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Trump Strikes Out at Libertarian Convention
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Trump Strikes Out at Libertarian Convention

Plus: Lara Trump touts mail-in and early voting in North Carolina.

Happy Wednesday! We would like to wish Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina a speedy recovery after he underwent a successful surgery Tuesday to remove a tumor at the base of his skull.

Up to Speed

  • Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas survived a primary runoff on Tuesday night, defeating right-wing challenger Brandon Herrera by just 400 votes. Herrera, a gun manufacturer and YouTuber known on social media as the AK Guy, received endorsements from House Freedom Caucus members such as Rep. Bob Good, the HFC chairman, and Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Critics went after Gonzales for voting with Democrats for a gun control bill in the wake of the 2022 Uvalde school shooting, which occurred in his West Texas district. The state Republican Party voted to censure him last year. Members of GOP leadership, however—including Speaker Mike Johnson—supported Gonzales’ reelection.
  • Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott can claim victory in his push to oust incumbent Republicans from the state house who opposed his school voucher proposal. Three of the four remaining sitting Republicans who had voted with Democrats last year to strip Abbott’s educational priorities from the state’s school funding bill were defeated in runoff primaries Tuesday by candidates backed by the governor. Following the outright defeat of several other anti-voucher Republicans in the March primaries, Abbott says he now has the votes to pass his education agenda. John McCormack wrote about the fight in a piece for the site earlier this month.
  • The Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, a super PAC that boosts the party’s candidates in House races, is preparing a $100 million fund to help Democrats in competitive districts by focusing on abortion, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The PAC’s Reproductive Freedom Accountability Fund will use the issue of abortion in its voter mobilization efforts and advertising with the goal of undoing Republicans’ razor-thin majority in the House.
  • Donald Trump on Tuesday endorsed John McGuire in the Republican primary for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District over House Freedom Caucus Chair and incumbent Rep. Bob Good after Good supported Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the former president in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. “Bob Good is BAD FOR VIRGINIA, AND BAD FOR THE USA,” Trump wrote in a Truth Social post. “He turned his back on our incredible movement, and was constantly attacking and fighting me until recently, when he gave a warm and ‘loving’ Endorsement—But really, it was too late. The damage had been done!” Both Good and McGuire appeared last week at the Manhattan courthouse where Trump’s hush money trial is taking place to show support for him. And as recently as last weekend, Dispatch Politics spotted campaign signs with both Trump and Good’s names across the district in south-central Virginia. 
  • President Joe Biden’s campaign on Tuesday held a press conference outside that same courthouse, bringing out 80-year-old actor Robert De Niro to slam Trump as protesters chanted, “F— Joe Biden,” in the background. “I don’t mean to scare you. No, no, wait, maybe I do mean to scare you,” De Niro said in his remarks. “If Trump returns to the White House, you can kiss these freedoms goodbye that we all take for granted. And elections? Forget about it. That’s over. That’s done. If he gets in, I can tell you right now, he will never leave. He will never leave.” Accompanying De Niro were Michael Fanone and Harry Dunn, two Capitol Police officers who countered the mob during the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot and have spoken out against Trump in its aftermath. Dunn recently lost a Democratic House primary in Maryland.
  • Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin released her first TV ad in her campaign for Michigan’s open Senate seat, focusing on her bipartisan bona fides. “I joined the CIA and served three tours in Iraq alongside our military. I came back to work in the White House for two presidents—one Democrat, one Republican, serving whoever was my commander-in-chief,” she says in the ad, which features photos of her in the Oval Office with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. “For me, service is not about partisanship. It’s about doing what’s right to protect our country.” GovTrack has rated Slotkin as one of the more moderate Democrats in Congress.

Chase Oliver Wins Libertarian Party Presidential Nomination

Supporters and critics of former President Donald Trump cheer and jeer as he addresses the Libertarian Party National Convention on May 25, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It’s very rare for Donald Trump to face a hostile crowd, but his appearance Saturday before the Libertarian National Convention was a glaring exception to his typical rallies in front of throngs of admirers. During his remarks at the Washington Hilton in the nation’s capital, Trump was repeatedly and loudly booed by Libertarian delegates, despite promising during his speech to put a libertarian in his cabinet and otherwise playing to the crowd. 

“He didn’t impress me at all, and I don’t believe anything he said,” Vicky Hanson, a convention delegate from Mississippi seated front and center for Trump’s speech, told Dispatch Politics. “I know this is him pandering. I know this is an opportunity for him as a campaign stop so that he can say, ‘Oh look, the libertarians are cheering for me!’” If Trump was hoping to walk away from the speech with something like a campaign commercial proving how much libertarians love him, the headlines coming out of the convention were closer to the opposite. 

While Hanson said it was a mistake and a distraction for Trump to have been invited, other delegates who spoke to Dispatch Politics said his appearance was worth it. “This convention has had more media attention than any of the [Libertarian] conventions,” said Darian Drake, a delegate from Montana who also booed Trump on a few occasions. Angela McArdle, the Libertarian party chair responsible for inviting Trump, was reelected to her post by a 9-point margin

But the most consequential event of the convention occurred on Sunday night, when delegates selected Chase Oliver—a 2022 Libertarian candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia won by Raphael Warnock—as their party’s presidential nominee. After six rounds of voting, Oliver defeated Michael Rectenwald, the Trumpy Libertarian Party presidential candidate, 49.5 percent to 44.7 percent. While on the surface that outcome might seem like another blow to Trump, it’s probably a net positive for him: Oliver appears more likely to take votes from Biden, while Rectenwald would likely have taken more votes from the Republican nominee.

During his victory speech on Sunday night, Oliver took pains to distinguish himself from Trump, Biden, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who also appeared at the convention, by aligning himself with the “young people on college campuses across the country who are outraged by the genocide in Gaza.”

“RFK won’t, Joe Biden won’t, Donald Trump won’t,” Oliver continued, “but I’m saying right now: End the genocide, ceasefire now, and support peace around the world. No more proxy wars!” When a delegate in the crowd yelled, “Free the hostages!” Oliver said, almost as an afterthought, “Absolutely, free the hostages, too.” Earlier this month, Oliver told The Dispatch that Israel’s response to October 7 was as “equally terrible” as Hamas’ terror attack. When pressed on the comment, Oliver apologized and said the actions were “not equal,” but continued to draw some equivalence between Israel’s effort to eliminate the threat of Hamas and Hamas’ deliberate massacre of civilians: “What I mean to say is that the [Israeli] response … is not morally defensible, just as obviously what Hamas did is not morally defensible.”

Oliver, who left the Democratic Party because he thought the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency were too militaristic, recounted during his victory speech that he got his start in politics when he “spit in the face” of riot police at an antiwar protest: “If you question that I can handle the state, make no mistake—I have stood feet away from riot police as they hold batons, riot shields ready to bash our skulls in, and still I spit in their face and said, ‘No more war!’”

While both Oliver and Rectenwald oppose U.S. military aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, the two men cut very different political profiles. Rectenwald, a former New York University professor, became a Libertarian after he says he was canceled by a “woke mob” for mocking “social-justice warriors” under the screen name “Deplorable NYU Prof” and for inviting the alt-right, antisemitic Milo Yiannopoulos to speak to his students. Whereas Oliver supports a federal statute creating a right to abortion until an unborn child can survive outside the womb, Rectenwald opposes such federal legislation and supports state laws banning almost all abortions.

In 2016, Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson, the former Republican New Mexico governor, won 3.3 percent of the national popular vote—an all-time best performance for the Libertarian Party. In 2020, Libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgenson, a Clemson professor, won just 1.2 percent of the popular vote, but that race, like 2016, came down to three states that the victor carried by less than 1 percentage point. Oliver will be on the ballot in at least 37 states—including the battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada—and there’s good reason to believe a former Democratic antiwar activist who supports a federal right to abortion will shave more votes away from Biden than Rectenwald would have.

The GOP Tries a Different Tune on Early and Mail-in Voting

GREENSBORO, N.C.—Lara Trump, the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, continued her push to promote mail-in and early voting to a gathering of party activists in her home state of North Carolina last weekend, encouraging Republicans to “bank” their vote and make the margins in the fall’s presidential election “too big to rig.”

“Any way you can vote and as early as you can vote, get your vote banked,” Trump said at a Friday night dinner during the North Carolina Republican Party’s annual convention. “… We have to make it too big to rig in this election cycle.”

The daughter-in-law of former President Donald Trump, Lara Trump has been the face of the RNC’s reorganization following the forced departure of Ronna McDaniel earlier this year. This ouster also paved the way for Michael Whatley, formerly the North Carolina GOP chair, and Trump campaign adviser Chris LaCivita to join the leadership team. Since taking on her post at the committee, Lara Trump has emphasized that the party is embracing mail-in and early voting as part of a broader effort to ensure that “every single legal vote is counted.” 

But her remarks Friday, during an onstage discussion with state party chairman Jason Simmons and her husband Eric Trump, acknowledged that the GOP rank-and-file remain wary of voting before Election Day. What went unsaid was this is due in large part to Donald Trump’s criticism of mail-in and early voting.

“I think everybody in this room can agree that we want to get back to a place where we have one day of voting, we have paper ballots, and we have voter ID required all across the country,” Lara said as the hundreds of delegates cheered. 

Then, the reality check. “We can get back to that day, but we have to get through this election right now. And we have to play the hand that we are dealt, and the hand that we are dealt in the state of North Carolina, as well as states all across the country, is that you have early voting and you have mail-in voting,” she said. “Because listen, life happens, right? You never know what can happen day to day. You might get sick, your kids might have an issue, something happens at work and you don’t want to wait and miss your opportunity to get your vote banked.”

Those are arguments that advocates of early and mail-in voting have pushed for years, and support for early voting is fairly bipartisan, though Republicans have expressed more skepticism for mail-in voting in recent years than the average American. But despite some limited success in red states—Florida, for instance, first made absentee voting by mail open to all voters more than 20 years ago—Republicans have struggled on a national scale to convince their voters to do exactly what the RNC is now saying they should. In Greensboro, Lara Trump tried to underscore that this message is coming straight from the big guy.

“Somebody finally told my father-in-law,” she said. “They said, ‘Mr. President, people love you so much, they want to go up for you as soon as they possibly can. Tell them to go vote for you.’ And he was like, ‘Absolutely, they should go vote for me.’”

But one of the loudest critics of mail-in voting in the run-up to the 2020 election was Donald Trump himself. “Republicans should fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting. Democrats are clamoring for it,” Trump tweeted back in April of 2020. “Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn’t work out well for Republicans.”

Following his defeat in 2020, Trump often pointed to the spike in mail-in voting, driven by temporary changes in election practices as a result of the pandemic, as proof of his false claims that the election was stolen. He railed against mail-in voting as recently as this year.

“We have to get rid of mail-in ballots because once you have mail-in ballots, you have crooked elections,” he said in his victory speech after the Iowa caucuses in January.

Yet coding mail-in and early voting as “Democratic” seems to have had the unintended effect of hurting Trump and the GOP politically, a fact that Republicans seem to have gotten wise to. Rejecting early voting has limited the GOP’s ability to bank votes from an older base or model voter turnout to more accurately direct get-out-the-vote efforts.

“Voting early means more volunteers to work the polls and help GOTV for conservatives leading up [to] and including Election Day,” said Michele Woodhouse, a Republican activist from Henderson County who attended the North Carolina GOP convention as a delegate, in a text message. “Republicans need to hear it, but more importantly need to listen and take action.”

But there remains a dissonance between the message that Republicans should agree to engage in early and mail-in voting and the accepted view among the Trump faithful that those forms of voting were the source of much of the “voter fraud” that they believe turned the election to Joe Biden in 2020. The negative results for the party were almost immediate as GOP turnout dropped significantly in the dual U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in January 2021—flipping both Republican seats (and the GOP majority in the Senate) to the Democrats.

That was on display at Friday’s dinner in Greensboro shortly before Lara Trump’s call to action on mail-in voting. While onstage, Eric Trump called his father and put him on speakerphone to address the gathered delegates. The former president’s four-minute, virtually uninterrupted monologue over the phone was a quick rendition of his stump speech, but he was unable to resist the mantra that fraud cost him reelection four years ago.

“There was never so much cheating in the history of elections as that,” Trump said as his son held a microphone up to his cell phone. “They used COVID to cheat.”

Notable and Quotable

“Mother Teresa could not beat these charges.”

—Former President Donald Trump to reporters as the jury began deliberations in his hush money trial, May 29, 2024

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.

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.

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.