Don versus Ron

Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis have been on a collision course for some time now. DeSantis is the only potential candidate other than the former president who registers a blip on the radar when Republicans are asked who they want to run in 2024.

Unlike other leading Republicans, the Florida governor hasn’t ruled out running against Trump. And this is what has the former president so irked. Trump refers to that promise, an associate tells the New York Times, as “the magic words.” In another juicy report on the feud, Axios’s Jonathan Swan quotes one Mar-a-Lago insider who says that Trump can’t resist giving DeSantis a “pop in the nose” when he is talking about 2024. “He says DeSantis has no personal charisma and has a dull personality,” the source tells Swan.

The emerging battle between Don and Ron is intriguing for a few reasons besides the high stakes of presidential jockeying. Most obviously, DeSantis is a politician built up by — and in the mold of — the former president. The transformation from apprentice to rival was not going to be smooth. And so it has proved.

The showdown would also pit arguably the biggest winner from the pandemic against its highest profile political casualty. And so perhaps it is no surprise that Covid is where the substantive fault line between the two Floridians is most visible.

In an interview on the Ruthless podcast last week, DeSantis said one of his biggest regrets was not speaking out “much louder” against Trump’s March 2020 advice to Americans to stay home and slow the spread.

Meanwhile, Trump has taken a strikingly pro-vaccine line of late, encouraging his supporters to get vaxxed and boosted and deriding DeSantis for his reluctance to reveal whether or not he had received a third dose.

The venue for DeSantis’s lockdown comments, on a podcast co-hosted by former Mitch McConnell advisor Josh Holmes, has also caused Trump to suspect the hand of the Machiavellian Senate minority leader in the DeSantis intervention.

“I like Josh. Josh is great. But he’s a wholly owned subsidiary of McConnell World. And there’s no way you can tell me that this was all a coincidence,” a top Trump adviser told NBC.

A little paranoid, perhaps. But a taste of the distrust and sniping that will define a battle for control of the Republican Party.

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Where do Democrats go next?

As you may have heard, things aren’t going especially well for Joe Biden on the legislative front. With Democrats lowering their expectations, the question is what, if anything, they can get through Congress. Here are three suggestions as to how to proceed.

First, work with Republicans to reform the Electoral Count Act. There is an encouragingly large cohort of moderates from both parties working on changes to the law that would clear up some of the ambiguity as to the certification of election results that helped make the road from November 2020 to January 2021 so bumpy.

Second, rather than forcing hopeless votes designed to embarrass your own senators, find areas of common ground, on trade or China for example, where you can build bipartisan coalitions on issues that matter to Americans. Not only will this help navigate the razor-thin margins that exist on the Hill, it would set the tone for the next few years, given that it seems unlikely that Democrats will hold onto the House and the Senate in November’s midterms.

Third, stop bullying Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. If Democrats want any kind of pared back Build Back Better bill, they need their support. They should remember that the next time they compare them to segregationists.

Conservative revolution 2.0

There isn’t exactly a shortage of concerning indicators for Democrats ahead of the midterms. The latest comes courtesy of Gallup polling that shows a large shift in party political preference over the last 12 months. At the start of 2021, 49 percent of Gallup respondents said they were either Democrats or leaned toward the Democratic Party. By the end of the year, the number had fallen to 42 percent. The equivalent figure for Republicans rose from 40 percent to 47 percent over the same period. In twelve months, a nine-point Democratic advantage became a five-point Republican edge.

According to Gallup, the Republicans have only held a lead that big in five quarters since 1991. And the last time it was this big? In 1995, just after the party recaptured the House of Representatives for the first time in nearly half a century.

What you should be reading today

Micah Mattix: Writing and the conservative impulse
Will Collins: The evidence is in, remote learning doesn’t work
Jake Wallis Simons: The Iran nuclear talks are on the brink of collapse
Dominic Green, Wall Street Journal: Anti-Semitism and double standards
Chang Che, Sup China: China looks to the Western classics
David Siders, Politico: Kristi Noem is on a political rocket ship. Don’t rule out a crash

Poll watch

President Biden Job Approval
Approve: 41.7 percent
Disapprove: 52.4 percent
Net approval: -10.7 (RCP Average)

Percentage of Americans who say it is very important that couples with children together legally marry
2006: 49 percent
2013: 38 percent
2022: 29 percent (Gallup)

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