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University of Alabama Slated to Host Third Republican Debate
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University of Alabama Slated to Host Third Republican Debate

Plus, Wisconsin Republicans ramp up early vote efforts ahead of 2024.

The University of Alabama logo drawn onto gravel during the 2023 SEC Baseball Tournament game on May 23, 2023, in Hoover, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Happy Wednesday! Turns out Eminem didn’t like Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy’s Iowa State Fair rendition of the rapper’s classic hit “Lose Yourself.” The music licensing agency BMI has informed the Ramaswamy campaign of Eminem’s request that the candidate stop playing his music on the campaign trail, the Daily Mail reports

Up to Speed

  • Federal judge Tanya Chutkan has ordered the trial for President Donald Trump’s federal election interference case to begin on March 4, 2024, one day before Super Tuesday, when a number of states are holding their Republican presidential primaries. Special counsel Jack Smith had requested a January 2024 trial, while Trump’s lawyers had asked Chutkan to postpone the trial until 2026.
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez dropped out of the Republican presidential race, writing in a Tuesday social media post that “it was a privilege to come so close to appearing on stage with the other candidates at last week’s first debate.”
  • President Joe Biden’s campaign team has officially opened its headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, ramping up the incumbent’s 2024 bid four months after he officially announced for reelection. 
  • Nikki Haley raised $1 million from grassroots donors in the 72 hours immediately following last week’s Republican debate, the presidential contender tells Fox News. It was by far the former South Carolina governor’s best fundraising day since launching her 2024 campaign in mid-February and consistent with post-debate polls showing GOP primary voters were impressed with her performance. Haley also saw increased engagement and traffic on her digital platforms, her campaign previously disclosed to The Dispatch.
  • In a poll for NBC News, the Des Moines Register, and Mediacom, 46 percent of likely GOP Iowa caucusgoers described themselves as “MAGA Republicans.” The term MAGA derives from former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The survey, conducted in mid-August by expert Iowa pollster J. Ann Selzer, also found 23 percent of likely Republican caucusgoers described themselves as “anti-Trump.” Trump led Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the poll 42 percent to 21 percent. 

Roll Tide? RNC Plans Alabama Debate

The Republican National Committee plans to host a third presidential primary debate at the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa this fall, four GOP sources tell The Dispatch.

Our sources caution that details are still preliminary: The RNC is eyeing late October or early November but has not settled on a firm date. A media partner to televise the debate has not been selected yet, and no contracts have been signed. But Republicans familiar with RNC planning say the party is hopeful that holding the third debate in Alabama would entice Donald Trump to participate, as the former president is exceptionally popular in the Yellowhammer State.

Tentative event specs were confirmed by multiple Republican sources, including two RNC members. “We have heard that there will be [a debate] in Tuscaloosa,” one says, although the second RNC member emphasizes preparations for an Alabama debate are “fluid due to candidates’ schedules” and other factors. (In an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie referred to Tuscaloosa as the site of the third debate.)

The RNC did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

Trump skipped the first primary debate, held last week in Milwaukee, and has signaled he intends to bypass the next one, scheduled for late September at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Southern California. The former president has cited his overwhelming lead in the race for the 2024 nomination as his reason for staying home. In the case of the second debate, Trump also has complained that Reagan library board members are biased against him.

If the other candidates competing for second place do not begin to show more competitiveness in the primary, it’s unclear whether holding the debate in ruby red and Trump-friendly Alabama would change the former president’s calculus. 

Post-debate polls and focus groups showed the consensus winners of last week’s faceoff were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, and wealthy biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. But although their position in fresh surveys has somewhat improved relative to other trailing contenders, Trump’s advantage over the field in national and early-state polls appears unchanged.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Wisconsin GOP Beefs Up Early Vote Push Ahead of ‘24

MILWAUKEE—Wisconsin GOP Chairman Brian Schimming is giving himself a new nickname ahead of 2024: “Chief Salesman” of his party’s early and absentee voting efforts.

Schimming conceded in an interview with The Dispatch last week in Milwaukee that his push for early and absentee voting “sounds almost too obvious” an electoral strategy for Republicans ahead of 2024, when both parties are gearing up for an ultra-competitive presidential contest. Donald Trump carried Wisconsin in 2016 and Joe Biden won it four years later.

But Democrats are lightyears ahead of Republicans on the early vote front, meaning Schimming is working overtime crisscrossing the state to allay his voters’ distrust in the absentee voting process now more than a year out from Election Day.

“It’s a major strategic effort for us because it’s not part of our culture to do it,” Schimming told The Dispatch of his party’s early vote effort. The Republican National Committee launched a similar “Bank Your Vote” initiative back in June.

Schimming says he’s looking for any and every opportunity to “nationalize the state” ahead of 2024. “It’s not an accident that this debate is Wednesday night in Milwaukee. It’s not an accident that the convention is here next July,” adds Schimming. Both RNC-sponsored events, he says, are a deliberate effort to keep Wisconsin at the forefront of all national campaign-related chatter ahead of such a jampacked election cycle.

The Wisconsin GOP’s get-out-the-early-vote campaign hasn’t gone unnoticed by Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wikler. 

“Brian knows what he’s doing,” Wikler told The Dispatch in Milwaukee last week of his GOP counterpart’s early vote efforts. “Democrats shouldn’t underestimate his ability to pull his party together to navigate a fractious Republican civil war and to focus on making the changes that will make the GOP much more competitive in our state.”

A nonexistent Senate race?

One major advantage Democrats have heading into 2024 is the currently nonexistent Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a well-funded incumbent with a history of winning tough statewide elections. 

Even former GOP Gov. Scott Walker conceded in an interview earlier this summer that ousting Baldwin won’t be easy. “Even though she’s liberal, she’s got a persona in the state of Wisconsin that’s either neutral or kind of positive—not that that matches her voting record,” Walker told The Dispatch back in June. “But as we all know, perception is reality oftentimes in these races.”

And no one seems particularly enthusiastic about jumping into the GOP fray. A few high-profile Republican congressmen—Mike Gallagher, Bryan Steil, and Tom Tiffany—have already closed the door on running. That means all eyes are on real estate developer Eric Hovde, businessman Scott Mayer, and former Milwaukee Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. as possible contenders. 

“Eric Hovde is making a lot more noise as every week goes by, and he’s talking to consultants and everything,” Schimming says of the real estate developer who ran unsuccessfully for the state’s Republican Senate nomination in 2012. “He’s certainly looking at it pretty seriously, let’s put it that way.”

Schimming adds that he expects Mayer to run if Hovde doesn’t, and that he hasn’t “heard anything definitive” about Clarke’s plans.

Clarke—who ran and served as a declared Democrat as sheriff but has aligned himself with conservative Republicans—declined The Dispatch’s request for a phone interview for this story but sent along a six-paragraph email response confirming that he has not been in contact with either the Wisconsin GOP or the National Republican Senatorial Committee about his plans. 

“They should reach out to me. Their base voters favor me,” Clarke wrote, adding that he is in no rush to announce. “My name recognition and favorability numbers in the state give me time to decide.”

And what about abortion?

Top of mind for both parties this cycle is abortion, an issue widely credited for delivering Wisconsin Democrats a crucial swing seat victory earlier this year in an off-year Supreme Court race election. The liberal candidate, Janet Protasiewicz, campaigned heavily on a pro-choice message in the wake of the Dobbs decision and beat her conservative opponent by 11 points—a stunning margin of victory in a state where statewide elections are often decided by tens of thousands of votes. 

As The Morning Dispatch detailed earlier today, a spate of abortion-related ballot initiative victories for Democrats in recent months are giving Republicans extra cause for concern.

Schimming acknowledges that Republicans have been caught flat-footed on the abortion issue in the post-Dobbs era. He thinks Republicans should be more upfront about their views going forward, rather than shrinking away from the issue in fear of alienating independent voters.

“Part of it is individual candidates not sitting around and waiting for a party [directive] but saying, ‘Here’s where I am,’” Schimming says. Based on the research he’s seen, he adds that voters will give candidates “credit for at least being candid about it even when they disagree.”

Notable and Quotable

“I wake up each day, thanking my lucky stars that the Democratic Party is united around President Biden as a nominee. … There’s a national advisory board with 50 very high-profile Democrats while now working as surrogates to the Biden campaign, including just about everyone that has been floated as a ‘someday’ presidential candidate.”

—Wisconsin Democratic Chairman Ben Wikler speaking with The Dispatch in Milwaukee on August 23

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David M. Drucker

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.

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Audrey Fahlberg

Audrey is a former reporter for The Dispatch.

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Michael Warren

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.