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Republicans’ New Party Platform Draws Mixed Reviews
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Republicans’ New Party Platform Draws Mixed Reviews

Plus: Ohio’s incumbent senator maintains his polling edge against a Trump-backed challenger.

Happy Wednesday! If your favorite baseball team needs pitching help this season, we might suggest its front office sign Rep. J.D. Scholten of Iowa, who recently pitched a gem for the minor league Sioux City Explorers.

Up to Speed

  • On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump made his first major public campaign appearance since the June 27 debate with President Joe Biden, holding a rally at his golf club in Doral, Florida. During an hour-plus address to the crowd, the Republican candidate mocked his Democratic opponent’s poor performance at the debate and the push by some in Biden’s party to force the president to withdraw from the race. “They want Crooked Joe out of the race. It’s a shame the way they’re treating him. But don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a very bad guy,” Trump said. He also scoffed at the idea of Vice President Kamala Harris replacing Biden at the top of the ticket and challenged Biden to a golf tournament, predicting it would be “among the most watched sporting events in history.”
  • Trump also used the rally to drop hints about his upcoming announcement of a running mate, with one of the leading contenders, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in attendance. Trump teased the media, saying in his speech that the gathered reporters were “thinking that I’ll be announcing Rubio as my vice president.” He later suggested that Rubio might not be in the Senate to vote for Trump’s proposed change to remove taxes on tips, another hint that the third-term Florida senator could be the pick for vice president.
  • George Clooney, the Hollywood actor and major Democratic donor, has an op-ed published today in the New York Times in which he urges the party to select a new nominee for president. Clooney’s opinion is informed not just by Biden’s debate performance but by the president’s manner at a recent fundraiser hosted by Clooney. “It’s devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fund-raiser was not the Joe ‘big F-ing deal’ Biden of 2010. He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate,” Clooney writes.
  • Former Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi offered tepid support for Biden during an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today. Asked if she wanted the president to stay in the race, Pelosi stated she wants “him to do whatever he decides to do,” despite Biden telling congressional Democrats in a Monday letter that he was not dropping out. Pelosi also suggested that Democrats should “hold off” on discussing Biden’s future until after the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., which ends tomorrow. 
  • Sen. John Tester of Montana, a Democrat who faces a tough reelection battle this fall, has called on Biden to better address concerns about his mental fitness. “President Biden has got to prove to the American people—including me—that he’s up to the job for another four years. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done: Stand up to President Biden when he’s wrong and protect our Montana way of life,” he told a local NBC affiliate in Montana. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, a fellow Democrat, made similar comments the same day, saying Biden must “more aggressively make his case to the American people.”
  • The New York Times editorial board encouraged Democratic leaders to publicly call for Biden to drop his reelection bid in an editorial published Monday. The board stated, “For those at the helm of the Democratic Party … the time has arrived to speak forcefully to the president and the public about the need for a new candidate, before time runs out for other candidates to make their case to the party’s convention delegates.” The op-ed marks the second time the liberal-leaning editorial board has asked Biden to leave the race following his disastrous debate performance against Trump. 
  • Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who unsuccessfully challenged Trump in this year’s Republican presidential primaries, asked her 97 delegates in a Tuesday X post to support the former president at next week’s Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. Haley, who dropped out of the primaries in March, was not invited to the RNC, a fact Haley is “fine with” according to comments made to CNN by her spokesperson. Haley stated in May that she would vote for Trump, though she maintained she still has her differences with the 45th president. 
  • Internal Republican polling shows party nominee Larry Hogan leading Democrat Angela Alsobrooks in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race, Axios reported Tuesday. The poll, presented to Senate Republicans during a lunch Tuesday, shows Hogan at 47 percent to Alsobrooks’ 41 percent. Hogan, a moderate who served two terms as Maryland’s governor, has run a competitive campaign in the usually deep-blue state, boosting Republican hopes of retaking the Senate after elections this November. 

GOP Platform Marks a Departure on Abortion

Fiserv Forum is decorated with signage for the 2024 Republican National Convention beginning July 15 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by TANNEN MAURY/AFP via Getty Images)
Fiserv Forum is decorated with signage for the 2024 Republican National Convention beginning July 15 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by TANNEN MAURY/AFP via Getty Images)

The Republican National Committee’s platform committee approved a 16-page draft Monday that was shorter than previous editions and watered down the party’s stance on abortion, prompting muted reactions from even some staunchly pro-life senators on Capitol Hill. 

Every Republican Party platform since 1984 has affirmed that the unborn have an inalienable right to life and endorsed “legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children.” But at next week’s Republican National Convention, the first since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, the party is set to approve a platform that sheds, at the direction of former President Donald Trump, the party’s longstanding commitment to the unborn child’s “fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed” in favor of ambiguous language that centered the issue on the states.

“We believe that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees that no person can be denied Life or Liberty without Due Process, and that the States are, therefore, free to pass Laws protecting those Rights,” the 2024 platform reads. “After 51 years, because of us, that power has been given to the States and to a vote of the People.” The platform also states the party opposes late-term abortion but supports access to birth control and in vitro fertilization and other fertility treatments.

Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming chaired the RNC’s platform committee in 2016, when the party’s platform endorsed both a federal restriction on abortion at the point at which an unborn baby can feel pain (effectively about 20 weeks into the pregnancy) and federal legislation to stop sex-selective abortion. The GOP did not adopt a platform in 2020. Barrasso, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, told Dispatch Politics Tuesday that he approves of the changes to the platform.

“I really support what they’ve done this time to shorten the entire platform, make it easier for people to read and go through—and to reflect our candidate,” Barrasso said. “The platform reflects President Trump’s candidacy, and I’m 100 percent supportive of him.”

Indeed,  the new draft platform—which will have to be approved by a vote of the full convention next week in Milwaukee—has the stamp of the party’s presumptive nominee. The committee approved the platform months after Trump cut a video expressing his belief that Republicans should leave the issue of abortion to the states in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision that overturned Roe, and said he would not sign a national abortion ban if Congress were to approve one.

But not all of Trump’s allies said they approve of the platform committee’s alterations to the abortion language. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri said he shared the concerns of dismayed pro-life voters and decried the fact that the draft language neither articulated a clear policy nor included condemnations of fetal tissue harvesting and federal taxpayer funding for abortions.

“I can’t say that I’m in favor of weakening the party’s historic commitment to life,” he told Dispatch Politics. “I wouldn’t compromise our stand on life at all. We ought to embrace the Dobbs decision, and the principle of Dobbs, of course, is that the voters ought to make this decision, not justices. That’s absolutely right, so I think we should absolutely affirm that and, at the same time, say that, as the voters are making their decision, we want them to vote for life.”

Hawley added that he was open to pro-life action at both the state and federal level. “Where there is a national consensus that has formed, I think that you can find the votes for that in Congress. I think it’s appropriate for Congress to act,” he said.

Another pro-life Republican, Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, stopped short of a full-throated endorsement of the platform’s language, but he spoke approvingly of its most appealing parts to pro-life Republicans.

“Obviously, we still retain the focus on life, which is extremely important,” he told Dispatch Politics. “We’re the only party that really supports that, so I want to be able to keep that. President Trump’s focus has been on states being more empowered, so it maintains the 14th Amendment, that section, in just a little different language for that. But we’ve got to continue to be able to speak up for the value of children.”

Other senators told Dispatch Politics they had not read the draft platform, among them Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a pro-choice moderate from Alaska. And Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana also said he had not read it but downplayed the importance of party platforms in general.

“I don’t think anybody pays attention to platforms. I’ve never seen a platform influence a presidential election. I’ve never seen a platform influence the passage of a bill in the United States Congress,” he said. “I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate everybody’s hard work. You can’t lose when you’re having the free exchange of ideas, but I just don’t think it matters as much.”

In Red Ohio, Sherrod Brown Sticks to His Own Brand of Populism

As some elected Democrats call on President Joe Biden to end his reelection bid over fears he will damage the party’s chances of winning competitive races this November, one of this election cycle’s most vulnerable Democratic senators is offering mixed signals about the leader of his party.

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told Dispatch Politics today on Capitol Hill that he is listening to “legitimate concerns” of Ohio voters regarding Biden’s age, but refused to comment further on whether the president should drop out. Brown’s remarks come a day after he reportedly told fellow Senate Democrats behind closed doors at a Tuesday lunch that Biden could not win a second term, according to a report from CNN’s Dana Bash. 

Brown’s conflicting messages on Biden’s potential departure from the race comes as the three-term senator faces a strong challenge from Republican Bernie Moreno, a Cleveland-based businessman who found success in auto sales, who is backed by former President Donald Trump. The Buckeye State’s Senate race—expected to be one of the closest and most expensive this year—will be competitive even as Trump is anticipated to win Ohio handily

Moreno has attempted to capitalize on Biden’s negative approval ratings and concerns about his age that have intensified following his disastrous debate performance June 27. Shortly before the debate, Moreno’s campaign released an advertisement attacking Brown as a Biden ally who votes with the president “99% of the time” while taking digs at the politicians’ advanced ages; Brown is 71. 

However, Republican attempts to link Brown to Biden may not be a dependable strategy, thanks to Brown’s populist brand that has found broad support while distinguishing him from other Democrats. Because of Brown’s popularity, Democrats may hold on to Ohio’s Senate seat—one that may decide the chamber’s balance of power—while Trump simultaneously walks to an easy victory. 

“Senator Brown is a particularly competitive candidate,” Greg Lawson, a research fellow at the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think tank in Columbus, told Dispatch Politics. “He’s a very well-known quantity in Ohio. … He has longevity, strong ties with trade unions, and his own brand, which is very important in the state.” 

Brown, the lone Democrat elected to statewide office in the increasingly red Ohio since 2011, has been a fixture in state politics since the 1970s, consistently conveying a progressive, populist message that has notable similarities with Trump on policy. Both politicians support economic protectionism—criticizing trade with China while lamenting America’s manufacturing decline—and support measures to secure the U.S.-Mexico border.

Brown’s positions have found favor with working and middle-class voters across party lines, one of whom is Georgie Sundberg, a retiree from the Cleveland suburb of Burton. When she votes for Trump for the third time this November, she says she also will vote for Brown, as she has done since his first Senate run in 2006.

“[Brown] remembers the people here in Northeast Ohio,” Sundberg told Dispatch Politics. “He has the right positions on the border, fentanyl, and the military,” issues she compares favorably to Trump’s stances. 

Paul Beck, a political science professor at Ohio State University, told Dispatch Politics that voters like Sundberg are not an anomaly. “Ohio voters are quite willing to differentiate between candidates they like and have voted for in the past, regardless of party,” said Beck.  

Sundberg’s loyalty to Trump hasn’t caused her to be persuaded to vote for Moreno. “If there was another Republican [nominee] that had Trump’s backing, then maybe I’d consider voting for them. Bernie Moreno is just not good enough.” 

Lack of enthusiasm for Moreno among some Ohioans showed in an early June Marist poll showing Brown leading Moreno by 5 percent among registered voters. In addition, the latest campaign finance reports ending in March show Brown with nearly $16 million cash on hand, while Moreno has slightly above $2 million. 

Brown’s advantage may be in part due to his campaign’s early media offensive, releasing several ads—both positive and negative—including one attacking Moreno as an untrustworthy auto salesman who will “say anything” to get elected. 

However, the Biden administration’s own vulnerabilities, particularly on the economy, may provide a boost to Brown’s challenger as the election draws nearer. “No matter who’s at the top of the ticket, an issue like inflation is going to be an anchor that could bring down Brown’s support,” Lawson of the Buckeye Institute told Dispatch Politics.

Lawson also suggested that Trump’s support for Moreno will work to his advantage in driving Republican turnout, yet cautioned that while “a Trump endorsement is influential, [it is] not decisive.”

As Brown and other Democrats fret over whether Biden will harm Democratic victory prospects, Beck from Ohio State told Dispatch Politics that the Senate election will be competitive no matter who leads the party’s ticket. 

“It’s going to be a tight race with or without Biden,” Beck said. 

Notable and Quotable

“The president will hold a press conference—I guess, a ‘big boy’ press conference, we’re calling it—and take some questions from y’all.”

—White House National Security Commications Adviser John Kirby in a press briefing, referencing a remark last week from a reporter, July 8, 2024.

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.

Grant Lefelar is an intern at The Dispatch, based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company for the 2024 summer, he graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wrote for a student magazine, Carolina Review, and covered North Carolina state politics and news for Carolina Journal. When Grant is not reporting or helping with newsletters, he is probably rooting for his beloved Tar Heels, watching whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies, or wildly dancing alone to any song by Prefab Sprout.

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.