Happy Monday! A huge congratulations to The Dispatch’s Andrew Egger, who welcomed his second daughter into the world last week! The rest of us will hold down the fort for a bit while Andrew’s out on paternity leave.
Another programming note: Dispatch Politics will be off on Wednesday, July 5, but we’ll be back in your inboxes on Friday. Happy Independence Day!
Up to Speed
- The Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan in a 6-3 decision issued Friday. The court ruled Biden’s approximately $400 billion proposal exceeded the authority of the U.S. Department of Education, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the majority that “precedent—old and new—requires that Congress speak clearly before a department secretary can unilaterally alter large sections of the American economy.” The Biden administration announced on Friday an alternative plan to forgive student debt via the secretary of education’s authority to “enforce, pay, compromise, waive, or release” student loans under the Higher Education Act.
- In a 6-3 majority opinion authored by Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch on Friday, the Supreme Court held that a custom website designer could not be compelled to create wedding websites for same-sex couples. The majority held that the “First Amendment prohibits Colorado from forcing a website designer to create expressive designs speaking messages with which the designer disagrees.”
- Former President Donald Trump was in tiny Pickens, South Carolina, on Saturday, hosting a rally that local officials estimated attracted thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of attendees. South Carolina is a crucial early primary state.
- Some of the other Republican presidential candidates are waiting until the actual holiday to spend time with voters. Former Vice President Mike Pence will be walking in a parade in Urbandale, Iowa, on July Fourth, with other contenders scheduled to celebrate Independence Day walking in parades in New Hampshire. Among them: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Wolfeboro and Merrimack); Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina (Merrimack): and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (Amherst and Merrimack).
Crucial Second Quarter GOP Fundraising Reports on Tap
Unless you’re a Republican running for president, this past Friday was nothing more than the beginning of a glorious long weekend to celebrate Independence Day, culminating, most likely, with Fourth of July fireworks. Enjoy it.
If you are a Republican running for president, Friday was much more: the conclusion of the second quarter of 2023, a crucial fundraising period that could make or break your 2024 campaign.
What’s at issue is not exactly about how much money any of the nearly dozen Republicans raised from April 1 through June 30. With some exceptions—former President Donald Trump being one of them—it’s about whether the Republicans seeking their party’s 2024 nomination beat, met, or fell short of expectations, and whether they put themselves in a position to qualify for the first televised GOP debate, coming up at the end of next month.
The second quarter Federal Election Commission reports “are a big deal,” a veteran Republican fundraiser says flatly, explaining they will show “the strength of their team and their national appeal,” or lack thereof. Momentum matters. Meet or exceed expectations, and more money and support could flow in over the summer, just in time for the critical August 23 debate in Milwaukee. Failure to do so could foment doubt about a candidate’s prospects, creating a kind of reverse momentum that can be crippling, though not fatal.
Second quarter fundraising reports do not have to be filed with the FEC until July 15. But campaigns excited about their numbers usually don’t wait that long for the big reveal.
That none of the Republican White House hopefuls had publicized their second quarter fundraising numbers as of Monday morning at press time for Dispatch Politics, however, doesn’t mean they are withholding bad news. If their reports are positive, the last thing they would want to do is release them during a long holiday weekend, when many voters are focused on anything and everything but politics.
As Americans get back to work later this week, and into next week, expect the contenders to begin to make their second quarter fundraising figures public.
Trump, the unequivocal frontrunner in the Republican primary, is almost assured of having a bang-up quarter (and even if not, it’s unclear it would matter—he’s in a category all his own, it seems.) Those candidates who are really under a microscope, and under pressure to report positive numbers, are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis; Nikki Haley, former South Carolina governor and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; wealthy biotechnology entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy; and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
So are North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum; former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence, although they will be given some latitude because all announced their bids in early June, less than four weeks before the quarter ended. However, their numbers will be scrutinized, since viable candidates often show a burst of financial support from grassroots donors who contribute in small amounts in the first weeks of a campaign.
How candidates frame their reports—this much raised into the official campaign account, this much raised into the super PAC, this much raised into some other entity—will be telling. So will the spin. Republicans who raised a ton of cash during the period won’t have to spend too much time explaining that they did just that. A veteran Republican strategist who has advised presidential candidates broke down the significance of April 1 through June 30 fundraising for The Dispatch.
“The two things that matter are whether you are acquiring enough small-dollar donors to make the debate stage, and whether you are on pace to have a $10 million required to get on the ballots and travel through the Iowa caucus phase. Everything above $10 million can go to advertising in early states,” this GOP insider says. “But you must be on pace to have $10 million.”
About making the debate stage: In addition to the polling requirements, the Republican National Committee is mandating that a candidate have the support of 40,000 unique donors, including at least 200 contributors in at least 20 states or U.S. territories.
Michigan Senate GOP Primary Remains Wide Open
Senate Republicans have yet to rally publicly around a consensus GOP recruit in Michigan, the blue-leaning battleground that hasn’t elected a Republican U.S. senator since Spencer Abraham in 1994.
But as the summer drags on some Wolverine State Republicans are growing more curious about New York Stock Exchange Vice Chairman John Tuttle, a former George W. Bush administration official who is strongly considering a run for retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s seat in 2024.
“I don’t think he’s made a final decision yet, but I think ‘inching towards it’ is probably a good way to describe it,” one Michigan-based Republican strategist familiar with Tuttle’s thinking tells The Dispatch.
An announcement from Tuttle, whom National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines has previously characterized as a “strong potential recruit,” would move the ball forward in an otherwise quiet GOP primary thus far. Michigan State Board of Education member Nikki Snyder is the highest profile Republican candidate already in the race, though former Reps. Mike Rogers and Peter Meijer, and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig are also mulling bids.
A wide open GOP field typically isn’t anything for Republicans to be worried about this far out from next year’s August primaries, says Michigan-based GOP strategist Jason Cabel Roe. But Roe and other veteran Republican strategists in Michigan say there are unique challenges the GOP faces in Democratic frontrunner and U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, whose fundraising prowess and centrist appeal make her a formidable candidate for statewide office should she win the nomination.
“My concern is if you give Slotkin too much runway and too much head start on fundraising, it really makes it hard to get donors to believe that you can win,” says Roe, who ran former GOP candidate Tom Barrett’s unsuccessful general election campaign against Slotkin last cycle.
Other Republicans are even less optimistic that the race will be competitive considering it’s a presidential year. Even though Donald Trump won the state in 2016, the state went blue again in 2020 and the vast majority of statewide offices in Michigan are held by Democrats.
“Because it will not be a presidential battleground—and because Elissa Slotkin is, in effect, the incumbent United States Senator—it is almost impossible to see a situation in which a Republican wins the Senate race next year,” says Michigan-based Republican consultant Dennis Lennox.
Whoever wins the Republican nomination will have to figure out how to appeal to moderate and suburban voters while also placating the controversial and Donald Trump-aligned Michigan GOP. The state party is currently chaired by Kristina Karamo, who has promoted Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Karamo was elected to head the party after losing her bid for Michigan secretary of state in 2022, a loss she refused to concede. Roe, who was the former executive director of the party before resigning in 2021, says all those conditions put the Michigan GOP at a structural disadvantage.
“It’s more important than ever that we focus on getting really good candidates that can motivate the donors, because we are likely not going to be able to rely on the infrastructure that the party normally would provide,” says Roe.
Notable and Quotable
“This is not a normal court.”
—President Joe Biden railing against the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down affirmative action in higher education, Thursday, June 29