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Can DeSantis Recover?

Writing pieces about how damaged the presidential campaign of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is has become something of a cottage industry. A new one in Politico is headlined "A DeSantis come-from-behind win is looking vanishingly unlikely." Note the use of "vanishingly." They could have left that word out and it would still have been a fine headline. That just rubs it in more.

It's not impossible for DeSantis to come back as it's been done before, albeit under different circumstances and with different candidates. Jimmy Carter did it in 1976 and Bill Clinton did it in 1992. But neither had to deal with a former president with a 30-to-40-point lead in the primary. Also, Carter was generally perceived as a decent person whom voters across the spectrum at least respected. Clinton was a rogue, but a lovable rogue who could charm the spots off a leopard. DeSantis is increasingly perceived as a very unpleasant person who is on a crusade to destroy something ("wokeness") that most people don't understand or care about. He is not perceived as a fundamentally decent person like Carter. Like Clinton, he is thoroughly political, but Clinton was seen as a friendly guy who could regale everyone with endless amusing stories and who wasn't on some kind of weird crusade. He was just a governor who wanted a promotion. Lots of them do. Nothing wrong with that, per se.

In recent history, only once has the Republican who was leading in the polls in the summer before election year gone on to lose the nomination. That would be Rudy Giuliani in 2008. But Giuliani's main claim to fame was that he happened to be the mayor of New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. He didn't stop the attacks or make the recovery go any faster than any other mayor would have. He just was in the "right" place at the "right" ("wrong"?) time. Giuliani had never even won a statewide election. He wasn't the kind of guy that ordinary Republicans would walk over broken glass barefoot to vote for. John McCain was indeed down in the summer of 2007, but his opponent du jour (Giuliani) wasn't really that strong. He just had better name recognition. In contrast, Trump is vastly more popular with Republican voters than Giuliani ever was. And DeSantis is not a war hero, like McCain, unless you count the culture war. And even if you do, we're not so sure about the "hero" part.

Mike Huckabee won Iowa in 2008 and McCain won New Hampshire and then it was basically over for Giuliani. Maybe DeSantis can win Iowa or New Hampshire, but current polling says he has a steep hill to climb in both. Also, in the summer of 2007, when his campaign was floundering, McCain owned it. On New Hampshire Public Radio, he said: "We've made mistakes. The responsibility is mine. I'm the candidate." That kind of talk goes over well with the crusty Yankees in the Granite State. McCain came over as honest and didn't try to blame anyone else for his failings. Maybe someday DeSantis will take ownership of his sinking campaign. And maybe someday people will be building snowmen (you know, with snowballs) in Hell. Maybe.

The only thing that could plausibly save DeSantis is for Trump to crash and burn. Maybe if Trump is convicted of one or more crimes by next spring, that could take some of the air out of his balloon. But based on Trump's appearance at the Lincoln Dinner in Iowa last Friday, maybe not even that would help. Trump has repeatedly insulted the state's popular governor, Kim Reynolds, but he still owned the room. When he strode on stage, the faithful stood up and roared. Those were his people. He spent his 9 minutes on stage talking about how the 2020 election was rigged, but the audience lapped it up.

None of the other candidates at the Lincoln Dinner made that kind of impression. DeSantis was well received as he attacked Kamala Harris, but he doubled down on saying that slaves in the antebellum South learned valuable skills. Even Republicans are telling him to cut it out. He does have some good lines. One he uses is: "I'm running for president because we as Republicans cannot be content with simply managing the decline of our country a little better than the Democrats."

Asa Hutchinson reminded the audience that they belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. But that was then and this is now. They now belong to the party of Donald Trump. When candidate Will Hurd said that Trump was running only to stay out of prison, the crowd booed him. Not a lot changed as a result of the dinner. DeSantis didn't suddenly reverse his steady decline. He needs to do that fairly fast or it will be too late. The Aug. 23 debate may be his last chance before everyone sees the race for the GOP nomination as over.

More bad news showed up for DeSantis at 3 o'clock this morning. Breaking news, apparently. The New York Times posted the results of a new Siena College poll showing Trump with a 37-point lead over DeSantis among likely Republican primary voters nationally. This is what it looks like:

Poll of Likely Republican primary voters

The crosstabs are even more damaging to DeSantis than the bottom line. DeSantis is being crushed in every demographic category. Among seniors, he is at 9%, among noncollege voters he is at 13%, with very conservative voters he is at 15%, and finally, among college-educated voters, only 25% prefer DeSantis.

Trump's appeal isn't on the issues. It is due to his mean, venal, nasty, bullying style. One New Hampshire voter the Times interviewed said of Trump: "He might say mean things and make all the men cry because all the men are wearing your wife's underpants and you can't be a man anymore." That really says it all. The undertone here is that tough-talking straight white Christian men have a God-given right to run the country and everybody else should buzz off and get out of the way so men can be real men again. Trump gets that. The Yale and Harvard Law-educated DeSantis doesn't give off the vibe of being a "real man." All his talk about "wokeness" probably makes it worse. Why is he talking about this crazy stuff nobody understands when men can't be men anymore?

As to the other candidates, three of them are tied for third place, with 3% support apiece. Even if all the other candidates dropped out before Iowa, which wouldn't surprise us in the slightest (well, actually, we would be surprised if Christie dropped out because he is not in it to win, just to damage Trump), it wouldn't matter because Trump is above 50%. If DeSantis wants to win this one, he'd better pull a rabbit out of his hat fast. (V)

Trump Is Looming over Senate Races

Just in case you are not yet convinced that the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Donald Trump, just look at the Senate races. Most Republican politicians know well that Trump is a millstone around the Party's neck and would love to move past him, but they know they can't say that out loud. In fact, they are saying the opposite. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R), who is running for the Senate, just endorsed Trump's presidential bid. He didn't have to. He could have said it is too early or he is staying neutral or it is up to the voters. He didn't.

Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), who is running for Senate in West Virginia, probably against Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), also just endorsed Trump for president. Justice's main opponent, Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), then piped up that he endorsed Trump last year.

Now onto Montana. Tim Sheehy, a former Navy SEAL and wealthy businessman, just jumped into the Senate race there saying that he supports Trump 100%. There is no reason to believe that any of these three Senate candidates actually support Trump. In fact, most likely all of them would prefer a stronger candidate at the top of the ticket with coattails they could grab on to. Trump's "coattails" seem to work in reverse. In 2022, most of the candidates he supported in competitive Senate races lost.

Ohio-based Republican strategist Mark Weaver said: "Donald Trump continues to be the biggest elephant in the Republican tent. Republican voters still want to see him as our party's leader." He added that other candidates feel that they have to endorse Trump, even though they are most likely privately worried that he could hurt their chances. But they know that if they do not support him, his wrath could destroy them. So in the short term, endorsing him is the safest course. They are basically hoping he dies or goes to prison, and gives them a "Get out of Jail Free" card, of a sort.

What about endorsements in the other direction? Trump is torn between two things. On the one hand, he likes candidates who kowtow to him. On the other hand, he also likes to go with the winner. Sometimes these things are in conflict. When they are not, it is an easy call. Trump has endorsed Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), who is running for the open Senate seat in Indiana. Banks is seen as a shoo-in for both the GOP nomination and the general election, so no risk there. Trump has also told Mooney that he will not endorse him in the primary, even though Mooney is Trumpy as hell, presumably because Trump expects Justice to win the primary. Similarly, Trump told Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-MT), one of the Trumpiest members of the House, that he will not endorse him (presumably because Rosendale ran against Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, in 2018 and lost). Trump wants a winner here.

Not every Republican Senate candidate is falling over himself to endorse Trump, but many are. In Nevada, Jim Marchant has endorsed Trump but his primary opponent, Sam Brown, has not (yet). Still, Brown is the exception to the rule that Republican candidates must support Trump to survive. (V)

Trump's Legal Bills This Year So Far Are over $40 Million

It's a whopper. And we don't mean some fast food restaurant's hamburger. We mean Donald Trump's legal bill. It came in at over $40 million for just the first half of this year. Since the 2020 election, his main super PAC has paid out $56 million in legal fees. And that doesn't count the bills the RNC paid for him. There might also have been bills paid by Trump himself (unlikely) or other entities. And of course, only one minor case, the defamation case brought by E. Jean Carroll, has gone to a (short) trial so far. When Trump has to defend himself in Florida and D.C. on federal charges and in New York and Georgia on state charges, the bills are going to be astronomical. And remember, the former president doesn't have the country's best (and most expensive) lawyers working for him because those folks don't want such a radioactive client, particularly one who doesn't listen to his lawyers. So, his attorneys are mostly nobodies who can't get top dollar.

Most of the money that the super PAC spent for legal costs came from small-dollar donors, most of whom probably thought they were contributing to his reelection campaign. As long as they keep thinking that, the grift will go on.

Not all the of the $56 million the super PAC spent went to Trump's personal defense. Some went to the defense of dozens of people who have been sucked in along with him. These likely include Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, who have been indicted for their roles in helping Trump hide classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and then trying to cover it up. This raises some legal and ethical issues. They are likely to be called as witnesses against him. If they know that Trump will continue to pay their monumental legal bills as long as they don't rat on him, they are less likely to flip and more likely to perjure themselves. Special Counsel Jack Smith can offer them immunity from prosecution if they flip, but he can't offer to pay the thousands of dollars in legal fees they have already accumulated.

Sometimes the large cast of players and overlapping interests makes things very murky. Yuscil Taveras is the IT worker at Mar-a-Lago that Trump allegedly told to destroy surveillance recordings that could show that he tried to hide documents. Destroying evidence in a criminal case (or trying to have it destroyed) is a felony, so Taveras needs a lawyer because he is sure to be a witness in one or more upcoming trials. In June, Taveras went to the authorities and told them about a conspiracy among Trump, Nauta, and De Oliveira about destroying evidence. Taveras is represented by lawyer Stan Woodward, who is being paid by one of Trump's other super PACs. But Woodward also represents Nauta. Legal ethics rules forbid a lawyer from cross examining one of his clients in order to defend another one of his clients. Now what? Find new lawyers? There are only so many lawyers in South Florida who are willing to defend people closely associated with Trump, especially when they suspect the defendant is probably guilty and expect to lose the case. Losing doesn't help your batting average and having to sue to get paid is not something lawyers want to do.

The legal bills are so big already (and they keep mounting) that Susie Wiles, one of Trump's closest political advisers, is starting to triage the defendants and have the super PACs pay some of their bills and not others. This will not be taken well by defendants who are cut loose. They could be tempted to make deals that required them singing like canaries for a day on tape and then not being involved anymore.

Some of the bills are inevitable in the sense that when Jack Smith charged Trump with hiding government documents, he had to hire lawyers to defend himself. But he didn't have to sue CNN for defamation, which he did. Not surprisingly, the judge in the CNN case, Trump appointee Raag Singhal, threw the case out. Trump's lawyers didn't get to first base there, but they still expect to be paid. And that lawsuit is just one of many Trump has filed against media outlets. If he would just stop suing everyone who displeases him, the legal bills would be lower, but habits developed over a lifetime don't just go away overnight. (V)

California Republican Party Changes the Rules to Help Trump

On Saturday, the California Republican Party changed the rules for how delegates to the Republican National Convention will be allocated in 2024. Under the new rules, if any candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, that candidate will get all 169 delegates and the other candidates will get zero. If no candidate gets more than 50%, the delegates will be divided up proportionally.

California will have the largest delegation to the convention. The total number of delegates will be roughly 2,467, so it will take 1,234 delegates to get the nomination. We hope these numbers stick because having the majority be at 1,234 makes it easier for us to remember (it's also the combination on our luggage.) So if Trump wins California, he is 14% of the way there in just one state.

One effect of the rules change is that probably none of the other Republican candidates will bother even campaigning in California since they know they will probably get no delegates, whereas in states with proportional representation, they might get some. This increases the chance that Trump passes the 50% mark and indeed gets all the delegates. Despite the law about multiparty jungle-style primaries for most offices, presidential primaries are different in California. Each political party can choose to have either a closed primary (i.e., only registered members can vote in it) or a semi-open primary (i.e., independents may also vote in it). The California Republican Party is virtually certain to go for a closed primary to avoid potential ratf**king by Democrats disguised as independents.

California will vote on Super Tuesday, March 5, 2024, along with over a dozen other states. With a little bit of good luck, Trump could wake up on March 6 as the de facto Republican nominee. With a little bit of bad luck, the Republican National Committee could be stuck with a convicted felon by the time the convention formally nominates him in Milwaukee July 15-18, 2024. By that point, barring a radical change of rules at the last minute turning all the pledged delegates into free agents, there would be no way to deny him the nomination. If Trump is convicted in the spring, the appeals courts would be under a lot of pressure to take up his appeals and make decisions before the election. Suppose the appeals courts sustained the verdicts. Then we would move into uncharted territory.

If Super Tuesday doesn't finish the nomination process, the Florida primary two weeks later, on March 19, 2024, might well do it. If Trump crushes Ron DeSantis in the governor's home state (which is also Trump's home state, of course), DeSantis is history and the primaries are probably effectively over. Might that happen? Well, a March poll of Florida Republicans by the University of North Florida found 59% of Republicans favored DeSantis and 28% favored Trump. That's DeSantis +31. A recent poll from Florida Atlantic University found that in a head-to-head matchup, Trump would get 54% and DeSantis would get 37%. That's Trump +17. In other words, DeSantis has apparently dropped close to 50 points since March in his own state. And by March 19, it could well be a two-man race, with all the others wiped out on Super Tuesday or, in many cases, earlier. If DeSantis can't even beat Trump in a state that he won by 19 points last year and where he is well known, how is he going to win in states where he is far less well known? Yes, it is at least possible DeSantis is strongest in the states where no one knows anything about him and he has carefully avoided visiting. Herschel Walker tried the hide-and-don't-campaign strategy in the Georgia Senate race in 2022 and it didn't work for him. It probably won't work for DeSantis now. Besides, DeSantis thinks he is a great candidate. Walker probably knew better. (V)

Democrats Are Going to Try a Hail Mary Play in Florida

After Ron DeSantis' stunning 19-point win in Florida last year, Democrats could be forgiven for thinking that Florida had become a warmer version of North Dakota—it may have more alligators but it's just as hopeless. But while national Democrats may have given up on the state, the new chair of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, has an idea. She wants to get two initiatives on the ballot next election. One would repeal state laws criminalizing marijuana and the other would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. Both of these have greatly increased turnout among young Democrats in other states, so it might work in Florida.

The marijuana initiative started earlier and already has over 1 million signatures, probably more than enough to qualify. One company, Trulieve, has spent $25 million on the campaign to get it on the ballot. Florida is an expensive state. But Florida's Supreme Court may have the final say here and the state AG is arguing that it should reject the initiative. The abortion initiative started later and has only 400,000 signatures so far, but the organizers think it will reach 1 million long before the Feb. 1, 2024, deadline to qualify for the Nov. 2024 ballot. In states much redder than Florida, abortion has brought out droves of young people to vote. Of course, Florida is better known for its large population of seniors than for its large population of young people, but it is still worth a shot and could get many marginal voters to the polls. And note that seniors care about abortion, too, either because they have religious views that make them anti-abortion or they have personal experiences/political views/female relatives that make them pro-choice.

One thing working for Republicans is that there are now 542,000 more Republicans than Democrats in the Sunshine State. That is a historical reversal. Democrats used to dominate, at least in terms of registrations. Fried understands this and now wants to have the state Party run registration drives rather than outsourcing it to outside volunteers.

This isn't the first time a political party in Florida used a ballot initiative to try to drive turnout. In 2008, Amendment 2 was a vote to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions in the state. It got 62% but failed to do the job of handing Florida's electoral votes to John McCain. Barack Obama carried the state by about 3 points. Still, Fried thinks it is worth trying, especially given the track record of abortion and marijuana initiatives in other states. She sees the problem as getting young people who could vote but choose not to vote to go to the polls.

Dan Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida who has studied ballot initiatives, doesn't think the initiatives will matter a lot. He thinks that if young voters are "meh" on Joe Biden, the initiatives alone won't motivate them to vote. But he could be wrong. Abortion is an issue that many young voters care passionately about, something that was not true of previous initiatives. (V)

Alito: COTUS Can't Regulate SCOTUS

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill ordering the Supreme Court to adopt a code of ethics. The bill doesn't contain the code, it just orders the Court to write one itself. On Friday, Justice Samuel Alito published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal announcing that Congress has no authority to do any such thing. He claims the separation of powers prevents Congress from telling the Supreme Court what it can and cannot do. End of story. Forget it, Congress, you lose.

Alito, as you may remember, is on the hot seat. He accepted luxury travel from folks who care greatly about what the Court decides and he didn't report any of that on his disclosure form. We're surprised he even bothered to fill out the form at all just because Congress says he has to. He probably filed it in part because he was aware that failure to do so is a violation of federal law, for which he could be indicted and put on trial should the AG so decide (very unlikely though).

Democrats didn't take the op-ed well. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said: "What a surprise, guy who is supposed to enforce checks and balances thinks checks shouldn't apply to him." Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) noted that the financial disclosure form that Alito didn't think was worth filling out completely is due to a law passed by Congress requiring him and the other justices to do so. Compliance with that law is overseen by the Judicial Conference, a body created by Congress by law.

Yesterday, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) took exception to Alito's op-ed. He said of the justices: "They just see themselves as a second legislative body that has just as much power and right to impose their political will on the country, as Congress does."

Others have made the same point. Ilya Somin, a professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, recently wrote: "Congress clearly does have power to regulate the Court in a variety of ways. Congress has power to set the size of the court, establish its pay, determine its staff and budget, and, with some exceptions, set out the scope of its jurisdiction to decide cases. Congress literally wrote the oath that justices take. The start of the Supreme Court term on the first Monday in October? It's a law Congress passed."

But there is more. Since 1948, Congress has required federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, to recuse themselves from cases in which their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. One might think that accepting expensive travel from people with cases before the Court might at least be questioned, but Alito thinks otherwise. Someone should ask him if he thinks Congress has the power to ban justices from taking out-and-out bribes.

Interest in the Supreme Court's ethics has been stimulated by some recent developments, of which Alito's fishing trip with people with business before the Court is only one. Clarence Thomas's buddy-buddy relationship with major Republican donor Harlan Crow is another. Oh, and then there is the matter of Jane Roberts, wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, who earned $10 million from 2007 to 2014 as a recruiter for big law firms. She would go to big law firms and ask them if they wanted her services. They all feared the consequences of saying no, so they hired her to recruit for them, even though all of them know very well which are the top law schools and could just send a recruiter to their campuses every spring. Even Elena Kagan has come under fire, although her transgression was far smaller than the others. She once gave a speech at the Aspen Institute (presumably paid) where members pay $10,000/year to hear important people give speeches. But that is small potatoes compared to what some of the other justices (and their wives) have done. (V)

Mitch Daniels Says No to No Labels

Democrats are worrying themselves silly that the No Labels group, which is funded by dark money millionaires, will put up a candidate who will draw just enough votes away from Joe Biden to elect Donald Trump next year. However, there is one small detail still unanswered (other than where the $70 million, which the group claims, came from): Who will be the candidate? That kind of matters. Joe Manchin is publicly toying with the idea, but Manchin knows he has a decent shot at being reelected to the Senate, where he has real power, but roughly zero chance of being elected president on any third-party ticket. He loves the publicity, but we doubt he will do it. Another potential candidate is former Maryland governor Larry Hogan, who has said he won't do it. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie called it "a fool's errand." Now, former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels has also said he won't run either. He scoffed at the idea. Daniels, who famously avoids labels like "conservative" and "liberal" (though he was elected to office as a Republican), would be a great "No Labels" candidate—except for the fact that he finds the idea absurd.

Another potential candidate is Democrat and former Missouri governor Jay Nixon, who is serving as No Labels' "Director of Ballot Integrity." He said he was drawn to the role when he learned that Democrats were trying to block the group from getting on the ballot in many states. It is aiming at getting on the ballot in 20 states. It is already on the ballot in key swing state Arizona, as well as Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah, none of which are in danger of flipping due to a third party. Would Nixon be willing to run for president? He's not saying, but if he does, it won't be long before we start seeing signs saying: "No more Nixons."

The tricky part for No Labels is finding a high-profile Democrat who is willing to run and who might actually draw some Democratic votes. Plenty of washed-up Republicans are potentially interested, such as former North Carolina governor Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory. But Republicans are not likely to get Democrats to vote for them, which is the goal, after all. So the search will continue for a Democrat who is willing to help defeat Joe Biden and elect Donald Trump. (V)

Disinformationists Will Target Communities of Color in 2024

Disinformation raged through social media during the 2020 election. Facebook ads targeting Latinos and Asian Americans described Joe Biden as a communist. A local station said the cofounder of Black Lives Matters practiced witchcraft. None of these and other lies have any basis in fact, but they roared through communities of color.

Experts expect that disinformation specifically targeted at various communities of color will be enormous in 2024. They say that this represents a huge shift from how disinformation campaigns used to work and that 2020 was only a test run.

In the past, the typical consumer of disinformation was an old white man in a rural area who didn't follow politics much but had strong opinions on political issues. That may change in 2024, where immigrants whose first language is not English will be high on the list of targets. Many of these people come from countries where voting is a sham, if it is done at all, so they may be predisposed to believing wild stories about voting, elections, and candidates.

The purveyors of the disinformation are going to finely tune each message to some group where it could resonate. For example, people from Latin America who are now U.S. citizens could be vulnerable to stories saying that Democrats want to turn the U.S. into countries like the ones they fled. Immigrants from Mainland China or Hong Kong could be swayed by lies about how Joe Biden is a secret communist.

Immigrants who have become U.S. citizens but whose English is weak may rely on translations of instructions on how to register and vote. Bad actors could flood the zone with false information in languages other than English, and this could easily fly under the radar. The information could be spread on WhatsApp or WeChat and easily escape detection by election authorities, who might otherwise try to get correct information out there in multiple languages.

Since Elon Musk fired most of the people who used to work at Twitter, he couldn't police disinformation, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. Whether Threads will police disinformation remains to be seen. Changes to WhatsApp (such as "communities") make it easier to spread disinformation within targeted communities even faster than before. And given the multiple languages used by immigrant communities, fact checking just in English won't be nearly enough. (V)

Republican Megadonor Is Driving the Abortion Amendment in Ohio

New campaign financing records show that one billionaire Republican megadonor, Richard Uihlein, is having a huge influence on the abortion issue in Ohio. And he doesn't even live in Ohio, he lives in Illinois. Uihlein is a major donor to the Issue 1 initiative, which is on the ballot on Aug. 8 in Ohio. If it passes, which Uihlein strongly wants, future initiatives will have to get 60% + 1 votes to pass. The group supporting Issue 1 raised $4.85 million to advertise "Yes on Issue 1." Of that money, $4 million came from Uihlein. If Uihlein had not joined in, the campaign to pass Issue 1 would have been dead in the water.

Uihlein also played a big role in getting Issue 1 on the ballot in the first place. He gave over $1 million to a lobbying group that pressured the state legislature to put Issue 1 on the ballot. He has given a total of $18 million to a Florida group he controls that is dedicated to putting similar measures on the ballot in other states. This whole episode shows what a single Republican billionaire can do to try to overturn the will of the people if he puts his mind (and his checkbook) to it. (V)

Abigail Spanberger Will Run for Governor of Virginia

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) is telling her friends and colleagues that she will run for governor of Virginia in 2025. She has been planning the run for years. Since the gubernatorial election is in Nov. 2025, Spanberger could run for Congress in 2024 and then run for governor while in the House, or resign shortly after the 2024 election. But she is planning to be more upfront with the voters and not run for reelection, rather than run and then resign if she wins.

Democrats are worried about her resignation. Her VA-07 district near the Richmond suburbs is D+1, which means it will be a huge Republican target. Without Spanberger, it could go red, endangering Democrats' chances to take over the House. Democratic leaders want her to announce that she is not running for reelection soon so that there can be a vigorous primary in June 2024 and have the election in a presidential year, rather than having a special election in a very off year (2025).

On the other hand, Democrats also badly want to recapture the Virginia governor's mansion, which Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) will be leaving in Jan. 2026 because governors in Virginia may not serve two consecutive terms. Spanberger is a prodigious fundraiser, and that will come in handy in a statewide race. In the 2022 cycle, she raised an incredible $9 million and has $1.2 million in her campaign account now. Virginia has very lax laws about fundraising and she will no doubt exploit them to the hilt. Primaries on both sides are likely in 2025. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (D), who is Black, will probably run and so will former Virginia House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D), who is white. Seventy-three of the 74 governors of Virginia have been white men. The only exception, Doug Wilder, is Black. Spanberger wants to stop the guys' streak at 74, and Filler-Corn may decide to try it, too.

All in all, Spanberger's plans are a mixed bag for the Democrats. Putting a swing seat in the House in even more danger is obviously not welcome, but having a strong prodigious fundraiser who is also a moderate running for governor of Virginia is definitely a plus. (V)

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