Happy Friday! Unless you’re working for Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. A new CNN poll shows that a whopping 67 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters wish the party would nominate someone other than the president. That same poll shows Biden’s approval rating clocking in at just 39 percent.
Up to Speed
- SFA Inc., the super PAC supporting Nikki Haley’s presidential campaign, is running a new television advertisement in Iowa and New Hampshire. The 30-second spot, featuring clips of the former South Carolina governor from the first Republican debate in Milwaukee and commentators lauding her performance, makes the case that she has the best chance of beating President Joe Biden.
- Never Back Down, the super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis’ presidential bid, also is airing a new 30-second spot in Iowa and New Hampshire. The ad features a clip of the Florida governor from the Republican debate in Milwaukee saying he would authorize force against people who illegally cross the southern border in an effort to stop Mexican drug cartels from infiltrating American communities.
- Underdog 2024 contender Mike Pence is scheduled to participate in a nationally televised town hall meeting Wednesday on cable news network NewsNation. The former vice president will take questions from a studio audience in Chicago and a second audience of likely caucusgoers in Iowa. Anchor Leland Vittert will host the prime-time town hall, which comes two weeks before the next Republican debate.
- Federal prosecutors investigating President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, plan to hand down a grand jury indictment by the end of the month, according to court documents filed on Wednesday. Special counsel David Weiss’ looming indictment follows the collapse of a plea deal between Hunter Biden and federal prosecutors involving a felony gun charge and misdemeanor tax violations. “The Speedy Trial Act requires that the Government obtain the return of an indictment by a grand jury by Friday, September 29, 2023, at the earliest,” the court filing reads.
- The Biden administration on Wednesday officially banned oil drilling across a 13 million acre strip of the Alaskan wilderness, citing climate change concerns. Also on Wednesday, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland canceled seven oil and gas leases issued by the previous administration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
No Labels Delays Candidate Vetting, Prioritizes Nomination Rules
The nonpartisan group No Labels has shelved plans to vet potential candidates for an independent 2024 ticket at least until the political nonprofit organization establishes ground rules for choosing nominees for president and vice president.
That decision is expected sometime in October, No Labels officials tell The Dispatch.
“What we did is we really wanted to prioritize this selection aspect of this,” No Labels Chief Strategist Ryan Clancy says. “So, yeah, we haven’t started that process yet.” In April, the group told Dispatch Politics the formal exercise of researching the backgrounds of potential candidates would begin in late summer or early fall and be led by No Labels “legal teams.”
Clancy hinted at another reason No Labels pushed back a screening process: The top-tier Democrats and Republicans the group is recruiting may be hesitant to cooperate right now, worried the effort will never get off the ground while leaving them estranged from their respective political parties.
“We’re on [the ballot in] 11 states which is exactly what we expected to be. But our thinking is, the more states that we get on, the more real this starts to seem, not just to voters but to potential candidates,” Clancy says. “There’s probably a lot of leaders who are looking at this with some interest but thinking, ‘Well, okay, let me keep it at arm’s distance for a little while until I really feel confident that this is real.’”
For now, No Labels continues to hold preliminary conversations with hoped-for recruits and focus on developing bylaws for nominating its hypothetical unity ticket consisting of one Democrat and one Republican (although which “party” would lead the ticket is undetermined.) The group plans to pursue this track only if it becomes clear 2024 is headed for a rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
No Labels is mulling four procedural options or nominating at ticket:
- A small group of “diverse and distinguished people” curates a list of prospective candidates for president and vice president, vets them, and chooses from among them. No Labels isn’t saying so, but this would be reminiscent of the so-called smoke-filled rooms where party elites used to hash out nomination fights.
- The approximately 2,000 delegates that No Labels says will attend the group’s April 14-15 convention in Dallas vote for the ticket of their choice. This unpredictable, “live wire” gathering, also with historical roots in American politics, would contrast with the scripted conventions run by the Democratic and Republican parties.
- An online primary where the eligible voters are the “tens of thousands” of grassroots No Labels members who have “given a couple of bucks to the organization.”
- An online primary where the eligible participants are the 77 million Americans who make up the group’s voter file, or “some subset” of that.
No Labels is still working through how to ensure the security of the vote for the online strategies, as well as how it would verify voters’ identities and prevent “trolls” and partisan troublemakers from disrupting the primary. To figure out voters’ preferences for which of the four options to implement, No Labels conducted two focus groups in August with Democrats, Republicans, and independents pulled from its voter file.
Additionally, No Labels plans to field a new battleground poll next week to gauge voter sentiment on this question and related issues. The states the group surveys for this poll include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
“We’ve been doing a lot of diligence on this,” Clancy says. “We’re going to try to understand: What is it that people think would make a ticket like this credible and would allow that ticket to say they credibly represent the concerns of most Americans?”
GOP’s Early Vote Initiative Meets a Mostly Receptive RNC Audience
MILWAUKEE—Speaking in the hallway at the Republican National Committee’s summer meeting the day of the first GOP presidential primary debate, Virginia GOP Chairman Rich Anderson seemed optimistic about his state’s early vote efforts.
“We’re changing the culture by explaining how this is a secure process,” said Anderson, who is helping GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin urge Republican voters to vote early in the Old Dominion’s state legislative races this fall. Republicans are vying to hold the House of Delegates and flip the Democratic-held state Senate.
The Virginia GOP’s early vote push coincides with the Republican National Committee’s partywide “Bank Your Vote” initiative, an effort launched in June to urge GOP voters to cast absentee ballots well before Election Day in accordance with state election laws.
It’s an attempt by RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel to flip the script from her party’s chaotic presidential cycle in 2020, when former President Donald Trump sowed widespread distrust in mail-in-ballots ahead of his narrow general election defeat—and is still doing so. The GOP’s midterm losses in 2018 and 2022 are also pushing the party to be more competitive with Democrats on the early vote front.
The RNC’s early vote push comes naturally to Republicans in states like Florida, where voters are used to casting their ballots well ahead of Election Day.
“In Florida, we’re going to be very aggressive with chasing vote-by-mail, chasing early, in-person voting,” says Florida GOP Chairman Christian Ziegler, “because that’s the current state and the current law. Now, do I personally prefer single day voting? Yes. But that’s not the law right now. So we gotta play within the rules we have.”
Georgia is another such state. GOP Gov. Brian Kemp became a champion of early voting in 2022 and oversaw record-breaking turnout as a result. “I don’t understand why anybody wants to push back against the initiative quite honestly,” says Georgia’s RNC Committeeman Jason Thompson. “When people vote as early as possible, then you don’t have to chase the ballot.”
But not all RNC members are on board with McDaniel’s initiative. Kansas GOP Chairman Mike Brown, who ran unsuccessfully for his state’s Republican secretary of state nomination in 2022, finds the effort hypocritical. Brown says he made clear in a one-on-one conversation with McDaniel that he “cannot in good conscience” support the RNC’s early vote effort after the party has spent the past few years railing against mail-in-ballots.
“I guess if we can’t beat them, now we’re going to join them. That’s not okay with me,” Brown says. “What we need to do is get rid of mail balloting and then it’s no longer a concern.”
Others find this hesitation toward embracing early voting incomprehensible. “You follow the rules and you try to maximize your chance of winning,” says New Hampshire GOP Chairman Chris Ager. “If votes are allowed to be cast early, why wouldn’t you want to do that? It’s a no-brainer.”
Notable and Quotable
“Respect for our system, which we all believe in, depends on the losing party still respecting the process.”
—Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh speaking at a conference about public faith in the Supreme Court, September 7, 2023