Playbook: 2024’s ‘double doubters’ and third-party spoilers

Playbook: 2024’s ‘double doubters’ and third-party spoilers

With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross

QUITE A QUOTE — From JEFF ROE, head of RON DeSANTIS’ super PAC, to NYT: “Iowa’s cornfields used to be where campaigns were killed off, and now New Hampshire is where campaigns go to die.” N.H. Journal, 6/16: Trump 47, DeSantis 13

SHEEHY’S IN — Businessman TIM SHEEHY is entering the Montana Senate race, going live overnight with a campaign website and social media accounts and sharing a launch video with Fox News. The move sets up a bruising primary with Rep. MATT ROSENDALE for the right to take on Democratic Sen. JON TESTER.

WSJ’s Siobhan Hughes reports that Sheehy enters with the full backing of Sen. STEVE DAINES (R-Mont.) in “the latest — and most personal — instance of the NRSC chairman taking sides in a GOP primary in a bid to avoid a repeat of 2022, when candidates in competitive states including Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania lost to Democrats.”

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: NEW SOSNIK MEMO — Our old friend DOUG SOSNIK, whose deep dive political memos have achieved a cult following among Washington insiders for many years, has a new look today at the 2024 presidential election that we are happy to share first with Playbook readers.

Sosnik makes an astute point about handicapping next year’s race: Several of the traditional indicators — including presidential job approval, national polls and right track/wrong track numbers — no longer have the predictive power that they once did.

In 2016, he writes, “national polls demonstrated their limitations when they predicted HILLARY CLINTON would win the presidential election due to her strong lead in the popular vote,” Sosnik notes,” while last year’s midterms, where Democrats held off a GOP wave, “showed the shortcomings of relying on proxies for voter sentiment like the mood of the country and the President’s job approval” — both of which were dismal.

So as much as possible, he argues, we need to focus on data from the eight key swing states in 2024: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Sosnik points out that one common feature of these states is that their populations skew in the middle — “neither extremely high nor extremely low”— on educational attainment, perhaps the most important demographic characteristic when it comes to predicting partisan affiliation.

So who are the swing voters in these eight swing states who will decide the election? Sosnik breaks them down into four categories:

  1. The “double doubters”: “People who have a negative view of both [JOE] BIDEN and [DONALD] TRUMP are perhaps the most important group of swing voters in the upcoming election. This is not an insignificant voting bloc. In an ABC/Ipsos poll taken after Trump’s most recent indictment, a majority of the country had a negative view of both Biden and Trump, with only 31% having a favorable view of both candidates.”
  2. Abortion rights voters: Sosnik points to a stream of polling data on this issue, but this fact stuck out: “In a mid-June Gallup poll, 69% of respondents (74% of Independents) said that abortion should be legal in the first three months of pregnancy, the highest level in the history of their polls.”
  3. Republicans: “The results from the 2022 midterms, as well as recent polling, suggest that a group of Republican voters will be up for grabs in 2024, particularly if Trump is on the ballot. Democrats racked up double-digit percentages from Republicans in the 2022 governors’ races in Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania. They also made significant inroads with these voters in Senate races in Arizona (13%), Pennsylvania (8%), Nevada (7%), and Georgia (6%).” Recent polls Sosnik cites indicate that roughly a quarter of GOP voters have serious qualms about another Trump nomination.
  4. Independents: “The winning party in the last four election cycles carried political independents. The 2022 exit polls showed that over 30 percent of voters were independents, the highest percentage since 1980.”

Finally, the big wildcard next year will be the presence and strength of any third-party candidates. In 2016, the “double doubters,” many of whom voted for third-party candidates, probably cost Clinton the election. “In 2020,” Sosnik notes, “with no viable third-party option, Biden carried these double doubters by 15 points.”

The good news for Biden? “In a late April AP/NRC poll, among double doubters, Biden leads Trump by 39 points in a straight head-to-head matchup without a third-party option,” Sosnik writes.

The bad news for Biden? CORNEL WEST recently announced that he will seek the nomination of the Green Party, which is already on the ballot in Wisconsin, Michigan, and North Carolina, while No Labels continues to pursue a potential center-lane presidential ticket featuring the likes of JOE MANCHIN or LARRY HOGAN.

If there is Biden-Trump rematch, Sosnik argues that Trump needs someone like West on the ballot: “Trump can’t win without a third-party candidate dividing the anti-Trump vote. With the exception of winning Georgia in 2016 with 50.77% of the vote, Trump never reached 50% in any of the competitive states that determined the outcome of the last two presidential elections.” Read the full memo

Good Tuesday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line with your memo about 2024: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.

THE TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS — There are a pair of newsy developments this morning related to the Justice Department’s twin inquiries into Donald Trump:

  • CNN’s Jeremy Herb obtained and posted the full audio of Trump seeming to brandish and discuss a classified document during a meeting at his Bedminster, N.J., resort in July 2021. Portions of the audio were transcribed in the federal indictment filed earlier this month, but the full tape appears to undercut an emerging Trump defense.

    In a Fox News interview last week, Trump argued “there was no document” and that he was just discussing news clippings. On the recording, the former president describes what he calls “highly confidential” military plans for an attack on Iran and says, “These are the papers,” adding “It’s so cool.” Listen to the audio

    Trump’s response, via the Daily Caller’s Henry Rodgers: “The audio tape provides context proving, once again, that President Trump did nothing wrong at all.”

  • The Washington Post offers the latest evidence that special counsel JACK SMITH is not finished with Trump and that an indictment related to Jan. 6 still could very much be in Trump’s future:

    “A key area of interest is the conduct of a handful of lawyers who sought to turn Trump’s defeat into victory by trying to convince state, local, federal and judicial authorities that Joe Biden’s 2020 election win was illegitimate or tainted by fraud,” Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report.

    Among those under a microscope for their roles in orchestrating a scheme of fake electors are RUDY GIULIANI, JENNA ELLIS, JOHN EASTMAN, KURT OLSEN, KENNETH CHESEBRO and JEFFREY CLARK, with investigators homing in on whether they “were following specific instructions from Trump or others, and what those instructions were.” A key witness to the scheme, Georgia Secretary of State BRAD RAFFENSPERGER, will be interviewed in the probe tomorrow.

NEW THIS MORNING — “Senate panel finds more pre-Jan. 6 intelligence failures by FBI, DHS,” by WaPo’s Devlin Barrett: “The report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s majority staff, titled ‘Planned in Plain Sight,’ expands on previous findings, including reporting by The Washington Post, about red flags missed in the weeks leading up to the pro-Trump riot that delayed Joe Biden’s certification as president. … Days after the riot, The Post revealed the existence of a Jan. 5 report from the FBI’s Norfolk office warning of online discussion of attacking Congress. But the Senate report includes a similar, previously unknown written warning issued that same evening by the New Orleans FBI office.”

INSIDE THE ‘PRESIDENTIAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX’ — “‘Ego, pure delusion and fantasy’: How the 2024 GOP field got so big,” by Adam Wren: “The hottest club in GOP politics right now is the party’s presidential primary. The calculus of every longshot is that anything could happen. And the likely, worst-case scenario? It isn’t that bad at all.”



HERE COMES CHUCK — The Senate is about to kick into a new gear with a burst of bipartisan efforts to push forward legislation on a variety of policy fronts, Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER tells Burgess Everett in an interview just posted this morning. The annual defense bill, the farm bill and the FAA bill will be big-ticket items on the agenda, along with bills on rail safety, prescription drug prices, competition with China, energy permitting and marijuana banking. The big question is which pieces of legislation can surmount a GOP filibuster; Senate Dems are trying not set expectations too high. Some notable on-the-record comments:

  • Sen. TODD YOUNG (R-Ind.) sounds optimistic about artificial intelligence legislation and says his relationship with Schumer has been “more fruitful than I would have expected.”
  • Sen. STEVE DAINES (R-Mont.) — who is, not for nothing, the NRSC chair — says “Leader Schumer has been working hard and effectively” on marijuana banking.
  • Schumer says his agenda is still “judges above all.”

Sign of the times in the House: Majority Whip TOM EMMER (R-Minn.) is trying to get the defense industry to help sway House Republicans in favor of the NDAA, Lee Hudson, Connor O’Brien and Joe Gould report in Congress Minutes.

WHERE THE GRASS IS GREENER — “Freedom Caucus takes key vote on Marjorie Taylor Greene’s future,” by Olivia Beavers: “While her formal status in the conservative group remains in limbo, the 8 a.m. Friday vote — which sources said ended with a consensus against her — points to, at least, continued strong anti-Greene sentiment.”

SO CLOSE, PEPFAR — “The abortion wars have engulfed George W. Bush’s AIDS-fighting program,” by Carmen Paun and Alice Miranda Ollstein: “A dispute over abortion has dimmed hopes on Capitol Hill for passing legislation to reauthorize the U.S. program credited with saving 25 million lives in the developing world from AIDS.”

THE BRAVE NEW WORLD — “Congress sets limits on staff ChatGPT use,” by Axios’ Andrew Solender

2024 WATCH

DEEP DIVE — “How Vivek Ramaswamy Made the Fortune Fueling His Presidential Run,” by NYT’s Jonathan Weisman, Rebecca Robbins and Maureen Farrell: “On the campaign trail, as he lays out why he is a different kind of presidential candidate, VIVEK RAMASWAMY calls himself a Harvard-trained “scientist” from the lifesaving world of biotechnology. … The reality of Mr. Ramaswamy’s business career is more complex, the story of a financier more than a scientist, and a prospector who went bargain hunting, hyped his vision, drew investment and then cashed out in two huge payouts — totaling more than $200 million — before his 35th birthday.”

GREAT SCOTT — “Tim Scott’s standing on the rise among GOP voters, poll finds,” by NBC’s Alexandra Marquez: “The number of GOP voters who see [Sen. TIM] SCOTT as their second-choice candidate has risen sharply — more than any other Republican candidate polled by NBC News from April to June.” He’s gone from 3% to 12% since June.

PENCE’S ALTER EGO — “Pence’s PAC promises to ‘check’ other GOP candidates,” by Adam Wren and Daniel Lippman: “BOBBY SAPAROW, the 34-year-old executive director of the [MIKE] PENCE-aligned Committed to America PAC and Georgia Gov. BRIAN KEMP’s former campaign manager, is taking on the role as Pence’s sledgehammer. … ‘I’m also here to check other candidates. I think everyone is fair game if I think somebody needs to be checked.’”

ENDORSEMENT WATCH — “Florida’s largest police union endorses DeSantis after supporting Trump in 2020: ‘Choice could not be clearer,’” by Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller


UPHILL BATTLE — “In Louisiana, Democrats have unified for an underdog effort to hold governor’s mansion,” by the Shreveport Times’ Greg Hilburn: “Former Transportation Secretary SHAWN WILSON has completely consolidated Democratic support in the Louisiana governor’s race, virtually assuring himself a spot in the runoff election.”

CAMERON (EATING) CROW — “Kentucky GOP Star Daniel Cameron Offers a Tortured Defense in Cash Scandal,” by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger: “It turns out Kentucky AG DANIEL CAMERON personally solicited donations from a company his office was probing. And he didn’t cancel a fundraiser, it was ‘just never finalized.’”

KNOWING JEFFREY ROSS GUNTER — “The Trump Ambassador Who Wants to Run for Nevada Senate on His Record of Retweets,” by The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey


TO RUSSIA, WITH LOVE — As the dust starts to settle from Russia’s chaotic weekend, CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt, Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak reveal that the U.S. had “extremely detailed and accurate” intelligence about YEVGENY PRIGOZHIN’s rebellious plans before he executed them. The U.S. knew where, though not exactly when, he would mount an advance. But Washington held the information so tightly that the info wasn’t even shared with some NATO allies or any but the senior-most members of the administration and Congress. After it unfolded, Biden shared more with allied world leaders about what the U.S. knew.

Meanwhile, public comments from both Biden and Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN yesterday were more notable for what went unspoken than what was said.

Biden said at a White House event that the U.S. had taken pains to make clear it had no involvement in the abortive Prigozhin uprising, as USA Today’s Francesca Chambers recaps. “We had to make sure we gave Putin no excuse … to blame this on the West or to blame this on NATO,” Biden told reporters in his first public remarks on the situation. And in Moscow, despite plenty of advance hype, Putin delivered an angry speech that announced no big defense shakeup or other changes, Andrew Zhang and Gabriel Gavin report. Putin told the participating Wagner Group mercenaries to either swear fealty to Russia or head to Belarus with Prigozhin.

DANCE OF THE SUPERPOWERS — “Yellen Plans July China Trip While U.S. Preps Investment Curbs,” by Bloomberg’s Jenny Leonard and Annmarie Hordern: “Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN plans to visit Beijing in early July for the first high-level economic talks with her new Chinese counterpart … In addition, a Biden administration executive order that would regulate and potentially cut off certain US investments in China is nearing completion and officials are aiming to have it ready as soon as late July.”

New overnight … “China, in swipe at U.S., accuses West of ‘sowing division and confrontation,’” by WaPo’s Lily Kuo

GITMO CALLED OUT — “First U.N. investigator at U.S. detention center at Guantanamo says detainees face cruel treatment,” by AP’s Edith Lederer


DOCKET UPDATE — Judge AILEEN CANNON made some small moves yesterday in the classified documents case. She rejected Smith’s request to keep the names of 84 possible witnesses under seal, Insider’s Brent Griffiths reports, after news organizations asked for the list to be made public. And she set an initial hearing for July 14 in Fort Pierce, Fla., per CNN’s Tierney Sneed and Katelyn Polantz, while giving Trump’s team until July 6 to file a response to Smith’s effort to delay the trial until December.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT — “Top Trump Adviser Pushed for Drone Strikes on Migrants, New Book Claims,” by Rolling Stone’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Adam Rawnsley: “STEPHEN MILLER denies the account, and a person present has ‘no recollection’ of the alleged conversation, but the book accuses the top Trump adviser of suggesting an atrocity.”

— Former Trump DHS general counsel JOHN MITNICK responds: “Is any sentient being still in doubt about Stephen Miller’s objective in orchestrating the purge of @DHSgov senior leaders in 2019?”


NOTABLE SCOTUS CASE INCOMING — “Supreme Court to Hear Case That Could Block Democrats’ Plans to Tax the Rich,” by WSJ’s Richard Rubin: “The Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear arguments in a tax law case that could yield billions of dollars for large corporations, block Democrats’ proposals to tax wealthy Americans and upend longstanding chunks of the tax code. The court, in an unsigned order, said it would decide a case that asks whether people and companies have to receive, or realize, income for it to be taxed under the 16th Amendment.”

NOTABLE SCOTUS CASE DECLINED — “U.S. Supreme Court dismisses clash over Trump hotel documents,” by Reuters’ John Kruzel: “The court acted after the [Democratic] lawmakers this month voluntarily dropped their 2017 lawsuit against the General Services Administration (GSA), the agency that manages federal government real estate, focused on what was called the Trump International Hotel. The justices last month had agreed to hear a bid by President Joe Biden’s administration to block the lawsuit.”

BRACING FOR THE BIG DECISIONS — “Student Loan-Relief Backers Warn Biden ‘Failure Isn’t an Option,’” by Bloomberg’s Laura Litvan … “Looming Supreme Court affirmative action ruling has elite colleges on edge,” by NBC’s Laura Jarrett and Lawrence Hurley


CLEANING HOUSE — Fox News has fired the remaining members of TUCKER CARLSON’s staff as JESSE WATTERS takes over his old slot, per Chadwick Moore.

THE STREAMING WARS — “Fox Nation Fail: Murdoch’s Big Bet on Streaming Flounders,” by The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Cartwright and Justin Baragona: “The future of the Murdoch empire’s big bet on streaming is under a cloud, as the conservative cable giant began cutting staff at Fox Nation last month, coinciding with post-Dominion layoffs across Fox News Media.”

Fox’s statement: “There is no scaling back at FOX Nation — we just had our best year ever with more programming, viewers and revenue and one of the highest conversion/lowest churn rates in the industry.”

Joe Biden called Joe Manchin “Jojo.”

Markwayne Mullin wants to fight a Teamster boss (for charity).

Anthony Fauci will teach medicine and public policy at Georgetown.

Zach Montellaro’s Mets despondency is inherited.

OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at the D.C. edition of Ottawa Playbook’s trivia night at Penn Social: Canadian Ambassador Kirsten Hillman, Justin Margolis, Bob Maurice, Chris Sands, Katie Simpson, Sue Allan, Tyler Weyant, Nick Taylor-Vaisey, Kyle Duggan and Luiza Savage.

MEDIA MOVE — Joey Fox is opening a new Capitol Hill bureau for the New Jersey Globe, filling a gap in Washington-based coverage for New Jersey that’s existed since the Star-Ledger laid off its last correspondent in March.

TRANSITIONS — Brian Krebs is now SVP of paid media at Precision Strategies. He most recently was head of elections and advocacy at Flytedesk, a college campus media tech startup, and is a Rising Tide Interactive and DCCC alum. … Kathy Reding Bergren is joining Gevo Inc. as director of federal government relations. She most recently was director of public policy for renewable fuels at the National Corn Growers Association, and is a Hill alum. …

… Cliff Waldman is now associate director for economic policy at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. He previously founded consulting firm New World Economics. … Kate Warren Barnes will be VP of policy and government relations at Jumpstart for Young Children. She most recently was director of government affairs at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. David Scott (D-Ga.) and Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) (4-0) … Tom SteyerJennifer DeCasper Ilya ShapiroTony FrattoHunter MorgenJesse LehrichTerry Nelson of FP1 Strategies … Bob and Louis BoorstinJosh Rubin … Reuters’ David Shepardson … POLITICO’s Eleanor Mueller, Seth Batbayar and Liz Thompson … NYT’s Krista Mahr and Lisa FriedmanDavid Wochner of K&L Gates … Isaac Reyes of Target … Kathleen WelchSarah BovimGeoff Vetter … Hub Project’s Jessica FloydRobert Schlesinger … CNN’s Carrie Stevenson Matt Letourneau … former Reps. Scott Taylor (R-Va.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) and Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) … former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) … former USTR Ron Kirk … former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt Charles Bronfman (92) … Andrea Flores Brian Martinez of the American Conservation Coalition … Caroline Adler Morales Sahar Hafeez

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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