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Former President Trump, who remains the most dominant force in GOP politics despite losing the 2020 election, is set to make his 2024 plans official on Tuesday — getting a jump on other Republicans who may be thinking of getting into the race.
But strategists, pundits and even some of Trump’s one-time top allies have signaled it won’t be a cakewalk or coronation for him this time around.
“Trump enters the 2024 race as the leading contender for the nomination but badly weakened over the past two years,” Texas-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak told NotedDC.
“Despite his early announcement, he faces significant political, legal, financial and health questions. He may also drop out before Iowa to prevent losing the nomination if that appears likely.”
Mackowiak argued that “there’s a new willingness to consider a post-Trump GOP figure,” citing party losses in 2018, 2020 and underwhelming results in last week’s midterms.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) put it this way to reporters: “I’ll support the Republican nominee, but I don’t know that it will be him.” Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, also says he doesn’t see Trump as having a clear path to victory.
“I think there will be better choices,” Pence, who is mulling his own 2024 run, said in an ABC News interview this week.
Welcome to NotedDC: Your guide to politics, policy & people of consequence in D.C. We’re Elizabeth Crisp and Amee LaTour.
In today’s issue: The specific challenges facing Trump as he prepares to launch an expected third White House bid.
Plus: What Congress hopes to accomplish before January, and a new portrait for the nation’s leading infectious disease expert.
ALL SIGNS are that former President Trump will take the plunge on Tuesday evening and announce another White House bid in prime time from Mar-a-Lago. While he’s still the leader of the party, Trump faces fresh challenges as a candidate.
Here are five hurdles facing Trump as he prepares to announce his 2024 plans:
1. New crop of GOP stars
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rising star who polling has shown many Republicans are increasingly turning to as a possible alternative to Trump to lead the party, has emerged as the top potential foil for the former president.
DeSantis, 44, last week cruised to victory in his bid for a second term leading the Sunshine State. As governor, DeSantis has repeatedly battled the Biden administration over COVID-19 restrictions, immigration and cultural issues.
He’s resisted revealing what the future may hold — even as he’s being encouraged to launch a run for president. For his part, Trump has taken notice, dubbing him “Ron DeSanctimonious” and previewing early attacks accusing him of lack of loyalty.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Younkin (R) also has found himself in Trump’s crosshairs, with the former president already sending out messages attacking him. Youngkin, 55, won a hard-fought race in 2021, while distancing himself from Trump.
A short list of others who appear to be testing the waters: Former Vice President Mike Pence says he’s giving “prayerful consideration” for 2024; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has launched a series of digital ads in early presidential primary states (he told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Tuesday that Trump’s decision won’t affect his own); and outgoing Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who Trump took aim at after she supported his impeachment and joined the House Jan. 6 select committee, hasn’t ruled out a run as a spoiler to a Trump candidacy.
2. Mounting legal woes
“It’s extremely likely that Trump and others are going to face criminal charges,” Norm Eisen, an expert on law, ethics and anti-corruption, told reporters on a recent call.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is currently investigating Trump’s alleged attempt to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election and has said she expects a decision on charges by the end of the year.
The Department of Justice also is investigating the circumstances of Trump having classified documents at his house and his attempts to remain in office after the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, the New York attorney general is pursuing civil action against Trump involving his company.
3. MAGA backlash
The midterm elections have sparked plenty of finger-pointing over Trump’s role in the party, but will the results spawn a Republican reckoning over the MAGA movement?
Up and down the ballot last week, Trump-backed candidates who entertained the former president’s 2020 election lies were defeated across the country.
These hand-picked “MAGA candidates” who Trump endorsed and campaigned for have been criticized within the GOP after the party failed to win the Senate. The question is who wins the internal tussle over the party’s immediate future.
“The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) tweeted soon after it was projected Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) had defeated her Republican challenger Adam Laxalt.
Other Trump-backed Republicans who lost to Democrats in crucial Senate races: Pennsylvania’s Mehmet Oz and Arizona’s Blake Masters. In Georgia, Herschel Walker, who Trump called on to enter the race against Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), is trailing the incumbent ahead of their Dec. 6 runoff.
Still, several Republican allies of Trump have been hesitant to publicly place the blame on his shoulders, turning their ire instead on Senate GOP leadership.
4. Shifting conservative media
Trump, once a darling of right-leaning media, finds himself on the receiving end of recent unflattering pieces from the once-reliable New York Post and Wall Street Journal, urging the party to move on from him. Fox News, where Trump built up a reliable following ahead of 2016, has turned its gaze to DeSantis in recent coverage.
5. Questions about age
While Republicans are quick to point out the age of President Biden, Democrats’ presumed 2024 nominee right now (Biden turns 80 this weekend), Democrats have also noted Trump’s age. He would be 78 years old at his inauguration in 2025.
While few in the party would consider his age to be overly prohibitive, it could arise as a factor in a primary that is poised to include several younger faces. The midterms also suggested a more engaged crop of young voters — a bloc that typically sides more with Democrats than Republicans.
Former Vice President Mike Pence’s book “So Help Me God” arrived today. In it he describes a loyal relationship to then-President Trump throughout their administration and the rupture of that relationship around the time of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
Pence stood by Trump through myriad controversies and tumultuous periods starting in July 2016, when Trump picked the former Indiana governor as his running mate — from the Access Hollywood tape to the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
“Loyalty is a characteristic of the relationship between modern vice presidents and the presidents they serve but Mike Pence took that trait to unprecedented levels during 3 years and 50 weeks of his time as Donald Trump’s vice president,” Joel Goldstein, law professor and vice presidency scholar at the Saint Louis University School of Law, told NotedDC in an email.
Goldstein noted there have been few instances in history of presidents and vice presidents running against one another and said that a 2024 competition between Trump and Pence would be unique “due to the once close political bond between them and the dramatic disruption of that relationship.”
Pence wrote in his autobiography that after Trump’s presidency ended, “In the months that followed, we spoke from time to time, but when the president returned to the rhetoric that he was using before that tragic day and began to publicly criticize those of us who defended the Constitution, I decided it would be best to go our separate ways.”
Our colleague Brett Samuels reported on an advance copy of the book — see excerpts here.
Below is a timeline of some key moments in the Trump-Pence relationship:
July 15, 2016: Trump announces Pence as his running mate.
Oct. 8, 2016: Pence comments on the Access Hollywood tape:
“As a husband and a father, I was offended by the words and actions described by Donald Trump in the 11-year-old video released yesterday. … I do not condone his remarks and cannot defend them. … I am grateful that he has expressed remorse and apologized to the American people.”
Feb. 26, 2020: Trump names Pence head of White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Jan. 6, 2021: Trump pressures Pence on day of 2020 electoral vote certification.
Trump said in a speech at the Ellipse he’d be “very disappointed” in Pence if he didn’t stop the counting of electoral votes from the 2020 election. Trump tweeted that afternoon Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” Pence said in a statement before the joint session of Congress was set to begin vote counting at the Capitol, “[M]y oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not.”
June 24, 2021: Pence defends Jan. 6 actions.
Pence said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, “Now, there are those in our party who believe that in my position as presiding officer over the joint session, that I possessed the authority to reject or return electoral votes certified by states. … But the Constitution provides the vice president with no such authority before the joint session of Congress. And the truth is, there’s almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2022: Trump releases two statements criticizing Pence.
Trump targeted his former VP for not interrupting the counting of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. In one statement, Trump said the select committee investigating the riot should investigate “why Mike Pence did not send back the votes for recertification or approval.”
Feb. 4, 2022: Pence says “Trump is wrong.”
At a Federalist Society event, Pence stated, “I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to ‘overturn the election.’ … President Trump is wrong. … The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone. Frankly, there is almost no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president.”
June 16, 2022: The Jan. 6 committee’s third public hearing focuses on Trump’s efforts to pressure Pence to interrupt the counting of electoral votes.
July 26, 2022: Trump and Pence both give speeches at separate events in D.C.
Pence said at a Young America’s Foundation event, “Some people may choose to focus on the past, but elections are about the future.” Trump referred to the 2020 election as a “catastrophe” at the America First Agenda Summit.
Nov. 14, 2022: ABC airs an interview with Pence discussing his anger about Jan. 6.
Asked about Trump’s tweet that Pence “didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done,” Pence said: “The president’s words were reckless. It’s clear he decided to be part of the problem.” On a potential Trump presidency, Pence said, “I think we’ll have better choices in the future.” Pence added he was considering a bid.
Nov. 15, 2022: Pence releases his book “So Help Me God.” Trump schedules a “big announcement” to detail 2024 plans.
Looking forward: Pence is scheduled to take part in a town hall with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.
Lawmakers returned to the Capitol this week with a packed lame-duck schedule. Already, the Senate has brokered a bipartisan deal to protect same-sex marriage that could get its first procedural vote on Wednesday.
“I hope both sides can work quickly together to move this bill through the Senate and onto the President’s desk,” Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “The Senate can eliminate the risk of LGBTQ Americans having their rights curtailed if we act now to codify marriage protections into law.”
Same-sex marriage was legalized nationally through Supreme Court action in 2015, but Congress has never put it into law. A recent Supreme Court ruling that upended abortion rights sparked concern that marriage could be next on the chopping block if a challenge makes it to the conservative-leaning court.
Schumer says his top priority in the coming weeks is hashing out a federal spending plan to avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 16. Congress adopted a temporary stop-gap measure in September with the goal of putting the issue off through the midterms.
The top options available for keeping the federal government funded would be passing another short-term continuing resolution or finally hashing out a long-term spending plan that has evaded them in recent attempts.
Other things to watch for and where they stand:
Keep in mind: Lawmakers will be taking breaks for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, so the time is even more limited.
THE RACES THAT ARE STILL UNCALLED
A week out from the midterms, control of the House is still not finalized, though the GOP is very close to at least a small majority.
The Hill’s Election Central shows 13 House races uncalled, with Republicans securing 217 — one away from a majority — to Democrats’ 206 so far.
Here’s a rundown of what’s outstanding and why:
Too close to call
California election process
EVENT INVITE: GEN Z WRITES ITS OWN RULES
Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 5 p.m. ET / LIVE IN D.C. AND STREAMING NATIONALLY
COVID-19 may be the defining experience for Generation Z, shaping its outlook for decades to come. “Zoomers,” those 70 million young Americans born between 1997-2012, missed out on experiences, friendships and milestones during the pandemic.
“The Gen Z Historian” Kahlil Greene, author and pollster John Della Volpe, White House Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty, Zfluence founder Ava McDonald and more join The Hill to examine the experience of America’s youth, where their common ground lies, and their impact on the future. RSVP today.
Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) said he’ll run for Senate in 2024, setting up a challenge to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott (R-Fla.) has announced a challenge to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for his position as Senate GOP leader.
WHAT WE’RE READING
“[Ted] Cruz ‘pissed off’ by midterms, but unscathed despite mixed results of his 17-state bus tour,” via The Dallas Morning News. Choice quote: “I am so pissed off, I cannot even see straight,” Cruz said on his latest podcast.
“Tiffany Trump’s Palm Beach wedding was a beautiful affair. Then came the photo drama,” via the Miami Herald.
“Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant asks court to throw out subpoena for Brett Favre pharma texts” in fallout from welfare fraud scandal, via Mississippi Today.
CNN: “New audio of phone call shows for the first time that a senior Uvalde officer was told children needed to be rescued from inside a classroom.”
“Miami-Dade flips red: Midterm lessons for Republicans and Democrats,” via Axios
NUMBER TO KNOW
Narrowest U.S. House majority immediately following elections going back as far as 1913, when the total number of representatives first reached 435. In the 1930 elections, Republicans won 218 seats to Democrats’ 216, with one Farmer-Labor winner.
The United States House of Representatives’ History, Art & Archives website notes, “Before the first day of Congress, 14 Representatives-elect died. The results of the special elections caused party control of the House to change, and Democrats organized with the majority of the House seats.”
Anthony Fauci, when asked about potential GOP-led investigations in Congress targeting him, told The Hill’s Judy Kurtz, “I have nothing to hide at all, despite the accusations that I’m hiding something. … I have nothing that I could not explain clearly to the country and justify.”
Fauci appeared at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on Saturday for its Portrait of a Nation gala. He joined other high-profile figures like tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams and celebrity chef José Andrés who were honored with works of art they inspired.
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