DeSantis encroaches further on Trump’s turf
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
DRIVING THE DAY
DeSANTIS’ FOUR SEASONS FEST — As we wait for RON DeSANTIS to officially join the 2024 fray, he’s adopted a passive-aggressive posture toward his chief rival DONALD TRUMP: Avoid direct confrontation, but strategically pinpoint ways to present himself to Trump’s core supporters as a fresher and more politically viable alternative.
The Florida governor is making headway, at least based on who showed up to a retreat he hosted last night for dozens of party bigwigs at a Four Seasons — four miles down the road from Mar-a-Lago — that was on the aggressive end of the spectrum. The attendees included a number of prominent past supporters of Trump, our Alex Isenstadt reports this morning.
Among those in the room: “Arizona Republican JIM LAMON, a solar energy executive and Trump donor who aggressively aligned himself with the former president during his unsuccessful 2022 Senate bid … [and] ROY BAILEY, a longtime Texas fundraiser who helped lead Trump’s campaign finance committee.”
The retreat also drew several of DeSantis’ fellow governors, including Oklahoma’s KEVIN STITT, “who benefited from a Trump-hosted fundraiser during his reelection bid last year, and Tennessee Gov. BILL LEE, who was also backed by Trump in his 2022 reelection campaign.”
Wisconsin Sen. RON JOHNSON was also on hand and participated in a panel discussion, though a spokesperson said he doesn’t intend to endorse in the primary. “Other attendees spotted in the crowd included Kentucky Rep. THOMAS MASSIE, Texas Rep. CHIP ROY, Utah Sen. MIKE LEE and 2022 Nevada Senate candidate ADAM LAXALT, a longtime DeSantis friend.” Lee was involved in Trump’s effort to overturn the election, according to the Jan. 6 committee report.
WaPo’s dispatch by Hannah Knowles and Josh Dawsey includes a lead quote from DOUG DEASON, a major past Trump supporter from Texas who was with the former president on election night in 2020:
“Most people wish Trump wasn’t running. He’s the best president of our lifetime, but he’s older, and [President JOE] BIDEN’s older … It’s time for a new fresh face and new blood. I think DeSantis would be great,” Ducey said.
The agenda for the event, which Knowles and Dawsey got a look at, was dubbed a “Freedom Blueprint” and featured a list of DeSantis favorites: “‘election integrity,’ border security and ‘medical authoritarianism.’” The discussions, the pair writes, were “designed to showcase DeSantis’s record and show it could be applied nationally.”
The Florida event was just one in a growing list of appearances by DeSantis plainly geared toward a 2024 launch. He’s preparing for a national book tour where he’ll be hitting dozens of cities, and recently ventured into several Democratic-led cities and states to knock the left on crime.
DeSantis’ biggest challenge isn’t with GOP movers and shakers, many or most of whom would love to move on from Trump. The governor needs to show he has the political talent to take on Trump among not just donors and electeds, but voters.
DeSantis’ road trips will give us a chance to see him in action doing retail politics. Though there is high excitement in the party about him, there’s also concern whether he can actually connect emotionally with regular GOP voters, a proven talent of Trump’s.
“People who have met with DeSantis in recent weeks say he remains stilted in one-on-one conversations and sometimes struggles to make small talk or appear enthusiastic while engaging in retail politics critical to winning states such as New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina,” Knowles and Dawsey write.
Related read: “Nikki Haley keeping early 2024 fundraising numbers quiet,” by AP’s Meg Kinnard in Charleston, S.C.: NIKKI HALEY is “running into a possible home state conflict: donors waiting for the anticipated entrance of Sen. TIM SCOTT … [She] hasn’t revealed how much money she’s taken in since her Feb. 15 launch.
“Her campaign told The Associated Press it was ‘enormously pleased with our initial fundraising’ but would wait until [an] April 15 deadline to report a figure for the full first quarter. That’s raising some eyebrows. Campaigns typically use their first receipts as bragging points to show their candidates’ strength.”
Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
UKRAINE INVASION, YEAR TWO BEGINS — As the world recognized the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a shift in how China engages in the conflict could be on the horizon. WSJ’s Michael Gordon and Stephen Fidler report that China is weighing sending drones and ammunition to Russia to aid in the continued invasion.
The two write that “no weapons deliveries have yet taken place. But, if China were to go ahead and deliver lethal aid to Russia, the resulting tensions could shape Western relations with Beijing for years and potentially have profound consequences on the battlefield in Ukraine, at a point when both sides are gearing up for a spring offensive.”
The possible decision is exactly the type of thing the U.S. government has been warning against in recent weeks, with Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN saying China is considering providing “lethal support” to Russia.
Yesterday, Biden met with G-7 leaders for about 90 minutes to talk about the continued coordinated fight against Russia’s invasion into Ukraine, including another round of sanctions against the latter and $2 billion in aid for the former.
CBS’ Kathryn Watson writes that the sanctions hit “key revenue-generating sectors, including more than 200 people and entities, the White House says. That includes both Russian and third-country actors across the globe who are helping Russia evade sanctions. The sanctions target a dozen Russian financial institutions and actors helping Russia’s defense and technology industry.”
Our Steven Overly adds that the efforts to stop Russia included “a slate of new rules seeking to cut off Moscow’s access to even low-level microchips found in basic electronics.”
And Blinken will seek to isolate Russia and build support for Ukraine at stops in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and India next week, Bloomberg’s Iain Marlow reports.
But, but, but:Biden repeated what he’s said for weeks to ABC’s David Muir that for now, he’s ruling out sending F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
The Biden administration’s efforts to boost Ukraine got a strong show of support yesterday from Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL, who said in a statement that Western countries “need to finish waking up from our holiday from history,” per WaPo.
McConnell’s fight against the Ukraine-skeptical wing of the GOP was echoed by former VP MIKE PENCE, who’s drawing a sharper contrast with other possible 2024 contenders on the issue. “While some in my party have taken a somewhat different view, let me be clear: There can be no room in the leadership of the Republican Party for apologists for [VLADIMIR] PUTIN,” he said yesterday, per CBS.
BIDEN’S SATURDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SATURDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US
1. STUNNING STORY OF THE DAY: “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.,” by NYT’s Hannah Dreier, reporting from seven different states: “This shadow work force extends across industries in every state, flouting child labor laws that have been in place for nearly a century. Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina. Children sawing planks of wood on overnight shifts in South Dakota. Largely from Central America, the children are driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021.”
2. U.S. SOUNDS THE CHINA-RUSSIA ALARM: As the U.S. steps up its efforts to dissuade China from providing heavier support to Russia in Ukraine, it’s sending increasingly public warnings to Beijing. The latest: WSJ’s Michael Gordon and Stephen Fidler scooped that U.S. officials think China is weighing drone and artillery deliveries to Moscow, belying China’s public calls for peace in Ukraine. The Biden administration may declassify some of this intelligence to share it around the world. Biden told ABC’s David Muir that the U.S. “would respond” if China went there. But perhaps trying to manifest the opposite, he said, “I don’t anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to Russia.”
3. CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: “Trump works state-by-state to improve chances at Republican convention,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Maeve Reston: “Trump’s team has launched a nationwide campaign to buttress his chances of getting sympathetic delegates at next year’s nominating convention and identify opportunities to shape party rules that could help his campaign … Trump advisers say the outreach is less about demanding changes now and more about cultivating relationships for the upcoming months — when they could call for some rule changes in states and try to shape who the delegates are for the convention.”
4. PALACE INTRIGUE: “Top labor official, union leader among contenders for Labor secretary,” by WaPo’s Lauren Kaori Gurley and Jeff Stein: “The White House is vetting top labor official JULIE SU and the president of the country’s largest flight attendants’ union, SARA NELSON, to lead the Department of Labor … Leaders of the organized labor movement have also recommended the outgoing executive director of the National Football League’s union, DeMAURICE SMITH.”
5. WAKING UP IN VEGAS: “Sanders supporters took over the Nevada Democratic Party. It’s not going well,” by Holly Otterbein: “JUDITH WHITMER, the insurgent party chair who wrested control of the party from mainstream Democrats, is facing a challenge in her reelection campaign next month amid doubts from her own former supporters and accusations that she abandoned her progressive principles. And even key figures in Bernie world — including [Sen. BERNIE] SANDERS himself — say they are unhappy and embittered by what’s transpired.”
6. 2024 SLEEPER: “Asa Hutchinson bets on boring,” by Semafor’s Dave Weigel in Tucson, Ariz.: “As they enter the race, Republicans keep getting asked where they differ from Donald Trump, and saying little in response. Even as a rare Republican willing to call out Trump’s election denialism, [ASA] HUTCHINSON seems to be running into the same problem, pitching himself as the superior choice on an absolute core Trump issue — border security — without explaining where Trump went wrong. … Hutchinson and other 2024 names seem to hope voters will reward them for their quiet competence and long resumes.”
7. HE’S RUNNING: “Biden ready to run, U.S. first lady says,” by AP’s Darlene Superville in Nairobi, Kenya: “U.S. first lady JILL BIDEN gave one of the clearest indications yet that President Joe Biden will run for a second term, telling The Associated Press in an exclusive interview on Friday that there’s ‘pretty much’ nothing left to do but figure out the time and place for the announcement. … ‘How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?’ the first lady said.”
8. PARRYING PERRY: “Judge rejected Perry’s bid to shield thousands of emails from Jan. 6 investigators,” by Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein: “U.S. District Court Chief Judge BERYL HOWELL unsealed her extraordinary Dec. 28 decision on Friday evening, determining that the ‘powerful public interest’ in seeing the previously secret opinion outweighed the need for continued secrecy. … Howell said [Rep. SCOTT] PERRY had taken an ‘astonishing view’ of his immunity that would effectively put members of Congress above the law and free of political consequences for their actions.”
9. BIG ABORTION LAWSUITS: A dozen Democratic-led states sued the FDA yesterday to try to unwind some federal restrictions on mifepristone, an abortion pill that they called unnecessarily over-regulated, per the WSJ. Meanwhile, the White House is steeling for a potential ruling from a Texas judge that could block access to mifepristone across the country if he finds that the FDA wrongly approved it decades ago, AP’s Amanda Seitz reports.
And WaPo’s Caroline Kitchener and Ann Marimow this morning have a profile of the judge, MATTHEW KACSMARYK, from Abilene, where they talked to 20 people who know the federal judge. “What emerges is a portrait of a religious conservative who is widely regarded as a thorough and analytical legal thinker but who also comes to his judicial work with a long history of activism rooted in his religious beliefs. This account includes previously unreported details about the nature and strength of his antiabortion convictions.”
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 15 funnies
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:
— “Crime of the Centuries,” by Greg Donahue in N.Y. Mag: “Tomb raiders, crooked art dealers, and museum curators fed Michael Steinhardt’s addiction to antiquities. Many were also stolen.”
— “One Year Inside a Radical New Approach to America’s Overdose Crisis,” by NYT’s Jeneen Interlandi
— “The Autocrat Next Door,” by The Atlantic’s David Frum: “Liberal democracy in Mexico is under assault. Worse, the attacker is the country’s own president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”
— “‘One billionaire at a time’: inside the Swiss clinics where the super-rich go for rehab,” by Sophie Elmhirst in The Guardian: “For the ultra-wealthy and the super-famous, regular therapy won’t do.”
— “Death on a Dairy Farm,” by ProPublica’s Melissa Sanchez and Maryam Jameel: “When an 8-year-old Nicaraguan boy was run over on a Wisconsin dairy farm, authorities blamed his father and closed the case. Meanwhile, the community of immigrant workers knows a completely different story.”
— “After You Die, Monica Torres Can Bring Life Back To Your Body,” by Eleanor Cummins in Popular Mechanics: “The groundbreaking mortician is pioneering new techniques to restore the dead and provide closure to grieving families.”
— “We’re All Living Under Gravity’s Rainbow,” by John Semley in Wired: “Looming apocalypse. Paranoid conspiracies. Rocket-obsessed oligarchs. As Thomas Pynchon’s novel turns 50, its world feels unnervingly present.”
Mike Pence is skipping CPAC.
Elon Musk indirectly killed Politiwoops.
Tulsi Gabbard went too far for Jesse Watters.
Jenna Ellis is in danger of an ethics complaint in Colorado.
IN MEMORIAM — “Former U.S. Senator James Abourezk dies at 92,” by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader’s Dominik Dausch: “Abourezk’s major political accomplishments include writing and having successfully passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. The Indian Child Welfare Act … is often considered one of his capstone achievements as a legislator. … Being the first U.S. Senator of Lebanese descent made Abourezk a maverick for Arab Americans.”
— “Former U.S. Rep. John Olver, who represented Western Massachusetts, is remembered as ‘a humble public servant,’” by The Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem and Amanda Burke: “Olver, a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1991 … He represented the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts until he retired in 2013. … A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he backed health care reform and opposed the war in Iraq.”
— “Zandra Flemister, first Black woman in Secret Service, dies at 71,” by WaPo’s Emily Langer: “Hired as a special agent in 1974, she was hailed as ‘a trailblazer’ at the agency. But discrimination led her to leave for a career in the State Department.”
OUT AND ABOUT — SPOTTED at Breitbart editor Emma-Jo Morris’ birthday party at the Beach Club in NYC: Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) showing off his Cartier Santos watch, Vish Burra, Jon Levine, Kelly Jane Torrance, Skye Ostreicher, Shawn McCreesh and Miranda Devine. She was turning 30 but the balloons said 25, per her demand.
WHITE HOUSE DEPARTURE LOUNGE — Lise Clavel, deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser for migration, and Leidy Perez-Davis, special assistant to the president for immigration, will leave their roles in the coming months, Myah Ward reports.
TRANSITIONS — Helen Zhang is now director of the International Strategy Forum at Schmidt Futures. She previously was a global public policy manager for Google Search and is co-founder of Intrigue Media. … Nicole Peckumn is now chief of staff for acting D.C. Deputy Mayor Lindsey Appiah. She previously was assistant director of public affairs at ICE. … Matt Krack has been named state press secretary for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.). He previously was press secretary at Fair Fight and surrogates manager for Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign. …
… Jess Ellis is now a senior specialist at VDX.tv. She most recently was a principal at Mothership Strategies. … Katie Corr will be a legislative representative at the American Public Transportation Association. She previously was a legislative aide for Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). … Piper Stephens is now press assistant for Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). She previously was a staff assistant.
ENGAGED — David Schacht, manager in business transformation at EY, recently proposed to Celia Glassman, assistant director of legislative and regulatory policy at EY and a Marco Rubio and Jim Risch alum. He proposed by singing her their song (“I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz) in their Georgetown backyard with all her friends there, followed by a celebration at the Georgetown Ritz Carlton bar. The couple met in July 2020 on a dating app. Pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Darren Soto (D-Fla.) … U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides … U.S. Chamber’s Andrew Burk … Bridgett Frey … Tim Berry … Dan Riordan … NFL’s Jonathan Nabavi … Mini Timmaraju … Valerie Chicola … Anna Albert … POLITICO’s Matt Dixon and Joseph Gedeon … Charles Faulkner … Mona Charen … Tyler Houlton … Greg Crist … former Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-Fla.) … Gina Kolata … Bob Schieffer … CNN’s Hadas Gold … Jack Burns (8)
THE SHOWS(Full Sunday show listings here):
CBS “Face the Nation”: CIA Director William Burns … Condoleezza Rice … Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) … Drew Findling and Jennifer Little.
Fox News “Sunday Morning Futures”: Nikki Haley … Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) … Reza Pahlavi.
CNN “State of the Union”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Panel: Nina Turner, Kristen Soltis Anderson, Jeff Nussbaum and David Urban.
ABC “This Week”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas). Panel: Chris Christie, Donna Brazile, Terry Moran and Asma Khalid.
FOX “Fox News Sunday”: Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) … Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) … William Hennessy Jr. Panel: Mo Elleithee, Josh Kraushaar, Beverly Hallberg and Jeff Roe.
CNN “Fareed Zakaria GPS”: USAID Administrator Samantha Power and national security adviser Jake Sullivan … Lawrence Summers … Valerie Hopkins.
MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) … Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) … Howard Dean … Kevin Baron.
NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) … national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Panel: Jonathan Alter, Al Cardenas, Tamara Keith and Kristen Welker.
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