that is really in need of it right now.”

Haley Super PAC: We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2!

The super PAC supporting Nikki Haley is planning a major investment into her bid for the Republican presidential nomination as part of a deliberate strategy to help the former South Carolina governor topple frontrunner Donald Trump.

It’s a tall order. The former president leads big nationally, and in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. But in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, SFA Inc. chief strategist Mark Harris declared Haley in sole possession of second place in the Republican primary and suggested the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations is preparing for a final showdown of sorts with Trump in South Carolina—and if not there, on Super Tuesday.

“The path here for winning the nomination is pretty clear,” Harris said. “Have a strong showing in the first two states, that allow us to have a strong showing in South Carolina and set up for super Tuesday. Ultimately, we believe—and our data backs this up—that Nikki is the strongest because it creates the clearest choice in this election.”

You’ll notice Harris did not use the word “win” anywhere in there, being very careful not to set expectations Haley might not be able to meet in these three early primary states. To be sure, he did predict the former Trump cabinet official would eventually triumph over her old boss. “I believe that voters will ultimately pick her to be the Republican nominee,” he said. “It’s about dealing with the future of the country, not the past.”

Although Haley continues to surpass Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in early-state polls, her argument that she would be the best consensus alternative to Trump has a problem: Publicly available polling suggests Trump, not Haley, would pick up the bulk of DeSantis’s supporters in Iowa should the Florida governor drop out. According to Harris, SFA Inc.’s internal data contradicts this theory—but the super PAC has yet to reveal their math.

It goes without saying: The DeSantis campaign disagrees with all of this.

“It’s clear there is no way Nikki Haley can beat Donald Trump, and every dollar spent on her candidacy is an in-kind to the Trump Campaign,” spokesman Andrew Romeo said in a statement. “Ron DeSantis has the best combination of endorsements, ground game, and message in the early states, which is why the former president continues to attack only him. We are confident the Iowa voters will see who will best represent them and their values.”

To be fair to Team DeSantis, it’s true that most of the negative advertising being run by the Trump campaign is targeting the governor and airing in Iowa.

Still, Haley’s momentum since the first televised Republican debate back in August is undeniable. 

Polling shows she has surpassed DeSantis to grab firm control of second place in New Hampshire and South Carolina; she is running third in Iowa—just 3 percentage points behind the governor. Through SFA Inc., Harris aims to bolster Haley’s bid to catch Trump with a mixture of advertising and voter turnout activities, with an emphasis on the former. (That’s a different strategy than that of DeSantis’s super PAC, Never Back Down, which is essentially controlling the governor’s ground game.)

Harris declined to talk numbers, but he did say SFA Inc. would soon announce robust advertising buys in Iowa and New Hampshire to run in December and January. Those would supplement the super PAC’s current ad run, which is due to expire at month’s end. Harris said the uptick in fundraising—not just since the first debate but since the third debate in Miami last Wednesday—has enabled SFA Inc. to chart an aggressive course to boost Haley’s campaign.

“We’re ahead of where we hoped to be at this point,” Harris said. “Most movement in Iowa tends to happen in the last 45 to 60 days, and so we’re barely starting to get into that window.”

Notable and Quotable

“When I get into office, the first thing we have to do: Social media companies, they have to show America their algorithms. Let us see why they’re pushing what they’re pushing. The second thing is every person on social media should be verified by their name.” 

—Nikki Haley on Fox News, November 14, 2023

Andrew Egger is a former associate editor for The Dispatch.

David M. Drucker is a senior writer at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was a senior correspondent for the Washington Examiner. When Drucker is not covering American politics for The Dispatch, he enjoys hanging out with his two boys and listening to his wife's excellent taste in music.