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Because the 2024 elections start now

The Republicans’ Ballooning 2024 Field

PLUS: How to save democracy, according to David Pepper

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie
Michael M. Santiago/Getty
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

The top

Three Republicans jumped into the presidential race this week. Playbook fittingly called it “Longshot Week”: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum may be the latest Republicans to join the field, but they most likely won’t be the last—there are always wild cards and unexpected additions in any modern-day presidential field. Their repercussions are generally marginal, however.

Not this time. For months the consensus has been that a larger field of candidates is actually better for Donald Trump. There’s evidence for this thinking: Pollsters say again and again that his base simply doesn’t move from him, regardless of the former president’s actions or scandals. Actually that understates Trump’s hold on his supporters: The more embattled he is, the more they circle the wagons around him. Given the various lawsuits in which Trump is embroiled and the constant complaints he makes about how there’s some kind of vast conspiracy against him, his supporters are circling him very closely.

That leaves only a chunk of the Republican electorate for the ever-increasing number of candidates to fight over.

Nikki Haley got in, Tim Scott got in, [Ron] DeSantis got in, and we didn’t see a lot of erosion at all from Trump,” said Monmouth University pollster Patrick Murray. “In fact in some ways his support got stronger with every announcement. So really it’s basically once we went from two viable contenders to three, it doesn’t matter [at] this point because everyone who’s coming in [as] the fourth, the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh are all, as of right now, fighting over the same group of non-Trump supporters.”

As the field of non-Trump candidates grows, however, is there one behind whom the anti-Trump bloc of the Republican primary electorate could coalesce? Maybe a Scott or a Christie?

“No, it’s not clear at all,” Murray said. “They represent about 30 percent of the Republican electorate—the people who want to move on from Donald Trump. And it’s whoever the non-Trump candidate is. If there’s one, that’s who they’ll get behind. If there’s more than one, then [the vote] just splits up. It’s not like one in particular has a better chance than others. Except for Ron DeSantis, but his support has eroded significantly over the past few months.”

Democratic pollster Zac McCrary put it this way: “It’s not that complicated. I do think a bigger field helps Trump,” he said. “We saw this in 2016; I think we’re going to see this in 2024: Trump is most vulnerable in a one-on-one head-to-head race.… The math is pretty straightforward in that regard. I think Trump probably pops a bottle of—I wouldn’t say champagne—but probably pops a bottle of Diet Coke at Mar-a-Lago every time a new Republican gets in.”

Trump and his team seem aware of this dynamic. Trump ominously wishes each new candidate “good luck” when they enter the race.

“Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race,” Trump said after Scott formally announced his candidacy. “It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable.”

The irony here is that all these other candidates are fighting to make sure Trump isn’t the Republican nominee again, although most of them refuse to directly say that.

The rest of the primary field has another problem: They need to figure out how to distinguish themselves from each other in addition to Trump.

“What is it that you have that is so unique relative [to] anyone else jumping into the race?” Republican pollster John Couvillon said. “In other words, if you’re a Doug Burgum or a Perry Johnson or Asa Hutchinson or one of those guys, you’re going to have to find a way of standing out in regards to catching the attention of donors and voters.”

That fact alone highlights another motivator. Some of these candidates aren’t really running to be president. They’re running for visibility or a Cabinet position in the next Republican administration. But there too, if Trump is president again, the fact that they challenged him will be a pretty big mark against them.


Unless you live in North Dakota or are deeply invested in its politics, Burgum’s announcement that he is running for president may have been the first time you heard of him. While Christie and Pence are long shots, they at least have the national name recognition that Burgum lacks. In terms of the old-school Republican campaign Burgum appears to be launching, with a heavy emphasis on American leadership and energy policy, his closest analog in the primary may be Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas. Burgum could be even less well-known nationally than Hutchinson, who some will recall was a House manager during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but he does have one significant advantage: money, and lots of it.

Before entering politics, Burgum was a successful software executive. With a net worth of more than $1 billion, he largely self-funded his gubernatorial campaign, and can replicate that strategy in a presidential primary. Money isn’t everything, but it’s not nothing! “One of the contexts in which campaign cash can be very helpful is early on in a primary when the candidate is not very well known,” FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes. Even if this presidential bid is unsuccessful—as it is very likely to be—Burgum can spend enough money to boost his name recognition, making him a politician to watch for in future elections.

North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer told TRU that Burgum has a “great personal story,” as well as “the resources to tell that story in a few important early states.” Cramer has endorsed Burgum, and continued that he believed the governor could appeal to voters with his low-key style. “I guarantee it won’t be loud and screaming, and it won’t be offensive to anybody, and it may not be sexy enough to break through, but if everyone else kills each other, there will be a very good story to tell,” Cramer said.

Burgum told The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in May that “there’s a value to being underestimated all the time,” noting that he handily won the 2016 gubernatorial election despite being an underdog without any state party support in the primary. Cramer said admiringly that Burgum was “a turd in the punch bowl in North Dakota,” a political outsider who advanced from the business world to the governor’s office.

Trump’s team remains unimpressed. “Unlike Ron DeSantis, Doug Burgum doesn’t have to point to relatives to claim Midwestern credentials. He was born and raised there,” Karoline Leavitt, spokesperson for the Make America Great Again PAC, said in a statement. “However, like Ron DeSantis, Doug Burgum will waste millions of dollars only to lose to President Donald Trump in Iowa.”

But Cramer argued that observers shouldn’t count Burgum out just yet. “He will almost certainly exceed everybody’s expectations,” Cramer said. “Now, you can’t have expectations much lower than people have right now for him.”

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Which Republican presidential candidate do you predict will drop out first? What did you think of New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s decision to stay out of the presidential race? What’s your most anticipated TV show of the summer (Grace is particularly looking forward to Justified: City Primeval)?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

David Pepper’s guide to saving democracy

The former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, David Pepper, is out with a new book on how to approach the crises that have beset the country’s democratic system. He spoke with TRU about Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual for Every American and his thoughts on the country’s future. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

The Run-Up: Why do you think democracy is in danger and needs to be saved?

David Pepper: If you take a close look at what’s happening in all these states—if we saw that same set of events happening in another country, we would recognize it as a full-fledged assault on democracy. And the kind of steps we’re seeing in these states, whether it be censorship or attacks on rule of law, rigging elections so the outcomes are guaranteed, empowering a minority to do what it wants, even if the majority disagrees—I mean, all those things are five-alarm fires when it comes to basic notions of a healthy democracy.

TRU: You argue that the factions subverting democracy in order to maintain power succeed because they are constantly on offense. Given that the opposite faction, the small-d democracy faction, is often on defense, how do you go on offense without resorting to those same tactics of gerrymandering or voter suppression?

D.P.: Going on offense means get to where the battle is, and fight it all the time. The battle is not just a few swing states during federal years, it’s power at the state and local level, especially the statehouse, whenever there are elections there, and in between those elections gearing up for that.

Where we need to get much stronger is taking steps that when they break the law, when they do things that are just unacceptable politically, we do a lot better job of aggressively holding them accountable. Whether that be local prosecutors taking on lawlessness like we’re seeing in Georgia, whether it be private lawsuits, whether it be people losing their bar license because they’re lawyers who violate ethics rules—we can go on offense without becoming what they’ve become. But going on offense means doing it in different places, being far more aggressive, and seeking accountability wherever we can.

TRU: In your book, you say that everyday Americans should incorporate democracy into personal mission statements. Could you talk a bit more about that dynamic, about saving democracy as an individual versus as a collective society?

D.P.: Collectively is how we’ll do it. But the power of the collective effort will only come when enough people decide, “This is part of who I am.” Once you’ve made the commitment, “Hey, this is part of who I am, I’m fighting for democracy, I’m an American, I want to live up to that”—it’s really, I hope, empowering to people, because then they can see, “Wow, there’s so much more that I can do.”

Once you have enough people saying, “It’s part of who I am,” then all of a sudden, every workplace, every nonprofit, every geographic location, like an apartment building, can be a hub of democracy.

It’s only too late if we don’t see the threat for what it is. Or if we quit, or if we don’t change our strategies to actually deal with it. But if we do all that, especially if enough Americans step up and say, “This is going to be part of my core mission,” I think we certainly can win the day long term and just keep fighting for democracy.

TRU: What gives you hope for democracy?

D.P.: It’s always a continuing battle. The 2022 election was a great moment where certain pieces of the right kind of infrastructure succeeded.

2022 hopefully shows a lot of people that there is an infrastructure building, [but] it needs to be scaled up. If it just stays static, it’s not good enough. We need to scale it up. But there’s momentum around the right approach that some are building. It’s happening organically from the grassroots on up. But ’22 should give people hope, that if we keep building in the directions that ’22 showed success, we actually I think can make progress in the final thing.

If we simply keep doing what we’re doing, and only focus on a few swing states and the presidential—then I think we squander a good opportunity. I do think there is a moment of time right now that we can take advantage of, if we’re really smart about it and we’re willing to adjust some of the way we do things.

Document of the week

This week’s document is a fundraising invite for DeSantis’s campaign, in two weeks in Washington D.C. We noticed that multiple headliners have ties to Florida or even the last Florida governor who ran for president (Jeb!). The fundraiser underscores how DeSantis is leaning on his home field advantages in these early days of campaigning.

News and views

Local flavor

‘This law specifically targets us’: Idaho families sue to block trans health care ban, by Ryan Suppe in the Idaho Statesman

‘I expect to see severe damage’: Safety risk concerns mount as Congress fast-tracks Mountain Valley Pipeline, by Mike Tony in the West Virginia Charleston Gazette-Mail

AG’s office slammed for ‘irrelevant posturing’ and ‘hyperbolic allegations’ in TikTok case, by Elissa Maudlin in the Indianapolis Star

Sununu forgoing run for President, with no decision yet on fifth-term as governor, by Michaela Towfighi in the New Hampshire Concord Monitor

Newsom threatens DeSantis with kidnapping charges after migrants flown to Sacramento, by Mackenzie Mays and Melanie Mason in The Los Angeles Times

Attorney general approves wording of proposed referendum to repeal education law, by Neal Earley in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Doug Burgum announces presidential run, joins crowded field of GOP candidates, by Patrick Springer in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

Long reads

Ron DeSantis’ joyless ride, by Mark Leibovich in The Atlantic: “DeSantis is the ultimate performative politician when it comes to demonstrating outrage and ‘kneecapping’ various woke abuses—but not so much when it comes to the actual in-person performance of politics.”

After missteps with some Hispanic voters in 2020, Biden faces pressure to get 2024 outreach right, by Will Weissert and Adriana Gomez Licon in the Associated Press: “Biden is hardly the first politician to strike a sour note trying to connect across cultural lines, but the blowback he encountered illustrates a bigger challenge facing the president and his party as he seeks a second term next year.”

How a fringe legal theory became a threat to democracy, by Andrew Marantz in The New Yorker: “Lawyers tried to use the independent-state-legislature theory to sway the outcomes of the 2000 and 2020 elections. What if it were to become the law of the land?”

Republican lawmakers are making it harder for power companies to pivot away from coal. Their constituents may be paying the price, by Isabelle Chapman, Casey Tolan, and Ella Nilsen in CNN: “Republican legislators and state officials are making it harder for power companies to retire coal plants even when it makes clear economic sense to do so—propping up the ailing industry at the cost of higher energy prices for their constituents.”

How Christie and Trump’s relationship flourished, then deteriorated, by Maggie Haberman in The New York Times: “The two men had a relationship that could be genuinely warm, and at other times transactional. Now they are vying for the presidency in open hostility.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

BFFFFs (Best Furry Feline Friends Forever)

This week, we’re honoring Brodie (left) and Maddie (right), submitted by Luke Kraemer and Pat Morgan. After they adopted Maddie this February, the two cats became instantly inseparable. According to their humans, they do something new every day—including, today, being featured in this newsletter!

Who Wants to Crown Ron DeSantis?

PLUS: debt ceiling fatigue and Chris Christie chronicles

Reynolds, DeSantis, and Feenstra pose holding spatulas and meat while wearing red aprons.
Rebecca S. Gratz for The Washington Post/Getty Images
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Congressman Randy Feenstra flip meat on the grill for a photo op during the annual Feenstra Family Picnic.

The top: Kingmakers

There was a time when presidential candidates went out of their way to shamelessly woo local elected officials—especially in certain states like New Hampshire. This was the only time in most of these low-level lawmakers’ careers when senators, governors, Cabinet secretaries, and kooky business people treated them like kings. Remember when then–New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was frantically texting New Hampshire sheriffs and state senators as he tried to keep his doomed 2016 presidential campaign alive? (But hey, there’s always 2024!) Or how about when Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were feuding over the endorsement of the most backbenchy of backbenchers in the Nevada legislature? The practice goes a long way back. We’re talking before 2012 and well beyond even the days when a former state party chair in South Carolina endorsing then-Senator Barack Obama was big news.

As with so much in American politics, though, Donald Trump’s 2016 victory turned the practice of endorsements on its head. Suddenly, local lawmakers’ disgust at a presidential candidate didn’t spell certain doom. After Trump won, his endorsement and that of his lieutenants (briefly) mattered more than the old nods. But even in these relatively early days of the 2024 presidential race, Republican candidates are trying to use lesser-known lawmakers as launching pads for top-tier status.

In Iowa, for instance, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was more than happy to be Representative Randy Feenstra’s guest at the annual Feenstra Family Picnic. Senator Tim Scott and his team got especially creative, handing out roses to all the women at a New Hampshire Republican Women’s event.

But more important this time around will be endorsements from leaders of ideological blocs of the Republican Party—like the FAMiLY LEADER’s Bob Van Der Plaats and Club for Growth’s president, David McIntosh. About a year ago, Jonathan Swan and Lachlan Markay at Axios laid out the groups that matter for Republicans: Trump, his family and aides, Club for Growth, and the Susan B. Anthony List, among others

“Lots of folks” claim to be kingmakers in their ideological blocs, Doug Gross, the former chief of staff to then–Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, told The Run-Up by email, citing Bob Van Der Plaats with evangelicals as an example. “But with so many claiming so few, suspect it will be [whoever] can rally the Never Trump moderates behind one candidate.”

So while candidates can give out as many roses as they like, in the end what will probably matter the most is which candidate gets David McIntosh.

Who cares about the debt ceiling?

In last week’s newsletter, we wrote about who the American people would blame if the United States defaulted on its debts, throwing the national and global economies into chaos. This week, we seek the answer to another question: Is the public actually paying attention to the debt ceiling crisis to begin with?

“No,” Democratic Senator Brian Schatz told The Run-Up, when posed that very question. “I think they would have paid very close attention had we got to the deadline, but it just sounded like a normal political fight. Which it was not.”

Therein lies the rub: Congress is generally so dysfunctional, and so prone to last-minute showdowns, that this battle seems par for the course in a deeply polarized body. The debt ceiling is also a rather obscure topic to grasp, with many conflating it with the separate issue of funding the government.

“Americans just want us to figure it out and work together,” Democratic Representative Scott Peters said. He added that he believes people are “turned off by the us-versus-them” and are more interested in following the NBA Finals than yet another congressional showdown. “People don’t connect the importance of what we do with their daily lives. I can see why people check out,” Peters continued.

The lack of attention and understanding may actually contribute to our ongoing cycle of periodic debt ceiling showdowns. If Americans see this as just another fight, they won’t punish their representatives and senators for flirting with default.

When asked if he believed the public was paying attention to the fight over the debt ceiling, Republican Senator Kevin Cramer joked: “What? You mean it could be just us?” Nevertheless, he expressed hope that the debt ceiling fight, and the deal to resolve it, could highlight the potential for bipartisan action in Congress.

“​​I think they might look at it and go, ‘Look at that, they might actually do it. They might have actually found a common ground and compromise,’” Cramer said. “Maybe it restores their hope. I hope that’s the outcome.”

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Which Republican presidential candidate will conquer Iowa? Can Kevin McCarthy stay speaker for much longer? If so, what’s your over/under on how long he lasts? What did you think of the Succession finale? Are you also shocked and horrified that we’re almost halfway through 2023?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and (We’ve already started getting some new comments since we started putting the newsletter on the website—keep ’em coming!)

Document of the week

This week’s document is the filing for the new pro–Chris Christie super PAC. It emerged a few days ago, just a little ahead of Christie’s expected announcement of a second go at the presidency (he crashed and burned in 2016). And in true Christie fashion, the super PAC is called Tell It Like It Is.

The pop culture segment

In April, Semafor reporter and friend of the newsletter Kadia Goba profiled Representative Jamaal Bowman, a sophomore Democrat who has quickly become one of the strongest progressive voices in the House. It’s a great interview, but Grace was particularly struck by an analogy Bowman made comparing himself and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries to famous rappers.

“Hakeem is more like Jay-Z and I guess I’m more like Busta Rhymes,” Bowman told Kadia. Interest piqued, TRU asked Bowman which rappers he would liken to the other Democratic leaders, Minority Whip Katherine Clark and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. After a few weeks of consideration, we have his answers.

“I’ve talked to people about it. So, Katherine Clark is Queen Latifah, and Pete Aguilar is B-Real from [rap group] Cypress Hill,” Bowman said. However, he continued, he hasn’t yet decided how he would characterize Democratic Policy Committee Chair Joe Neguse and Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu. Stay tuned, loyal readers, for further updates.

News and views

Local flavor

Massachusetts has passed just 10 laws this year, the fewest to open a legislative session in decades. It’s a sign of the times, by Matt Stout in The Boston Globe

Rep. Chris Stewart plans to resign from Congress, by Bryan Schott in The Salt Lake Tribune

NC bill takes more power from governor and gives it to GOP-held roles, by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan in The Charlotte Observer

Montana ConCon delegates challenge new barriers to citizen-led ballot initiatives, by Sam Wilson in The Billings Gazette

Ron DeSantis kicks off 2024 presidential campaign in Iowa: ‘The stakes couldn’t be higher,’ by Katie Akin in The Des Moines Register

Senate candidates who hope to replace Feinstein try to define themselves as they court Democratic activists, by Seema Mehta and Laura J. Nelson in the Los Angeles Times

Mike Pence to announce presidential campaign with June 7 rally in Des Moines, by Stephen Gruber-Miller in The Des Moines Register

Long reads

Greg Casar charts a lonely progressive path in Texas, by Dana Liebelson in The New Republic: “Political experts say there’s no current path for him statewide. But in his new role, Casar views that challenge from a different perspective: Rather than trying to adapt his views to the average voter, he wants to find places where he can bring more Texans onboard.”

‘Numbers nobody has ever seen’: How the GOP lost Wisconsin, by David Siders in Politico Magazine: “Even Republicans here are acknowledging that the state has now shifted leftward, and abortion has a lot to do with that. The end of Roe v. Wade last year effectively reinstated Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban, which is already being challenged—and those challenges will likely be decided by the state Supreme Court.”

Chris Christie gets a super PAC ahead of his likely 2024 bid, by Maggie Haberman in The New York Times: “The former governor of New Jersey, who has been at times both a confidant and a rival of Donald Trump, will have some outside help in his effort to win the Republican primary.”

Want to stare into the Republican soul in 2023? by Alex Sammon in Slate: “At a party filled with booze and grievance, some of the party’s richest patrons looked to the future. Not everyone liked what they saw.”

Got a long read you’d like us to include? Shoot us an email when it publishes, and we’d be happy to share it in next week’s newsletter.


This week’s pet of the week is Wanda, whose humans are John Mercurio of the Motion Picture Association and David Gray. Wanda loves tennis balls, playing fetch, and long hikes (but not getting caught in the rain). You can win her over with a little peanut butter and some nice pets.

Inside the Debt Limit Blame Game

PLUS: Mississippi’s hottest political race, and a conversation with Ben Terris

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The top

This week, we were delighted to have Washington Post Style reporter Ben Terris join us for a special edition of The Run-Up Live. Ben’s new book, The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses Its Mind, will be published on June 6. We spoke with Ben about some of his favorite stories and characters from The Big Break, how writing a book differs from writing profiles, his thoughts on the brokenness of American politics, and where he sees cause for hope. Here are some excerpts from our conversation, lightly edited for clarity:

On whether Tim Scott believes he can be elected president: I think that he thinks something good will come from this. And could that be president? Sure, he probably thinks so. I mean, he’s lived a life where he’s accomplished things that everybody told him he could never accomplish. It’s been very impressive. He’s very religious; he probably feels called to this in one way or another. And he can always say, “Look, I’m the spiritual core of this party right now. And we need somebody like me out there to bring down the temperature.” And maybe there’s value in that. But it’s not really surprising to me, because the guy’s been moving up forever, and eventually you move up high enough and, oh, there’s the White House, right? Like, there’s not that many things to look for anymore.

On how Donald Trump changed Washington: They’re all the same creatures in Washington, but it’s a little bit more toxic, a little bit like everything could grow to greater proportions. And so it’s a weirder place than it’s ever been. But I don’t know if he fundamentally changed every part of it. The same kinds of people are doing the same kinds of things. They’re just doing it in grosser ways.

On why Republican politicians stand by Trump: He’s got the base. The base loves him; that’s not going to change. The more he gets attacked, the more that this maybe 25 to 35 percent of the country is going to support him no matter what. And that’s a big number in primary politics. And then in Washington, I think people just are a bunch of weathermen, watching which way the wind blows on that. And they see, “OK, well, if he’s going to be the front-runner throughout, then yeah, I’m not going to start attacking him on TV, I’m not going to start disinviting him to CPAC,” or whatever. Of course, they’re gonna connect with him because they think he’s gonna win, and that’s their meal ticket.

On whether he has gotten jaded about Washington: A lot of people come to Washington specifically to do good. There’s this idea of Washington that it is purely filled with swamp things and cynical creatures. And they get a lot of attention because they’re important, and I give them attention in the book. But I spent time … with a lot of people who are just here to do the work. And I find that kind of inspiring.

On writing about people who shape politics behind the scenes: That’s sort of the gamble I’ve taken with this book, right? There are big-name people throughout, but the main characters are the real Washington people. And I think that’s more interesting, in a way, than getting big-name senators to give me interviews. I’d rather be around the people that make it work.

Check out the rest of our conversation with Ben Terris here.

Debt limit blame game

Listen, everyone knows defaulting on the debt would be really, really bad. We know it, you know it, congressional Republicans know it, the White House knows it, the world knows it. But rather than screaming into the void yet again about how defaulting on the debt would be really, really bad—because clearly no one is listening—we’ve decided to participate in one of Washington’s favorite pastimes when it’s mired in an entirely predictable and preventable mess of its own making: the blame game.

If the worst happens, and the American and global economies are pushed into a tailspin, and people don’t receive their Medicare or Social Security benefits, and interest rates spike, and China looks on gleefully as our position on the world stage is undermined by our own political unwillingness to act—sorry, sorry, we said no void-screaming!—everyday Americans are going to blame someone. Will they fault President Joe Biden, who bullheadedly said he wouldn’t negotiate for months, incorrectly betting that Republicans would blink first? Or will they blame House Republicans, who held the economy hostage so Speaker Kevin McCarthy could keep his gavel?

Some not totally terrible news for Biden, who loves to overuse the phrase “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative”: The American people may not be happy with how he’s handling the situation, but they’re even more annoyed by Republicans. A CNN poll released this week found that 59 percent of Americans believe Biden has acted irresponsibly on the debt ceiling, while 64 percent believe Republicans have not acted responsibly. A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found that 38 percent of Americans think Democrats and Biden are acting more responsibly, compared to 37 percent who feel the same about McCarthy and Republicans.

In terms of blame: An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll, also released this week, found that 45 percent of Americans overall would mostly blame congressional Republicans if the country defaulted on its debts, while 43 percent would primarily blame Biden. However, 47 percent of independents would mostly blame Biden, which is not great for a president who will need to swing independents in the upcoming election. Those findings echo an ABC News/Washington Post poll from earlier this month, which showed that 39 percent of Americans would blame default mainly on congressional Republicans, compared to 36 percent who would mostly blame Biden. Meanwhile, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of Americans are worried a default would hurt them financially—again, not great for politicians looking to get reelected in 2024!

But Biden is staying out of the spotlight, while McCarthy and his lieutenants are talking to the press constantly. When asked during one of his many press scrums whether he believed the public would fault the GOP, McCarthy replied: “I don’t see how they would blame Republicans.” “If you want to blame Republicans for solving problems, we’ll take that blame,” he continued.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, shot back: “That means [McCarthy] knows he’s to blame. If you have to say it that many times, you’re to blame.” When asked whether she believed Democrats would shoulder any blame, Jayapal replied, “I really don’t.” “It is not us that are trying to tank the economy, crash the economy. It is not us that are trying to take away benefits,” she said.

Congressional Democrats are getting antsy that the White House will make too many concessions to the GOP, even as Republicans may need dozens of them to vote for a final deal. There’s an ongoing battle to define the conversation on the debt ceiling—in the press and among the public—and it’s not one Democrats are winning right now (even if they have been given a messaging gift by Matt Gaetz). 

This may all become moot, and economic catastrophe averted thanks to a last-minute deal. But even if that’s true, the president and members of Congress shouldn’t be surprised if the American public dislikes them all the more for playing high-stakes chicken with their livelihoods and economic security—again.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Are you Shalanda Young or Steve Ricchetti, and if so, how close are you to a deal actually? Who should Americans blame for the debt ceiling debacle? What did you think of Ron DeSantis’s Twitter Spaces presidential announcement? Do you think it was a smart move for him to appeal to the base, or a strategic error given the site’s irrelevance for most Americans?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Mississippi’s Marjorie Taylor Greene

Down in Mississippi, there’s an under-the-radar contest that has outsize importance. Races for lieutenant governor don’t usually attract much attention, even around the state in which they’re taking place. But Mississippi voters ignore this race at their own risk. That’s because of both the power of the lieutenant governor and the candidates running for the job. The lieutenant governor of Mississippi, unlike other states, is the president of the state Senate, giving whoever has that role broad authority to assign committee chairs and essentially advance or halt legislation. The incumbent running for reelection is Delbert Hosemann, a Republican. 

Hosemann is being challenged in the Republican primary by state Senator Chris McDaniel. TRU followers with a passion for Mississippi politics (like Daniel) will think of McDaniel as a bit of a household name. He was the upstart state senator who gave establishment Republicans a real scare in the 2014 Senate cycle, when he challenged the late Senator Thad Cochran. That race turned out to have a bunch of bizarre twists and turns. Years later, McDaniel would run again to the same, disappointing, result. But since then, McDaniel’s efforts have borne fruit in the form of a hard-right cult following, à la Roy Moore in Alabama—or even Donald Trump. One longtime Republican operative derisively described him as the “Marjorie Taylor Greene of Mississippi.” 

In January, McDaniel jumped into the lieutenant governor’s race.  Since then, he has been hit with questions about his fundraising and donations. In April, McDaniel returned $460,000 to the American Exceptionalism Institute, a dark-money organization that funneled funds to other state PACs—including one that backed Republican Blake Masters in his bid for Arizona Senate. It’s become something of a pattern. Hosemann’s team also recently challenged how much McDaniel said he raised and called for an investigation. 

But the differences between Hosemann and McDaniel aren’t just campaign-related. Hosemann came around to supporting changing the state flag to remove its Confederate elements. McDaniel not only opposed that, he actively worked against the change, further underscoring his ties to neo-Confederates. 

This might be a little-discussed race in a smaller state, but the characters involved are representative of some larger trends in American politics. It’s worth paying attention to. 

Document of the week

Yesterday was Ron DeSantis Announces™ Day, where everyone in DeSantis’s nascent political orbit finally got ready for the big event—and all the press expected to finally know if he’s been worth the hype or not. In that vein, one of the earliest outside efforts to lay the groundwork for the Florida governor, Ready for Ron, changed its name to Ready to Win. The super PAC, run by Republican strategist Ed Rollins, has been eclipsed by the Never Back Down super PAC run by Republican strategists Jeff Roe and Chris Jankowski. The filing suggests the Ready to Win super PAC still plans to use the Ready for Ron moniker: “Ready to Win will operate a special project under the name Ready for Ron.” Note also, though, there are indications Rollins may be “souring” on DeSantis, so the name change may be about creating some distance from the newest Republican presidential candidate. 

The pop culture segment

Toward the end of our conversation with Ben Terris, we asked what his favorite political books are. He highlighted titles by Mark Leibovich, and particularly This Town. “That book really is great. It captures a moment. It’s super fun,” Ben said. “Mark Leibovich is an incredibly lively writer, and he makes it seem effortless.”

This Town was published in 2014, and politics have changed in the past decade. “It is a different Washington that he’s covering, which is why I feel like [The Big Break], in a way, really needed to be written,” Ben told us. “If there wasn’t another take on what it’s like to be in Washington, [This Town] would, sort of, be the last book about it.”

So, if you’re a fan of This Town—and hey, you’re reading this newsletter, so I would guess you are—check out The Big Break.

News and views

Local flavor

Gov. Moore addresses book banning, curriculum restrictions in graduation speech, by Pamela Wood in The Baltimore Banner

Cameron still mulling potential running mate as GOP talks unity, by McKenna Horsley in The Commonwealth Journal

‘We’ve got a real dilemma’: How ‘Never Trump’ Republicans view DeSantis vs Trump, by Alex Roarty in The Miami Herald

Judge rules against Kari Lake, affirms Hobbs as AZ governor in election signature verification trial, by Stacey Barchenger in The Arizona Republic

Rounds, Thune endorse Tim Scott’s presidential bid, by Josh Chilson in South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Gun safety advocates see signs of progress in first session after Uvalde shooting even though raise-the-age bill stalled, by Alejandro Serrano in The Texas Tribune

Democrats made a big bet on themselves, by J. Patrick Coolican in The Minnesota Reformer

House committee wraps probe into Swalwell’s contact with suspected Chinese spy without action, by Shira Stein in The San Francisco Chronicle

Long reads

The Casey DeSantis problem: ‘His greatest asset and his greatest liability,’ by Michael Kruse in Politico: “She can ameliorate some of the effects of his idiosyncrasies. She can also accentuate, even exacerbate, his hubris, and his paranoia, and his vaulting ambition—because those are all traits that they share.”

As S.C. abortion vote nears, GOP women rebuke the men: ‘It’s always about control,’ by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post: “Three times over the past eight months, as the chamber’s GOP leaders have sought to prohibit most procedures starting at conception, [State Senator Sandy] Senn—flanked by a bipartisan bloc of the Senate’s only women—has hustled to thwart what she views as attempts to ‘shackle women.’”

Inside the garden of evil, by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic: “[Harlan] Crow is like most people, in that he feels he has acted with the purest and most honorable intentions. He is unlike many, though, in thinking that the world should take his word for it—and that if it does not, that’s the world’s fault, and not his.”

Does Eric Adams still think it’s easy to be mayor? by Errol Louis in New York: “Even if the Mayor doesn’t realize it, the hard part began a long time ago. And he should recognize that New Yorkers don’t care whether Adams feels like he has an easy job: What matters is whether he’s doing it well.”

Do Americans really want “unbiased” news? by Peter Kafka in Vox: “Both [CNN and The Messenger] are trying to position themselves as an antidote to ‘biased media,’ and promise to deliver down-the-middle news. The problem is there’s not much evidence that people are clamoring for that, which makes it hard to envision a light at the end of the tunnel for either company.”

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Georgia peach

This week’s pet of the week is Anna from Georgia. Her human is Kelsey VanZee. Anna was adopted in May 2014 from Clayton County Animal Control. Anna is a classy canine that loves water and jazz music. 

Tim Scott Tiptoes Toward 2024

PLUS: Lawmakers eye A.I., and a quick and dirty election round-up.

Al Drago/Getty Images
South Carolina Senator Tim Scott

The top

There’s a handful of likely Republican presidential candidates who want you to know that they’re really actually, super seriously, almost ready to announce their presidential campaigns. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his team (and super PAC) have been about as coy as a monster-truck rally about his plans. Former Vice President Mike Pence is going to New Hampshire to sample the fast-food offerings, as one does (no one does just that, actually), and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott has a big event scheduled at Charleston Southern University, his alma mater, in a few days. It’s pretty clear he’s running. Why else would he be adding big-name Republican muckety-mucks to his team?

DeSantis and Pence have both been rather deliberate as they’ve road tested their themes for their upcoming presidential campaigns. Pence plans to portray himself as his own man (you know, like Jeb!) and as a “classical conservative.” DeSantis seems to be focused on the fact that he’s more of a winner than Donald Trump. His team sees a waterfall of support and money coming in the millisecond he officially jumps into the race, according to this Jonathan Martin joint.

But Scott is a bit of a mystery. He clearly prefers an optimistic approach to running for president instead of the “American carnage” theme that the last Republican president loved. But there have been moments, as Scott sorts out what he’s all about, that have been comically vague. “I think my candidacy is really designed around what the American people want to talk about, what their priorities are, and what their issues are,” the South Carolina senator said during a recent stop in Iowa, according to the Associated Press.

Well … yeah … but in the same article, Scott also said he felt conservatives are “starved for hope.”

A Republican close to Scott’s likely presidential campaign described it as “constructive conservatism.”

“Polls show that a majority of Americans are worn out by the state of politics and don’t want a 2020 rematch. Tim Scott would run as a breath of fresh air and seek to unify the GOP and nation around constructive conservatism,” the Republican told The Run-Up.

In private meetings with donors, Scott has said he wants to take a “kill-them-with-kindness approach, and he maintained that positivity is core to his personality and to his potential campaign,” according to a New York Times report on Scott’s prototype presidential campaign. But Scott also plans to defend himself in the face of attacks. At the very least, whenever Trump is asked about Scott’s candidacy—and it’s a when not an if—the former president will predictably and clumsily try to offer a backhanded compliment of sorts that will really just be some kind of crude insult. It’s what Trump does. The real question is how the kind and optimistic Scott plans to respond. If he laughs off Trump, it’s hard to imagine a flock of Republican voters rushing to the South Carolina senator’s side.

Nevertheless, durability looks increasingly like the name of the game in this Republican presidential primary. Whichever candidate can outlast the others may actually best Trump in the end. Donald Trump benefited from his rather unique “Teflon Don” approach to politicking. If Scott wants to go far in this primary, he will have to bet on being “Teflon Tim.”

About the night before last night

In case you missed it, there were elections this past Tuesday. Here’s a short roundup of the results we found most interesting:

Kentucky governor’s race: Attorney General Daniel Cameron won the Republican nomination to face incumbent Governor Andy Beshear. Cameron won the primary with 48 percent of the vote, with Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles getting 22 percent support and former Ambassador Kelly Craft getting 17 percent.

Former Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker won a divided Democratic primary to face Republican David Oh in the general election for mayor. Note that Parker beat, among others, Helen Gym, whom progressives had seen as a rising star.

In Colorado, Yemi Mobolade won the mayoral election for Colorado Springs. Mobolade will be the first Black mayor of the city. He will also be the first non-Republican mayor.

Trivia, tips, and pet pics

We want to hear from you! Are you Zac Moffatt, Generra Peck, or former Governor Bill Haslam? Is Biden’s campaign too slow to get off the ground? Should the Senate cancel the Memorial Day recess to deal with the debt ceiling? Did last week’s episode of Succession give you election-related PTSD? Daniel is intent on finding Swedish gin after reading this Esquire list. Do you have some? Is Raquel Leviss on Vanderpump Rules the most villainous villain of all the Bravo shows?

Or do you want to enter our weekly dog and cat photo contest (winner at the bottom)? Email us: and

Pretty fly for an A.I.

Congress is beginning to realize that it may want to take this whole artificial intelligence thing seriously. Although not exactly pioneers in regulating emerging technologies—see: “The internet is a series of tubes”; the complete failure to address the rise of social media—lawmakers of both parties agree that A.I. is not something they can ignore.

Sam Altman, CEO of the company behind ChatGPT, testified before a Senate subcommittee this week about the ramifications of A.I. technology and the need to install guardrails. Altman also met with House members on Monday and Tuesday.

“Mr. Altman and others in the industry are saying, ‘Please regulate us. We need Congress to step in and do something,’ and so we’re already behind the eight ball in my view,” said GOP Representative Mike Johnson, who co-hosted a bipartisan dinner with Altman on Monday evening. “I think all of us want to make sure that it’s used for good and not ill. The specifics of how that’s done is—we’re in uncharted waters. But there’s a lot of goodwill.”

Altman said in the Tuesday hearing that he was “nervous” about how A.I. could interfere with election integrity. It’s a concern shared by many members of Congress, including a group of senators who introduced legislation this week to require that any ads that use A.I.-generated images or video include a disclaimer.

“There was a time in which campaign finance was a bipartisan issue because people on both sides were really concerned about its impact. And I think that this is one of those things where both sides are concerned about how it can impact their elections,” said Democratic Senator Cory Booker, one of the co-sponsors of that bill.

GOP Senator Josh Hawley, the ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that hosted Altman on Tuesday, told The Run-Up that he was worried about how A.I. could influence “behavior modification” in elections, citing a study that found A.I. could predict public opinion. Hawley, who has not signed onto the bill co-sponsored by Booker, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and Senator Michael Bennet, expressed support for its basic principle.

“I would think that’s a pretty darn good idea. Yeah, that to me seems to be a pretty low bar,” Hawley said.

News and views

Local flavor

St. Anselm’s officials ‘deeply troubled’ by Trump’s remarks at forum; Sununu calls audience reaction ‘embarrassing,’ by Paul Feely in the New Hampshire Union Leader

California Democrats further torn after seeing Sen. Feinstein’s return to Washington, by Seema Mehta and Benjamin Oreskes in the Los Angeles Times

DeSantis in Iowa calls for ‘positive alternative’ to Biden. Though absent, Trump’s presence was felt, by Brianne Pfannenstiel, Katie Akin, and Stephen Gruber-Miller in the Des Moines Register

NC enacts new abortion restrictions as Republicans override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, by Avi Bajpai in the Charlotte Observer

Kelly Craft’s big spending in governor’s race led to embarrassing loss, by Joseph Gerth in the Louisville Courier Journal

Democrat Donna Deegan becomes first female mayor of Jacksonville, by Hanna Holthaus and David Bauerlein in the Florida Times-Union

The voters who propelled Cherelle Parker to victory, by Aseem Shukla, Kasturi Pananjady, and Leo Cassel-Siskind in The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sara Innamorato leads a huge night for progressives by winning the Democratic primary for Allegheny County executive, by Adam Smeltz in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Long reads

Why the DeSantis braintrust thinks it can actually beat Trump, by Jonathan Martin in Politico: “DeSantis’ high command recognizes that the catnip-for-junkies national polling has shifted toward Trump this year, but they believe they retain a fundamental advantage.”

How Kyrsten Sinema uses campaign cash for her marathon habit, by Sam Brodey in The Daily Beast: “On at least six total occasions since 2019, Sinema has participated in a race while engaging in fundraising activity—and covering expenses—in the area of the competition, according to a review of public campaign finance and competition records.”

A bouncy, fresh brand of Trumpism, by Elaine Godfrey in The Atlantic: “The Millennial candidate [Vivek Ramaswamy] is a bit like the GOP version of Andrew Yang: a get-up-and-go business bro who does something vague in the new economy, and who seemed to wake up one day and ask himself, Why not run for president?

Eric Adams is starving New York City’s universal pre-K program, by Fola Akinnibi in Bloomberg: “The mayor inherited America’s leading early childhood education system. Now a depleted education department can’t even pay providers.”

Who is Leonard Leo’s mysterious dark money king?, by Nina Burleigh in The New Republic: “America needs to know who Barre Seid is, what kind of country he wants, and just how massive an impact his $1.6 billion gift can have on our political discourse.”

Frank Luntz can’t quit, by Ben Terris in New York: “The GOP’s wunderkind pollster swore he was finished with Washington—except that penthouse with Kevin McCarthy.” (Check out Grace and Daniel’s conversation with Ben in TRU Live next Tuesday!)

Got a long read you’d like to share? Email us, and we’d be happy to include it in next week’s newsletter.

Best o’ Pesto

This week’s winner of our pet photo contest is three-legged wonder Pesto, submitted by Meghan Meehan-Draper. Pesto lost his leg due to lack of care from a previous owner but was rescued as a kitten and has brought joy to his adopted family ever since. Pesto’s hobbies include running, climbing, and regular zoomies up and down the stairs. He also loves people and has the gift of (cat) gab.