Happy Wednesday! Congratulations to our Dispatch colleague Haley Byrd Wilt on the birth of her baby daughter Zoe—and just days after Andrew Egger’s little Ruth came into the world! Time to start selling Dispatch Politics-themed onesies?
Up to Speed
- Virginia Republican Rep. Jen Kiggans’ reelection campaign raised more than $750,000 in the second quarter of 2023, The Dispatch has learned, bringing her total fundraising haul to $1.3 million during her first six months in Congress. Kiggans, who ousted Democratic Rep. Elaine Luria last cycle and is one of the most vulnerable House Republicans on the ballot in 2024, now has more than $1 million dollars in cash on hand going into the second half of the year.
- In a million-dollar effort to make the RNC presidential debate stage, billionaire North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is offering a $20 gift card to each of the first 50,000 people to donate at least $1 to his campaign. “We’re not asking for money. We want to SEND YOU MONEY,” reads a campaign email. Burgum needs 40,000 unique donations to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate in August.
- Entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy is launching a program to pay grassroots supporters 10 percent of any money they raise for his campaign, according to Politico. Participants will be issued an affiliate link to share with their friends and other potential donors. Ramaswamy has already qualified for the debate with more than 60,000 unique donors.
- Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader and a social conservative kingmaker in Iowa politics, tweeted on Tuesday that former President Donald Trump will not attend his organization’s Friday summit, an influential gathering of conservatives in Iowa. Candidates expected to attend include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Each will be interviewed by former Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
- In a Truth Social post Monday, Trump criticized Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for withholding her endorsement in the state’s first-in-the-nation GOP presidential caucuses despite receiving Trump’s endorsement in 2022. Trump and his advisers have privately complained about Reynolds’ proximity to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the New York Times reports. In response to Trump’s public criticism, several GOP candidates, including DeSantis, have come to the governor’s defense, and the former co-chairman of the Iowa Republican Party said, “I’m out on the former President. It’s time for fresh leadership or shall I say actual leadership.”
- Win it Back, a new group associated with the anti-tax Club for Growth, launched a $3.6 million television ad campaign on Tuesday in Iowa and South Carolina to hurt Trump in early-state and national polling, Politico reports. Another conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, is also expected to spend heavily against Trump, recently announcing it has raised more than $70 million.
- Hundreds of ostensibly grassroots left-wing activist groups across the country are centrally controlled by Arabella Advisors, a for-profit and billionaire-funded consultancy based in Washington, D.C., the Washington Free Beacon reports. Arabella has indirectly funded countless “pop-up” groups in support of liberal causes through what the Free Beacon describes as “the Left’s dark-money network.”
- “Joe Biden should not be dragging us further toward World War III by sending cluster munitions to Ukraine,” Trump said in a social media post on Tuesday. Biden made what he described as the “very difficult” decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine until the embattled nation could resolve its shortage of conventional artillery shells despite humanitarian objections. In contrast to Trump, both Haley and Pence have said Biden was too “slow” to provide cluster munitions.
Nikki Haley Advocates ‘Equality’ for Transgender Adults
HANOVER, New Hampshire—Nikki Haley says she opposes discrimination against transgender adults and as president would not support policies that ban them from military service, teaching, or other public-sector employment.
“I’m a freedom fighter, so at the end of the day, I don’t mind how anybody chooses to live,” the Republican contender tells The Dispatch in an interview. “They should have every freedom and every equality as anybody else.”
Like most in her party seeking the White House, Haley objects to public school curricula that teaches students about the range of potential gender identities that may vary from an individual’s biological sex. The former South Carolina governor, a married mother of two adult children, especially takes issue with public school policies that involve encouraging students to explore their own gender identity, or facilitate their access to gender-transition treatments without parental consent.
The politically charged issue of gender identity and how it manifests in public education is a regular component of Haley’s stump speech, and it tends to spark applause.
“You’ve got biological boys playing in girls sports. Now let me tell you, this is one of the most important issues for women in this time,” the former South Carolina governor told a crowd of about 100 a couple of days earlier during a town hall in Lancaster, New Hampshire. “My daughter ran track in high school. I don’t even know how I would have that conversation with her. How do we get our girls comfortable with biological boys in their locker room? You can’t.”
Forty-eight hours earlier, Haley said much the same thing while campaigning in North Conway, New Hampshire, although during her town hall-style event there she added this line: “And then, Johns Hopkins wants to make it worse. Did you see? They came out with the definition of a woman: It was a non-man.” The audience, of about 150, broke out in laughter. (The university later reversed itself.)
Anxiety about the teaching of gender curriculum in public schools, what many grassroots conservatives and politicians refer to as “gender ideology,” is among the biggest issues in the GOP 2024 presidential primary. Democrats frame such programs as being about inclusivity and safety for children who identify as LGBTQ. They argue Republicans are using the topic as a smokescreen to push blatantly anti-transgender policies and discriminate against the LGBTQ community—children and adults—in its entirety.
But Haley, also the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, says the Democrats’ framing of the controversy mischaracterizes her position.
“This is about kids that we’re talking about. This is not about adults, who have made a life decision that they’re choosing to do,” Haley says.
Meanwhile, Haley discussed her views on abortion with The Dispatch, elaborating on what role she believes the federal government should play in regulating the procedure—a matter on which she has been somewhat vague.
While campaigning, Haley emphasizes the fact that passing federal legislation to curtail abortion rights is virtually impossible given the 60-vote threshold required to clear a bill through the Senate. Republicans, she adds, would need the trifecta of a filibuster-proof Senate, control of the House, and a president willing to sign the legislation. So Haley’s approach, she says, is to search for common ground that’s possible to achieve, and assiduously avoid disparaging Americans who support abortion rights.
Some are receptive to this message.
Here in Hanover, a female college student approaches Haley after her town hall concludes, telling the Republican that while she he is a Democrat and therefore would never vote for her, she appreciated the candidate’s comments on abortion. However, Haley concedes that as president she was prepared to sign federal legislation curtailing access to the procedure in the unlikely event it arrives on her desk, as long as it includes exceptions for rape, incest and the mother’s health.
“Wherever we can get 60 votes, if that’s 15 weeks, I’ll sign it,” Haley says. “But I’m not going to demonize the issue. I’m going to humanize it.”
Group Founded by Pence Pushing Lawmakers to Embrace Fiscal Restraint
Advancing American Freedom, the political nonprofit organization started by former Vice President Mike Pence, has launched a new six-figure digital ad campaign calling on Democratic members in the House and Senate in swing districts and states to rein in federal spending as Congress begins to focus on the appropriations process.
The ads will initially run in Kansas, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio, New Mexico. An AAF spokesperson says the group “wants to steer the conversation back to fiscal conservatism, starting the conversations that other conservative groups are avoiding and fleeing.” The issue campaign is one of several efforts the group has launched in recent weeks, including a push against a bipartisan bill in Congress to empower bank regulators to “claw back” executive pay at failed banks, and a digital ad campaign supporting a fetal heartbeat bill in Iowa limiting abortions after 6 weeks.
The uptick in activity tracks with an internal AFF document obtained by The Dispatch. Dubbed the group’s “five-year plan,” the document has been circulated with donors and gives a sense of the scale of the group’s ambitions. “AAF believes the country needs an organization that remains dedicated to the principles of conservatism and America’s founding,” reads the document. “AAF will be the keeper of the flame that is our great inheritance as Americans.”
The plan says the group seeks to become “the leading defender of modern conservatism” by engaging with elected officials on specific legislation on Capitol Hill, conducting ad campaigns, and building coalitions within the broader conservative movement for its policy goals.
This also reflects the organization’s leadership, which includes conservative veterans of some of the biggest ideological fights within the GOP of the past decade. AAF’s executive director is Paul Teller, a former chief of staff for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz who also led the staff of the Republican Study Committee, a sort of internal conservative think tank in the House of Representatives. Teller was recently joined at AAF by senior advisor Tim Chapman, who earlier this year left Nikki Haley’s nonprofit to join Pence’s group and was previously in charge of Heritage Action, the advocacy wing of the Heritage Foundation.
The relatively small organization—people close to AAF say the group has raised close to $9 million this year—has officially cut ties with Pence since the Hoosier Republican launched his White House bid last month. But there is an unofficial alignment of interests between AAF and the Pence campaign. As The Dispatch’s Michael Warren outlines in a new report from Iowa, the former vice president is making a case for the GOP to return to its more traditionally conservative policy agenda on a host of issues, from foreign affairs and abortion to fiscal policy and the size of government.
“I’m running because the things that I’ve always been about, the things that our administration was about, I’m going to continue to be about,” Pence told Warren in an interview last week. “American leadership in the world, fiscal responsibility and reform, the right to life. And frankly, the [former] president is walking away from those things overtly, and others are walking away from it. And I’m going to continue to stand on the conservative ideas and values that I’ve always stood on, and give Republican voters a choice.”
Glenn Youngkin Brings Brian Kemp’s Early Voting Game to Virginia
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced Tuesday that he will deploy a new program to boost Republican early and absentee voting efforts ahead of this fall’s state legislative elections in the Old Dominion. Republicans hope to keep control of the House and flip the Democrat-controlled Senate in 2023. The seven-figure effort, called Secure Your Vote Virginia, includes digital advertising and polling in battleground districts so Republicans can better gauge which voters to target ahead of Election Day.
“We can’t go into our elections down thousands of votes. You can secure your vote before Election Day,” Youngkin says in a video announcing the new program, which his campaign team is launching in coordination with the Republican State Leadership Committee, the Virginia GOP, the state Senate Republican Caucus, and the House Republican Campaign Committee.
Youngkin is following the lead of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who charted a new path for Republican get-out-the-vote efforts, shattering early vote records during his 2022 reelection bid. Kemp’s closer-than-expected 2018 race against Democrat Stacey Abrams forced the Georgia Republican to revamp his campaign’s early and absentee voter turnout operation.
Youngkin’s decision to adopt Kemp’s 2022 turnout model should come as no surprise to D.C. political observers. The two governors have a “rock-solid relationship,” one of Youngkin’s advisers tells The Dispatch, and share quite a bit of crossover between their respective campaign teams. Zack Roday, the coordinated campaign director for Yougkin’s PAC Spirit of Virginia, served as a senior adviser on Kemp’s campaign team last cycle, and Youngkin’s new early and absentee vote director Brian Barrett was the architect of Kemp’s 2022 turnout operation.
“Brian Kemp showed the path to Republicans in Georgia last year and now we’re able to scale and build on that here,” Matt Moran, the executive director of Spirit of Virginia, told reporters during a Tuesday briefing call. “Republicans can’t sit on the sidelines. And the rules are the rules are the rules. And it’s time for us to get into the game.”
The state legislative races could serve as a bellwether for 2024, when Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is up for reelection. Retired Navy Captain and former congressional candidate Hung Cao is the latest high-profile Republican to file paperwork in the GOP Senate primary.
Aaron Mukerjee, Voter Protection Director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, sarcastically welcomed Youngkin’s effort as too little too late for Virginia Republicans “after years of bombarding voters with conspiracies about early and mail-in voting.”
Notable and Quotable
“It’s been a great decision on his part. Clearly, we need quality candidates to win, we learned that in ‘22, 2010, 2012. Steve’s doing a great job getting us the most electable nominees, because that’s the way you win in November.”
—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines backing the party’s preferred Senate candidates in Politico, Monday, July 10