Happy Wednesday! Lots of people have been complaining about Florida State University’s snub from the College Football Playoff. But only one woman, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, has had the courage to … launch an antitrust investigation into the selection committee?
Up to Speed
- The future of U.S. military aid to Kyiv remains murky in the wake of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s third visit to Congress Tuesday. President Joe Biden, cautious, said in a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart only that “we’re in negotiations to get funding we need.” “Not making promises, but hopeful we can get there,” Biden said. “I think we can.”
- A pregnant Texas woman whose fetus was diagnosed with trisomy 18, a severe genetic disorder, has become a flashpoint of abortion politics after the state Supreme Court overruled a lower-court ruling that she could receive an abortion under the permitted exceptions to Texas’s strict abortion ban. Attorneys for Cox and doctors who testified on her behalf had argued that there was “virtually no chance” of her baby surviving long past birth and that carrying her to term would damage her ability to have more children in the future, but the court ruled that the petition had not met the ban exception’s requirement of a risk to Cox’s life or serious risk of substantially impairing a major bodily function. Cox ultimately traveled out of state to procure an abortion. (Read John McCormack’s look at the case on the site today.)
- Fresh off of an endorsement from New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, underdog Republican presidential contender Nikki Haley is noncommittal on the question of whether she’ll participate in future debates that would most likely be a one-on-one affair with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—unless frontrunner Donald Trump chose to participate. DeSantis has agreed to appear for a CNN-sponsored debate in Iowa ahead of the January 15 caucuses. Haley? Not so much. “Since the [Republican National Committee] pulled out of the debates, many new offers have come in. We look forward to debating in Iowa and continuing to show voters why Nikki is the best candidate to retire Joe Biden and save our country. That debate should include Donald Trump,” a spokesperson for the former South Carolina governor told The Dispatch on Tuesday.
- The New York State Court of Appeals on Tuesday greenlit the Democratic-controlled state legislature to once again redraw its congressional map, scrambling the House picture ahead of next year’s contests and imperiling the substantial gains Republicans made in the New York City suburbs in last year’s midterms. The current map, featuring a high number of competitive districts that saw Republicans like Reps. Anthony D’Esposito, Nick LaLota, and Mike Lawler score upset wins last year, was drawn by a special master after the courts threw out the legislature-approved map as a partisan gerrymander. But in a 4-3 decision, the Court of Appeals said that had been only a temporary solution and that New York should restart the process from scratch. The change is likely to result in a handful of Democratic flips in next year’s House elections.
- The National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, raised a healthy $9 million last month, besting its previous record for the November just before the election year by $1.8 million. The sum was buttressed by cash transfers from top House Republicans and has to be heartening to party leaders. In October, as House Republicans were mired in infighting over the ejection of now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the selection of his replacement, fundraising dropped significantly. It appears things are back on track. “House Republicans stepped up to the plate and helped the committee hit a fundraising grand slam,” Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina, the NRCC chairman, said in a statement. The NRCC now has $41.4 million in the bank to spend on the 2024 elections.
After a Veiled Threat, Trump Gets Hawley in Line
With primary season just around the corner and Donald Trump maintaining his massive lead in all primary polls, the former president is flexing his muscles to lock up the endorsements of influential national Republicans. On Tuesday, he bagged another one.
“President Trump doesn’t need to worry—I’m with him,” Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told The Dispatch yesterday. “I’ve said for a year now, he’s gonna win the primary, he’s gonna be the nominee. It’s gonna be Trump versus Biden, and I’m voting for Trump. So you can code that however you want—support, endorse, stand with him. Those are all interchangeable to me.”
“I’m with him, as he knows,” Hawley repeated. “Don’t worry. He doesn’t have to worry.”
Those comments came just two days after Trump sent a shot across the bow of Hawley and another of his Senate colleagues, Ted Cruz of Texas—both of whom are up for reelection next year and neither of whom had by then endorsed him. “So interesting that Democrats are looking hard at the Senate races in both Missouri and Texas,” Trump mused in a post to his website Truth Social. “Josh and Ted must be very careful, stranger things have happened!!!”
Trump browbeating Republicans into doing what he wants, of course, is the norm in contemporary GOP politics. But this development was particularly notable since neither Hawley nor Cruz is considered vulnerable next year. Both are rock stars among party voters in their state who would steamroll any primary challengers, and both—Democrats’ perpetual hopes of a Texas upset notwithstanding—are likely to win reelection next November.
Even if Hawley were to have—let’s say—tempted Trump’s full wrath by becoming a hard-charging Ron DeSantis guy, it’s been clear for years that Trump, while powerful, isn’t so powerful as to be able to crush the reputations of Republican politicians in the minds of voters who already like them. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp proved that last year, steamrolling a primary challenger that Trump backed to the hilt, then cruising to reelection despite dire warnings from Trump allies that the MAGA base would just as soon have a Democrat as a Trump-crosser in power.
Rather than a matter of his own political survival, then, Hawley’s move is more likely one made with an eye to a possible future—one where an increasingly vengeance-focused Trump sweeps back to power himself. The fewer bones Trump has to pick with Republicans in the Senate by then, party leaders think, the better off they’ll all be.
That’s part of the reason why National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines has reportedly been enthusiastically lobbying his colleagues to throw their support behind Trump before voters actually start going to the polls—while it’s still in some ways a bilateral transaction.
“Ted and Josh are strong leaders,” Daines told The Dispatch Tuesday when asked to comment on Trump’s veiled threat. “They have a good relationship with President Trump, and they’re both gonna be reelected. They’re both campaigning hard and I know they’ll continue to work with President Trump after they’re reelected and President Trump is elected as our next president.”
Will Sununu’s Haley Endorsement Matter?
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has been teasing a possible Nikki Haley endorsement for weeks. On Tuesday, he made it official.
“There was a sweet, older woman, who has come to a lot of events, and I saw her coming in here, and she said, so: ‘Are you going to finally endorse Nikki Haley for president?’ You bet your ass I am! Let’s get this thing done,” Sununu told a packed town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire last night. Sununu posted video of his remarks on X, formerly Twitter. “We are all in on Nikki Haley—undoubtedly.”
Haley hopes the endorsement will help extend the momentum of her post-Labor Day surge among the Republicans vying to emerge as the consensus alternative to Trump. Sununu is an institution in the state: He’s been elected to four two-year terms, winning the swing-state in both favorable and unfavorable environments. His conservative credentials are solid, and he is broadly popular among the state’s coveted independents.
But is his backing enough to propel underdog Nikki Haley to an upset victory over frontrunner Donald Trump in the January 23 “first in the nation” primary? The polls show it’s a tall order.
The former president leads the woman he appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations 45.7 percent to 18.7 percent in New Hampshire in the RealClearPolitics average. (That’s a 27-point advantage for you non-mathematicians.) And similar endorsements haven’t done much to move the needle this year: In Iowa, DeSantis was endorsed by popular Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds—and top evangelical activist Bob Vander Plaats. Trump’s support in the polls only climbed.
The Dispatch put this question to veteran Republican operatives in the Granite State with a history of winning elections there.
Jim Merrill: “Governor Sununu is the most popular New Hampshire Republican in a generation. Endorsing before Christmas smartly maximizes his endorsement of Haley and allows it to burn in before the holidays and the final stretch blur everything. Haley’s momentum has been slowly building here and Sununu’s endorsement will accelerate that growth. He doesn’t guarantee a win, but it gives Haley a gifted communicator and proven Granite State vote-getter to ride shotgun with down the stretch.”
David Carney: “Gov. Sununu is very popular with the undeclared voters and his strong support will [cause] the independents [to] give Haley a second look. Time will tell if these all come to fruition.” (In New Hampshire, voters not affiliated with any political party are permitted to participate in the Democratic and Republican primaries. There is an intense effort underway by the various GOP candidates to woo this key bloc, especially with major competition lacking in the Democratic contest.)
Sununu, 49, is an MIT-trained engineer and son of John H. Sununu, former New Hampshire governor and one-time White House chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush. His brother, John E. Sununu, previously served in the House and the Senate.
If you’ll recall, Sununu considered running for Senate in 2022 but opted for reelection, complaining Republicans were too interested in partisan shenanigans versus legislative accomplishments. He then considered running for president in 2024, believing it was imperative the GOP move on from Trump. But after about six months of unofficially testing the waters by increasing his national media presence and traveling the country to speak to Republican groups, the governor again took a pass on higher office—and also announced he would not run for reelection for a fifth two-year term as governor.
But on his promised effort to endorse in the Republican primary, in a bid to consolidate the field of candidates and spur Trump’s demise, Sununu delivered—despite the political risks given the former president’s strong position in the race.
Haley basked in the glow of the moment. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” she said, according to the New Hampshire Journal. “To get endorsed by the ‘Live Free or Die’ governor is about as rock-solid of an endorsement as we could hope for.”
And what did Trump have to say about all of this? “I AM LEADIN CROOKED JOE BIDEN IN VIRTUALLY EVERY POLL,” he said in a Truth Social post. “I AM LEADING NIKKI BY 50 POINTS, AND MORE! SUNUNU RAN, WITHOUT ANNOUNCING, BUT POLLED BADLY, AND DROPPED OUT!”
Notable and Quotable
“Where’s the Nikki Surge? I hear about it from the Fake News Media, but don’t see it in the Polls, or on the Ground. In any event, I hope she and DeSanctimonious are doing well, and continue the same ‘Surge’ as they’ve had for the past eight weeks!”
—Donald Trump in a Truth Social post, December 11, 2023