Dem 51
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GOP 49
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One Zombie Presidential Campaign Ends, Another Begins

We're getting close to the third Republican candidates' debate—which, it was announced yesterday, will be moderated by Kristen Welker (very good), Lester Holt (good) and Hugh Hewitt (less than worthless). Apparently, the fellows who have no hope of making the cut don't want another round of embarrassing "well, he didn't make it, didn't come close" notes in debate previews. We say that because Perry Johnson bailed out earlier this week and yesterday, Larry Elder did the same.

There is absolutely no way Elder thought he was actually going to win this thing. He's a reactionary and a blowhard but he's not stupid. He is also a confirmed Trumper (and, in his withdrawal announcement, endorsed the former president). So, in contrast to the campaign of Chris Christie, the point of Elder '24 was not to try to drag the party into the post-Trump era. Presumably, Elder wanted a little free publicity for his podcast and his various other grifts... er, projects. However, that plan was foiled when the RNC decided that they weren't going to allow every minor candidate to make the stage. So, the right-wing talker got virtually nothing out of his presidential "bid," and now he's done. The tens and tens of voters who planned to cast their ballots for Elder will now have to find another candidate.

At almost exactly the same time Elder was pushing the eject button, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) officially filed to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. So, Joe Biden now has two "opponents" who are not total unknowns: Marianne Williamson and Phillips.

We do not believe that Phillips thinks he has a path to victory. Even if a meteorite falls out of the sky and lands on top of Biden and Kamala Harris, the Democrats are not going to nominate the Representative as their 2024 candidate. Similarly, we do not believe that Phillips has some "good of the party" agenda in mind here—say, to help the Biden campaign work on its messaging/discipline, or to convince Biden to drop out by showing there's a lot of "anybody but Biden" voters out there.

No, the only thing that makes sense is that Phillips is running the Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) playbook: step into the (partial) vacuum created by a lack of candidates for a high-profile position, get some publicity from that, and then leverage that publicity into... some future benefit. In Phillips' case, we would guess he is trying to get some headlines in advance of running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Tina Smith (DFL-MN). She'll be up for reelection in 2026, she'd be 69 at the start of a new term, and she's never been wildly enthusiastic about being in the Senate anyhow. So it could very well be an open seat in 2026, and if it's not, well, Phillips can cross that bridge when he comes to it. (Z)

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