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Maryland’s Senate Race Will Come Into Focus This Week
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Maryland’s Senate Race Will Come Into Focus This Week

Plus: Why Donald Trump’s decision to address the Libertarian Party could backfire on him.

Happy Monday! We hope everyone had a Happy Mother’s Day, especially Mrs. Barbara Grassley, wife of Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley. The senator characteristically said he was “gr8ful” for his wife on X yesterday. Can we have more wholesome content like this in our politics, please?

Up to Speed

  • Former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden among registered voters in five of six key swing states, according to a New York Times poll released Monday. Trump’s advantage was as low as 3 points and as high as 12 points in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Georgia, and Nevada—his lead being outside the margin of error in the last two. Biden led Trump by 2 points in Wisconsin. Biden earlier had appeared to cut Trump’s lead in polling last month, trailing by just 0.2 points nationally in the RealClearPolitics polling average, but Trump has increased his lead to 1.2 points in that metric.
  • The same poll found that Democratic Senate candidates lead their Republican opponents in four key races that could determine control of the body: Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada held the smallest lead, beating likely Republican challenger Sam Brown by 2 points, while Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin led likely Republican challenger Eric Hovde by 9 points, the largest of any Democrat in the poll. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Sen. Steve Daines of Montana has said the group is targeting Pennsylvania, Maryland, Montana, and Ohio.
  • Trump on Saturday denied a report that he was considering former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley as a running mate. “Nikki Haley is not under consideration for the V.P. slot, but I wish her well! DJT,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. That post came a day after Axios reported the former president’s campaign was considering Haley for the position. Trump has previously threatened that donors to Haley’s presidential campaign are “permanently barred from the MAGA camp,” and President Joe Biden has attempted to win over Haley voters.
  • Biden is set to host another star-studded fundraiser in Los Angeles in June featuring former President Barack Obama and actors George Clooney and Julia Roberts, NBC News reported Sunday. That event follows a New York fundraiser the Biden campaign held in March, also featuring Obama, along with former President Bill Clinton and other celebrities, bringing in about $25 million. Biden and Democrats have thus far touted a significant fundraising advantage in the campaign as Trump has attempted to catch up.
  • Speaker Mike Johnson said on Politico’s “Playbook Deep Dive” podcast published Friday that Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona—who originally supported Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to vacate the speakership and later voted against a motion to table it—confided to Johnson privately that he would not have voted to oust the speaker if it came to a vote. “I would not read too much into the voting against the motion to table. In fact, a couple of those folks,Warren Davidson and even Gosar, who was originally with Marjorie [Taylor Greene] and Thomas Massie … told me privately that they would never have voted to vacate, and they wished it hadn’t happened,” Johnson said of the list of Republicans who voted against the motion to table that eventually killed Greene’s proposed measure. He also detailed some of the conversations he had with Greene and Massie in the lead-up to the former’s triggering the vote.
  • Multiple Republicans gave clearer answers on Sunday shows to the question of whether they would accept the results of the 2024 election after Sen. Tim Scott dodged the query a week before. “If it’s a free and fair election, I will accept the results, Dana, whoever wins,” Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio told Dana Bash on CNN’s State of the Union. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he would accept the results “if there’s no massive cheating.” Scott equivocated on the question in an interview last week on Meet the Press, only saying repeatedly that he expected Trump to win. Vance and Scott are rumored contenders to be Trump’s running mate. (Vance, by the way, joined Trump at his Manhattan trial Monday.)

It’s Down to the Wire for Maryland’s Democratic Senate Hopefuls

U.S. Rep. David Trone speaks with campaign volunteers in Laurel, Maryland, on May 3, 2024. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. David Trone speaks with campaign volunteers in Laurel, Maryland, on May 3, 2024. (Photo by Craig Hudson for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Democratic voters in Maryland head to the polls tomorrow for the primary for the U.S. Senate—the outcome of which could make a big difference in whether the party can retain the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin. Rep. David Trone and Angela Alsobrooks, the executive of Prince George’s County, are facing off for the Democratic nomination in what’s become an incredibly tight race.

For decades, winning the primary was akin to winning the seat since the last Republican to win a Senate race in Maryland was Charles Mathias in 1980. But the winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will have a formidable opponent in Republican Larry Hogan, who is expected to win the GOP nomination easily.

Hogan’s entry into the race earlier this year suddenly put Maryland on the map for the GOP and has made a tough electoral year for Senate Democrats even tougher. The popular two-term former governor leads both Trone and Alsobrooks in most of the polls of head-to-head general election matchups. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls, Trone does slightly better against Hogan than Alsobrooks does, trailing by 3.8 points while Alsobrooks trails by 6.5. 

A new poll from Emerson College released last week, however, showed Trone and Alsobrooks leading Hogan by 11 points and 10 points, respectively. That same Emerson poll found Alsobrooks and Trone in a statistical tie for tomorrow’s primary, with the county executive leading 42 percent to 41, with 12 percent still undecided. In the poll, Trone is leading among those primary voters who say they have already voted, which is a good sign for the three-term congressman. But Alsobrooks has the advantage among likely voters who had still not voted by last week, when the poll was conducted.

Bottom line? It’s likely to be a nail-biter in Maryland tomorrow night. And no matter who wins the nomination, the fight with Hogan is going to be costly for Democrats who are defending Senate seats in more typical battleground states as well. Indeed, Trone has argued that his intention to self-fund—he is the co-founder of alcohol retailer Total Wine and has a vast personal fortune—can save national Democrats from having to funnel precious dollars into Maryland.

“This will probably be an expensive race,” Trone told the New York Times in an interview, saying that his ability to spend his own money on his race “will give them a lot more flexibility to spend money elsewhere.”

To catch yourself up on the primary, reread our recent coverage. John McCormack reported for Dispatch Politics recently on the racial politics at play in the Democratic primary, particularly after Trone, who is white, mistakenly used the racial slur “jigaboo” during a congressional hearing when he meant to use the term “bugaboo.” John reported how Alsobrooks, who is black, has been making a pretty straightforward case for Maryland Democrats to select a black woman to send to the Senate, where there are currently none. 

And last week in Dispatch Politics, Charles Hilu dug a little deeper into the question of Alsobrooks’ support across most of the Maryland congressional delegation, where just one other member has endorsed Trone, their colleague. Charles found that when it came down to it, Alsobrooks had made all the right connections throughout her career in Democratic politics to collect her slew of big-name endorsements.

The Libertarian Party’s Curious Trump Flirtation

We’ve spilled plenty of digital ink about third-party and independent presidential candidates, from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to the aborted No Labels bid. But what about the Libertarian Party? The minor party, which has been on the presidential ballot in all 50 states and D.C. in six elections since 1980, will have a ballot line in 37 states this year.

Next week, the party will select its nominee for president at its national convention in Washington, but with a bizarre guest speaker: presumptive Republican Party nominee Donald Trump. Over on the site, John McCormack has a new report on the inter-party battle that forms the background of this unusual decision to invite Trump.

So why, exactly, did a minor party whose raison d’être is to reject the two major parties invite the presumptive GOP nominee to potentially overshadow the convention where Libertarian Party delegates will pick their own presidential nominee? That is a hotly contested question within a Libertarian Party that is deeply divided between two factions—the Mises Caucus and the Classical Liberal Caucus. 

The Mises Caucus is the Libertarian Party’s largest faction whose members swept to power at the party’s 2022 convention in a backlash against what they saw as an increasingly politically correct party that didn’t do enough to stand up to COVID lockdowns and was happy to run Republican Party retreads for president. The Classical Liberal Caucus is filled with, well, self-styled classical liberals who see Mises Caucus types as Trump-adjacent bigots and kooks—or at least way too tolerant of bigots and kooks. 

Heading into the 2024 convention, the Mises Caucus has endorsed presidential candidate Michael Rectenwald, a former New York University professor who says he converted from Marxism to anarcho-capitalism after he was the victim of a “woke mob” at NYU. On Friday, the Classical Liberals endorsed Chase Oliver, a former Democrat who was the Libertarian Party’s 2022 Senate candidate in Georgia.

The Classical Liberals contend that by turning the convention into a Trump rally, the Mises Caucus leaders of the Libertarian Party are not only trying to help Trump win the general election, they’re also trying to depress turnout of delegates who might oppose the Mises Caucus candidates running for party leadership and the presidential nomination.

John also considers the possibility that Trump’s appearance could backfire on the former president, especially if it helps in boosting Rectenwald, the “Trumpier” of the two leading candidates. Or it could do what many Libertarian Party partisans fear: sway many of their voters to the GOP.

If Trump’s presence at the convention does help Rectenwald win the nomination, that would likely hurt Trump in the general election because Rectenwald’s anti-woke and anti-abortion stances would almost certainly draw more votes away from Trump than Biden. 

On the other hand, Oliver, the candidate backed by the Classical Liberal Caucus, would likely draw more votes from Biden than Trump because Oliver is a former Democratic antiwar activist who favors enacting a federal statutory right to abortion. 

So what does Trump have to gain from showing up at the Libertarian Convention? “I don’t think he cares one way or the other who our presidential nominee is,” Casey of the Classical Liberal Caucus told The Dispatch. “I think his motivation for coming to speak to the Libertarian Party is that he looks at this as a campaign rally where he can go up on a stage that has Libertarian Party branding, Libertarian Party crowd, and he can create an ad for himself, essentially.” That message? “I spoke to the Libertarians, and they loved me,” as Casey put it.

Read the whole thing here.

Notable and Quotable

“Has anyone ever seen ‘The Silence of the Lambs’? The late, great Hannibal Lecter. He’s a wonderful man. He oftentimes would have a friend for dinner. Remember the last scene? ‘Excuse me, I’m about to have a friend for dinner,’ as this poor doctor walked by. ‘I’m about to have a friend for dinner.’ But Hannibal Lecter. Congratulations. The late, great Hannibal Lecter.”

—Donald Trump, during a speech at a rally in Wildwood, New Jersey, May 11, 2024

Michael Warren's Headshot

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.

Charles Hilu's Headshot

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.