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‘Haley Republicans’ Frustrated with Biden’s Israel Stand
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‘Haley Republicans’ Frustrated with Biden’s Israel Stand

Plus: The jury’s still out on how Donald Trump’s trial will affect the election.

Happy Friday! We’ll be honest, there are days when we feel like Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, who was asked by a reporter about Nikki Haley’s better-than-expected performance in his state’s presidential primary this week: “I don’t feel like answering any questions about politics. I’m bored by it. Thank you.”

Up to Speed

  • Republican Rep. Corey Mills of Florida is drawing up articles of impeachment against President Joe Biden over his threat to withhold certain weapons from Israel if the Jewish state proceeds with its planned offensive on the Gazan city of Rafah. Mills equated Biden’s ultimatum to the one former President Donald Trump allegedly made against Ukraine, for which the then-Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached him in 2019. Biden’s White House argued against Mills’ resolution, saying that Trump threatened to withhold funds that Congress appropriated, while Biden threatened not to deliver on a purchase the Israeli government made.
  • On Wednesday, the House shot down Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to vacate the chair, saving Speaker Mike Johnson’s job for the time being. Members in both parties voted to table the motion 359-43—with 11 Republicans and 32 Democrats voting against killing it—shortly after the Republican firebrand from Georgia brought it to the floor even though Democratic leaders had announced they would vote to stall the measure. Greene wanted to force Johnson to rely on Democrats to bail him out. “This is exactly what the American people needed to see,” Greene said after the vote. “I didn’t run for Congress to come up here and join the uniparty, and the uniparty was on full display today.” Johnson did not hold back in his comments after Greene’s motion failed, saying he hoped the episode would be “the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined the 118th Congress.”
  • After the vote,  Trump urged Republicans not to take up the motion, arguing that doing so could hurt their electoral prospects. “We are leading in the Presidential Polls by a lot, both Nationally and in the Swing States. Likewise, we are doing well in the Senate, and I believe will do well in the House,” he wrote in a Truth Social post. “But if we show DISUNITY, which will be portrayed as CHAOS, it will negatively affect everything!” But Trump did not totally reject a future vote on the motion to vacate. He argued that Republicans were not in a position to hold such a vote now, but he added: “At some point, we may very well be, but this is not the time.” Trump also called Johnson “a good man who is trying very hard.”
  • Trump also posted on his social media platform yet another attack on independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on Thursday, attempting to dissuade conservatives considering a third-party vote. “The fact is, he is a radical-left person, so, Republicans, get it out of your mind that you’re going to vote for this guy because he’s conservative. He’s not,” Trump said of Kennedy in a video. Trump also charged Kennedy with not actually being an anti-vaxxer. “For those of you that want to vote because you think he’s an anti-vaxxer. He’s not really an anti-vaxxer,” Trump said. Those comments come after a poll found Republican voters were more likely to vote for Kennedy after learning of his claim that vaccines are linked to autism.
  • Trump’s attack came a day after the New York Times reported that doctors treating Kennedy in 2010 found the remains of a parasitic worm in his brain that caused cognitive issues at the time. The report also revealed that the 70-year-old Kennedy—who has attempted to portray himself as a candidate with youth and vitality, in contrast to the 77-year-old Trump and 81-year-old Biden—has suffered from other health problems throughout his life, including atrial fibrillation and mercury poisoning. Kennedy has previously posted videos of himself both working out shirtless and going on a skiing trip.
  • Maryland Senate candidates David Trone and Angela Alsobrooks, who will face off in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, are statistically tied in a Thursday poll, the first since Alsobrooks released an ad in which several Democratic politicians in the state gathered Avengers-style to endorse her. Alsobrooks leads Trone 42 percent to 41 percent and 47 percent to 44 percent when pollsters asked undecided voters whom they are leaning toward in the survey from Emerson College, the Hill, and DC News Now. The poll’s margin of error for that contest was 4.5 percent. In hypothetical matchups in the general election, Republican former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan trailed both Alsobrooks and Trone by a gap outside that question’s 2.9 percent margin of error. The latest poll represents a shift from previous ones, which saw Trone leading Alsobrooks and Hogan leading both his likely Democratic opponents. 

Biden’s Israel Move Endangers Bid for ‘Haley Republicans’

President Joe Biden speaks during the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on May 7, 2024. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks during the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on May 7, 2024. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is jeopardizing prospects for winning over disaffected Republican voters with his contentious decision to withhold offensive military munitions from Israel as it prepares for the next phase of its war against Hamas.

That’s what Republican activists and operatives supportive of Nikki Haley and open to voting for Biden in November told Dispatch Politics Thursday in text messages and telephone interviews. Biden’s unusual move to halt shipment of artillery shells and heavy bombs to Israel has the potential to be particularly damaging, they said, because foreign policy is his best sales pitch for luring “Haley Republicans” away from Donald Trump, their party’s presumptive White House nominee, given sharp disagreements with the president on most domestic issues. 

“It looked like he was pandering to the most liberal portions of his base,” said Amanda Stewart Sprowls, a 52-year-old real estate investor in Tempe, Arizona, who was active in her state’s “Women for Nikki” chapter and volunteered in Iowa for the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “That’s not how you conduct foreign policy. You support your allies—peace through strength.” Sprowls, emphasizing she is not a “Never Trump” Republican, is weighing whether to skip voting for president or cross the aisle for Biden. 

“We understand the position Biden is in. It’s not a straightforward situation—we understand that,” added Alissa Baker, who was a member of the Haley campaign’s Virginia leadership team and volunteered for the former South Carolina governor. “We all understand the danger of Trump. But we didn’t just support Haley because we’re anti-Trump. We support those core Republican principles. Standing with Israel is an important part of that.” Baker said she’s “still trying to figure out what to do” with her vote.

Republicans who have backed Haley over Trump in GOP presidential primaries this year amount to a sizable protest vote—millions and counting despite the fact that the 2024 contender exited the race March 6. Since then, Haley has earned at least 10 percent of the vote in 13 primaries. That includes receiving 16 percent in Pennsylvania’s April 30 contest, which permitted only registered Republicans to participate, and 22 percent this past Tuesday in ruby-red Indiana’s open primary.  

These voters, who broadly identify as “Ronald Reagan Republicans” are unhappy with the former president for myriad reasons. But Trump’s opposition to U.S. military aid to Ukraine, coddling of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and indifference bordering on opposition to international alliances such as NATO are particularly grating. They align more with Biden on these issues, creating a crucial opening for the incumbent Democrat. Their frustration with the president over Israel could undermine that opportunity. 

“The Biden admin is trying to thread a needle that is politically difficult. But we just feel, in particular, given his strong speech on antisemitism, that the decision to withhold weapons seems to undercut the ironclad commitment to Israel and many Haley voters were caught off guard by this decision,” said Robert Schwartz, senior adviser to Haley Voters for Biden, a super PAC formerly called PrimaryPivot that is working to generate driving GOP support for the president.

Schwartz has assembled a working group of approximately 25 Republicans who supported Haley over Trump in Republican primaries with the purpose of developing policy and political strategies that might help the Biden campaign appeal to these voters. As part of that effort, the “Haley Voters Working Group” has submitted a list of 12 policy priorities to the Biden campaign to function as a guidepost as the president’s team formulates plans to target persuadable Republicans. 

No. 1 on the list: “Border Security.” Nos. 2 and 3: “Russia/NATO” and “Israel/Middle East.” Not on the list, anything about saving American democracy. Centering engagement with “Haley Republicans” on that issue is not enough to secure their votes; neither is building a message around Trump’s public excommunication of Haley donors in January, when the former president said on Truth Social that they “will be permanently barred from the MAGA camp.”

“What we’ve seen in terms of the outreach from the Biden campaign to Haley voters so far has been in the nature of reminding Haley voters that Trump and his world have not been welcoming,” said Craig Snyder, a “Never Trump” Republican consultant in Philadelphia supportive of Haley. “All of that is necessary but not sufficient. There needs to be an affirmative message as well—and that has to be a return by the president to his emphasis on centrism and moderation that was central to his 2020 appeal.” 

The Biden campaign declined to comment for this story. But sources familiar with the Biden campaign’s unfolding strategy to pitch Haley voters told Dispatch Politics the president’s team is using her performance in GOP primaries as a starting point for whom to target and where. The Biden campaign is not just focusing on battleground states where Haley’s numbers versus Trump were significant, but on specific counties and precincts where she performed especially well. 

Over time, these voters are going to be microtargeted with tailored advertising and on-the-ground, peer-to-peer personal contact. The strategy behind that is an understanding that Biden personally (and politically) is not a draw for stalwart Republican voters, even those whose opinion of Trump is so low they’re willing to consider voting for the president. Better to hear the message from people they know and trust than a commander in chief they’re undecided about at best.

The Biden campaign then hopes to have some prominent endorsements from the center-right space to unveil closer to when voting in the general election gets underway. If the Biden campaign has its way, this effort—to be carried out by dedicated paid staff and financed by millions of dollars—will fly as under the radar as possible.

“This game needs to be won at the local level, where Republicans are talking to other Republicans in their community, in a way that doesn’t feel nationalized,” a knowledgeable source said.

Will Donald Trump’s Manhattan Trial Sway Swing Voters?

Will the current proceedings in a Manhattan courthouse have any bearing on the 2024 presidential race? As former President Donald Trump’s criminal trial there continues, we’re no closer to a clear answer to that question. Whether or not the former president is convicted of any of the 34 counts of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels, it’s untested whether swing voters will be affected by reminders of Trump’s sordid past.

This week’s Collision newsletter explores how the prosecution in Manhattan is reviving and adding new details to the story of how Trump operated during the 2016 election:

What we did not know until recent testimony was how exactly Team Trump was working to address a looming political crisis in this time of desperation. Take the testimony on May 2 from Keith Davidson, the attorney who negotiated with Cohen on behalf of Daniels back in 2016.

Davidson testified about the agreement he reached with Cohen, which included an exorbitant, seemingly unenforceable “liquidated damages provision”—what Daniels would owe if she breached the agreement. According to Davidson, Cohen requested the provision require Daniels to pay $1 million for every breach—nearly eight times the amount of her settlement payment.

“A Liquidated Damage Provision of $1 million, which was demanded by Michael Cohen, was so far in excess of the … settlement amount of the contract that it really served no purpose” Davidson said on the stand. Whether it was shoddy or greedy for Cohen to demand such a disproportionate damages provision, it’s certainly in line with how Trumpworld often ends up trying unsuccessfully to enforce restrictive non-disclosure agreements.

Other recent testimony, including from former top Trump aide Hope Hicks, has filled out more of the story. And the story is remarkable, even if voters remain nonplussed.

All of which is to say: This is not how most political figures operate. The preemptive agreement with the tabloid publisher, the massive payoff to the porn star through Trump’s “fixer,” the ongoing coordination with lawyers for that porn star to keep the story straight, the casual truth-stretching, the appeals to powerful friends in the media, the unusual bookkeeping—all of it has never been seen in the campaign and operation of a major presidential candidate.

Read the whole newsletter here.

Notable and Quotable

“I promise you America … there ARE normal people in Congress.”

—Republican Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina in an X post after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene triggered a vote on her motion to vacate, May 8, 2024

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David M. Drucker

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.

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Michael Warren

Michael Warren is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was an on-air reporter at CNN and a senior writer at the Weekly Standard. When Mike is not reporting, writing, editing, and podcasting, he is probably spending time with his wife and three sons.

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Charles Hilu

Charles Hilu is a reporter for The Dispatch based in Virginia. Before joining the company in 2024, he was the Collegiate Network Fellow at the Washington Free Beacon and interned at both National Review and the Washington Examiner. When he is not writing and reporting, he is probably listening to show tunes or following the premier sports teams of the University of Michigan and city of Detroit.