Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.
The big weekend news: Sen. Tim Scott is dropping out of the race, announcing Sunday that he would be suspending his campaign immediately. The announcement came seemingly out of nowhere, and many of his own campaign staffers learned of his decision in real-time while watching Scott’s announcement on live television, Politico reports.
Here’s more of the Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage:
- Vivek Ramaswamy wants to build a border wall between U.S. and Canada ... and make Central America pay for it
- Who’s at fault for Republicans’ struggles: Ronna McDaniel or Donald Trump — or neither?
- Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet in California this week
- A Romney/Manchin presidential ticket? There’s a new group that says the ‘political heavyweights’ can win the White House
The Big Idea
No, Jon Huntsman isn’t running for president
Most Americans don’t want a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024. Poll after poll say so. Jon Huntsman Jr., a former presidential candidate himself, says so, too — as he puts it, the choice is between an “octogenarian” and a candidate who’s likely “off to prison.” Earlier this year, he called a Biden-Trump rerun “insanity.”
I joined Huntsman for last week’s Republican presidential debate. We had a freewheeling conversation about the current candidates, China, Russia, antisemitism and much more. (Read more about Huntsman’s thoughts on the debate here, and watch our video coverage here.) His wife, Mary Kaye, joined us; both expressed real relief that their campaigning days are behind them. Jon lamented the “months and months of agony and preparation”; Mary Kaye said she has “such respect” for the families going through a “grueling” process.
All fair. But I had to ask: Does Huntsman have another run for public office in him?
“Unlikely,” he said.
He has no plans to run for Sen. Mitt Romney’s Senate seat, he added. The Huntsmans now have nine grandchildren, and the constant back-and-forth between Washington and home would be too much. And in a dysfunctional Congress, the possibility of doing meaningful work seems slim. “What can you get done as a junior senator?” he asked. “You’re one of a hundred. I mean, what has Romney done, beside his rhetorical attacks on Trump?” (Romney, in response, might point to a number of key pieces of legislation during his five years in the Senate, including a major infrastructure bill and pandemic-era relief funding.)
But what about a run for president, either as an independent or on a third-party ticket? Ever since July, when Huntsman appeared at a No Labels event with Sen. Joe Manchin, national pundits have quietly hummed about a potential Huntsman-Manchin spoiler ticket. And now that Manchin, as of Thursday, will not be seeking another term in the Senate, speculation about Manchin’s presidential ambitions are running amuck.
Huntsman seemed unenthused by the idea, and gave me a similar answer to what he told reporters in July: he has no plans to run.
The purpose of the July event was misunderstood, he told me. A decade ago, Huntsman and Manchin were named No Labels’ first honorary co-chairs. The organization was geared toward bipartisan dealmaking and launching a new “Problem Solvers” caucus in the U.S. House. But Huntsman has not been formally affiliated with No Labels for several years. When Manchin pitched Huntsman earlier this year on coming to New Hampshire and hosting a town hall, marking the 10-year anniversary of No Labels, Huntsman obliged.
No Labels plans to run a third-party candidate in the 2024 race, and national media covered the Huntsman-Manchin event in that light. Rumors that Huntsman and Manchin were soft-launching a presidential campaign began flying. As we spoke, Huntsman seemed perturbed by the rumors. Truth be told, Huntsman seems skeptical of a third-party candidate gaining any traction, and though he’s unenthused by a Biden-Trump rematch, he didn’t say who he’ll support in 2024.
He has a point. The No Labels calculus — essentially banking on an alternate candidate winning enough states to keep the major-party candidates from winning a plurality, and sending the decision to the House of Representatives — is risky.
As of now, No Labels will gather at its convention in April to nominate a presidential candidate. Just don’t count on it being Huntsman.
A new study presents a surprising 2024 outcome: Trump is pacing to beat Biden in the Electoral College, 292 to 246, while Biden wins the popular vote, 49% to 48%.
It’s the inverse of the past several election cycles — Democrats have won the popular vote in all four elections since 2008, but Trump won the Electoral College in 2016.
The Stack Data Strategy study is based on a poll of 15,000 Americans. They created a slick data dashboard with their findings, which contains some interesting findings in Utah: Trump is projected to win the Beehive State in a head-to-head matchup with Biden, 60% to 33%, but with independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on the ballot, Biden is hurt more than Trump.
What I’m reading
Support for Trump is climbing among GOP county chairs across the U.S., a sign that he may stroll to victory after victory in state primaries this winter. Surveying county chairs is a good measure of grassroots support in local parties — they’re extremely active and they hold sway at the voter level, but they’re not “party elites.” I’ve been following the University of Denver’s survey for months now — we replicated it with Utah’s county chairs in March — and this is the best news yet for the Trump campaign. A Potentially Decisive Turn in the 2024 Campaign (Seth Masket, Politico)
Now that Tim Scott is out of the race, other GOP candidates — especially Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis — are vying for support from his backers. Scott has said that he won’t make an endorsement at this time, but that doesn’t mean his donors and supporters aren’t looking for a new candidate. And perhaps even more notably, now that Scott dropped out, the two favorites of conservative evangelical Christians — Scott and former president Mike Pence — are out of the race, providing the other candidates leverage in courting a demographic that make up a plurality of voters in the Iowa and South Carolina primaries. Trump, DeSantis or Haley: Who benefits as Tim Scott drops out of the 2024 GOP presidential race? (Paul Steinhauser, Fox News)
I’ve read nothing so heart-wrenching, yet so beautiful, about the Israel-Hamas war than this essay from my colleague and friend, Mya Jaradat. She’s a Jewish Israeli who was married to a Palestinian man. I’ll let her take it from here — my words cannot do justice to her moving, harrowing experience over the past five weeks: I’m Israeli, my ex-husband is Palestinian – and our union has never been stronger (Mya Guarnieri, The Guardian)
Have a question for next week’s mailbag? Drop me a line at email@example.com, or reply to this email.
See you on the trail.
Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.