Skip to content
Republicans Plan to Step Up Their Ground Game in a Crucial Battleground
Go to my account

Republicans Plan to Step Up Their Ground Game in a Crucial Battleground

Plus: Democratic senators reject calls for Sonia Sotomayor’s retirement from SCOTUS.

Happy Friday! We hope your Friday morning began with your feeding two wild ravens, as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s may have.

Up to Speed

  • Former President Donald Trump will get the last word at next week’s CNN debate against President Joe Biden, the network announced Thursday. The Biden campaign, which won a coin toss, chose for the president to stand on the right side of the debate stage from the viewer’s perspective as Trump’s team opted for their candidate to deliver closing remarks last. Biden is in prep sessions at Camp David while Trump is engaged in policy-focused meetings ahead of Thursday’s matchup. CNN finalized debate rules with both campaigns over the weekend. 
  • Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. did not meet the requirements for that debate, CNN announced Thursday. “It appears that both President Trump and President Biden are afraid to debate me, and their campaigns are colluding with CNN to keep me off the debating stage,” Kennedy said in a video he posted on X. To qualify, candidates had to hit 15 percent in four polls that met the network’s standards and be on enough state ballots to reach 270 electoral votes and win the presidency. As of Monday, Kennedy had met the threshold in three polls and had ballot access to take 89 electoral votes.
  • Trump said Thursday that foreign students who graduate from American colleges and universities should receive a green card upon completion of their degree. “You graduate from a college, I think you should get, automatically as part of your diploma, a green card to be able to stay in this country, and that includes junior colleges too,” he said on an episode of The All-In Podcast that aired on X. Trump’s comments come as Biden has attempted to hedge against backlash on immigration from his right and left flanks. In recent weeks he’s taken executive action both to institute border restrictions and give a path to legal residence to certain spouses and children of American citizens who are  in the country unlawfully.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will blame Trump for the overturning of Roe v. Wade at events in Arizona and Maryland this Monday on the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Axios reported Wednesday. Harris is also expected to accuse Trump and other Republicans of wanting to enforce a nationwide abortion ban. Democrats have continually criticized Republicans on abortion access to make the topic a winning issue for their party this election cycle. Harris’ trip is intended to boost Democratic candidates in both states, including Maryland Senate nominee Angela Alsobrooks, who is in a competitive race against Republican former Gov. Larry Hogan. 
  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee plans to spend more than $100 million as part of its effort to regain control of the Senate, Politico reported Thursday. To that end, it began placing “multimillion dollar” ad buys in Ohio, Nevada, Michigan, and Arizona, and a key part of its strategy was to recruit wealthy candidates who can self-fund campaigns and split the cost of advertising in such key races. The news comes months after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced an investment of $79 million in advertising buys that included coordinated spending with campaigns. 
  • On the House side of the campaign, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced a May fundraising haul of $12.6 million, a record for the month of May in an election year. It is more than $700,000 higher than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s gains in the same month. Democrats held a fundraising advantage early in the cycle, but Republicans and the Trump campaign have begun to close the gap after a guilty verdict in the former president’s Manhattan hush money trial.

Pro-Trump Outside Group to Boost Nevada Ground Game

Supporters of former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrive before the start of a campaign rally at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 9, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of former President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrive before the start of a campaign rally at Sunset Park in Las Vegas, Nevada, on June 9, 2024. (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Republican Leadership Fund, an outside group helmed by a veteran Republican field operative, is aiming to buttress the GOP’s threadbare ground game in Nevada: It plans to deploy more than 100 paid and contracted staff to knock on doors and turn out votes for the party’s 2024 ticket.

But in a twist—and in an effort this super PAC may export to additional battleground states—it plans to exclusively target “non-partisan” voters. Nevada has seen an explosion of voters unaffiliated with the Democratic or Republican parties. Chris Carr, the GOP strategist running the group, has concluded thousands of such voters are ripe for persuasion, based on extensive polling and data-analytics modeling. In a state where elections are often decided by a hair, that could be a difference-maker.

In 2020, Carr did double duty as political director for the Republican National Committee and Donald Trump’s reelection campaign, and previously ran voter turnout operations for the RNC. Earlier this week, he shared his plans for Republican Leadership Fund with Dispatch Politics. The program, Carr said, will accelerate in September; is budgeted to spend roughly $2 million to $3 million; will include direct-mail and text-message appeals; and will target voters who prefer Republican policies, even if they dislike the Republican Party.

Similar to a strategy Carr leaned on during his RNC days, canvassers will be deployed to designated communities and remain there through Election Day. This approach breeds familiarity with neighborhoods, and the voters who live there, and often yields more results than a mercenary door-knocker who is just passing through. Why is Carr focused on turning out unaffiliated voters?

Possibly because of a successful 2018 ballot initiative that uses the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register Nevadans to vote, the state’s 668,000 “nonpartisan” voters as of May 1 outnumbered both Democrats (602,917) and Republicans (570,283.) Combined with Democrats’ historic voter registration advantage over the Republicans shrinking significantly, nonpartisan voters could hold the key to Joe Biden and Trump’s fall fortunes. In 2020, Biden defeated his predecessor in the Silver State 50.06 percent to 47.67 percent.

That the Republican Leadership Fund is active at all, concentrating on any voting bloc, is a significant development. 

As Dispatch Politics previously reported, the Trump campaign and the RNC have lagged behind the ground game fielded by Team Biden and the Democratic National Committee. The former president is finally raising money at a healthy clip and beginning to catch Biden in the race for resources that might fund a voter turnout operation. But Trump has told several Republican operatives that he prefers funding litigation to prevent Democrats from “cheating,” rather than investing in voter turnout, sources tell us.

So now, even though the Trump campaign has the money, the former president may still rely on outside groups—like the Republican Leadership Fund and others—to shoulder field duties for the GOP’s 2024 ticket. Meanwhile, in Nevada, where Biden is on his heels and Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen is up for reelection, Democrats also are looking beyond their base, wooing independents and soft partisans—part of a massive spend that is financing 1,000 paid staff and 200 field offices across multiple battleground states.

Donna West, a grassroots organizer for the Nevada Democratic Party, told Dispatch Politics in May that her door-knocking this summer and fall will include appeals to unaffiliated voters and persuadable Republicans, especially suburban women. One issue that pops with this cohort, West told us during state Democrats’ biennial convention, is abortion rights: “I’m not just going to D doors anymore.” 

Senate Dems Push Back on Calls for Justices to Step Down

The prospect of Democrats losing the Senate, the White House, or both in November has prompted some progressives to make one last push for Justice Sonia Sotomayor, age 69, and possibly even Justice Elena Kagan, age 64, to retire from the Supreme Court so they can be replaced by young progressive jurists.

“Justices Sotomayor and Kagan must retire now,” progressive legal writer Ian Millhiser wrote at Vox on June 10. “I am begging the justices to learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s historic mistake.”

But Senate Democrats who spoke to Dispatch Politics in the Capitol on Thursday dismissed the argument. “We need to keep [Justice Sotomayor] on the bench,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said. Those calling on Sotomayor to step down were suffering from “irrational exuberance” if they think filling the vacancy is “an easy process,” he said.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, another member of the Judiciary Committee, told Dispatch Politics he hasn’t called for Sotomayor to be replaced because “I think she has a pretty good sense of what her own health situation is.”

“As far as I can see they’re doing the job vigorously and able,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said of Sotomayor and Kagan. “They as individuals have to make the decision about what’s right for them. I’m not going to tell justices on the Supreme Court to resign, especially when I agree with their outlook and views on the law.”

And when asked if there’s anything to the argument that Sotomayor and Kagan should retire so their successors can be named by a Democratic president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts scoffed and simply said, “No.”

Notable and Quotable

“I think he will be somebody who will be a worthy debater. I don’t want to underestimate him.”

—Former President Donald Trump speaking about facing President Joe Biden in Thursday’s CNN debate on The All-In Podcast, June 20, 2024

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.

John McCormack is a senior editor at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he was Washington correspondent at National Review and a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. When John is not reporting on politics and policy, he is probably enjoying life with his wife in northern Virginia or having fun visiting family in Wisconsin.

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.