This article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here.

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

In this new poll of Utah Republicans, former President Donald Trump still leads — but now Nikki Haley is tied with Ron DeSantis for second place. Haley, the biggest riser since last month, has four months until Super Tuesday to make her case to Utah voters.

Here’s the latest from the Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage:

The Big Idea

Why we interviewed RFK Jr.

I spent Monday at Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s home in Los Angeles. I met his dogs and toured his sprawling backyard. I spent nearly an hour in his study, quizzing him on the things our readers said they want to know about him: his stances on abortion and immigration, his faith, his approach to campaigning in the West.

You can read the full interview online here or in this weekend’s print edition of the Deseret News.

One of the more frequent questions I’ve received from readers: Why?

Why would we spill ink on a candidate who has made controversial claims on vaccines and antidepressants and said that the 2004 election was stolen? Why platform a man whose candidacy his own siblings have called “perilous to our country”?

The reason is simple. Kennedy is currently running an all-out operation to get on the ballot across the country. Chances are he’ll be one of the options to choose from in November 2024, alongside President Joe Biden and the Republican nominee, likely Trump.

Since our first edition of this newsletter, we’ve promised to bring our readers the “most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision.”

If Trump were to give us an interview, we’d gladly accept — and ask him the questions that are of most interest to our readers, and that other news publications aren’t focused on. We’d do the same with Biden or Haley or DeSantis. (It’s worth noting that interviews are in the works with some of these candidates, we’ve tried with the others, and we’ve gotten access to a number of other 2024 hopefuls.)

Interviewing Kennedy does not equate to endorsing Kennedy. The Deseret News has a strict no-endorsement policy, and we will not be throwing our weight behind a candidate in the 2024 race. It’s worth noting that my editorial board has repeatedly written in favor of vaccines and against election fraud claims, among other issues.

In the limited time I had with Kennedy, I chose to focus on the questions that would matter most to our readers and weren’t being asked by other news outlets. I pressed him on abortion — he walked back his previous support of a federal ban after the first trimester — and asked if he’d accept endorsements from right-wing provocateurs like Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones and Steve Bannon — he said he’d welcome “anybody’s endorsement.”

I asked him which issues he thinks voters in the West care about most — he said immigration, affordable housing and water — and how he intends to address them. I asked if Donald Trump Jr.’s assessment of his campaign — that it’s a “Democrat plant” to hurt Trump — is true. “If the Democratic Party has a plan, they have not contacted me,” he said.

As always, my inbox is open for comments or critiques — or things to ask the next time we have a sit-down: onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Ad of the week

Nikki Haley released a new ad attacking DeSantis this week, saying he’s “lying because he’s losing.”

In polls across the country, including in Utah, Haley is challenging DeSantis for the No. 2 spot in a crowded GOP primary field. But both candidates trail Trump by a wide margin, and the strategy of punching to the side — instead of punching up — may not be effective for long.

Weekend reads

The door-to-door missionaries winning souls ... against Trump: A group is going door-to-door through central Iowa, encouraging voters to support someone, anyone, except former President Donald Trump. The conservative group, AFP Action, has an elaborate, high-tech approach: They follow a mobile app that targets specific homes, follow a script, and track voters’ progress online. The goal? Find “soft” Trump voters — those who say they support Trump but might be open to others — and convince them to choose someone else. Inside the last-chance effort to sell Republicans on anyone but Trump (Shelby Talcott, Semafor)

Yes, Doug Burgum is still campaigning: And no, he’s giving no hint of dropping out soon. The North Dakota Republican has used his own personal fortune to fund his presidential campaign, and he’s still on the stump in Iowa and New Hampshire, making the case for his old-school-yet-forward-thinking conservatism. He’s a tech millionaire (perhaps billionaire) from a deep red state, and cruised to reelection for governor. But he’s failed to garner much support in a crowded GOP presidential field. Does he have any air left? Mr. One Percent (John Hendrickson, The Atlantic)

A tale of two septuagenarians: Poll after poll show increasing concern about Biden’s age and his capacity to complete another term. Trump has turned it into a frequent line of attack, hounding Biden over each of his gaffes and blunders saying they were signs of senility. But Trump, 77, isn’t getting any younger, either — and Biden, 80, has begun to use Trump’s own missteps as a campaign tactic, too. Voters are skeptical of Biden’s age. But Trump’s notable flubs risk drawing unwelcome attention, too (Will Weissert and Jill Colvin, The Associated Press)

Friday mailbag

Have a question for next week’s mailbag? Drop me a line at onthetrail@deseretnews.com, or reply to this email.

Today’s question comes from reader Richard N.:

Would term limits help us improve the character and function of Congress? I’m a former congressional staffer, worked there in the 1980s, and it seems like the only priority of members of Congress today is reelection. If we take away that incentive, would they be more likely to actually do something?

A good question. First, a note where the candidates sit: Most Republican presidential hopefuls, including all of the front-runners, are in favor of term limits for Congress. Trump and DeSantis think installing limits will “drain the swamp” in Washington. Haley says the Senate is “the most privileged nursing home in the country.” Biden, however — who spent nearly four decades in the U.S. Senate — has historically opposed term limits.

About your assertion that members of Congress are hyperfocused on reelection: There’s some evidence for this. The new Mitt Romney biography includes a number of damning anecdotes, including this one, shortly after Romney reached the Senate:

One of his new colleagues even told him that the first consideration when voting on any bill should be “Will this help me win reelection?” (The second and third considerations, the colleague continued, should be what effect it would have on his constituents and on his state, the senator continued.)

Later, Romney’s view, as told to biographer McKay Coppins:

“I have come to recognize that the overwhelming consideration in how people vote is whether it will help or hurt their reelection prospects,” he’d tell me later. “Amazing that a democracy can function like this.”

The idea of term limits has bipartisan support. Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have come out in favor. A Democratic congressman introduced a term limit bill in September. The argument is that imposing a strict end date for lawmakers’ service would keep them from constantly seeking reelection and allow them to focus on legislating.

But opponents to term limits make a good case, too. Imposing limits would take some authority away from voters in deciding who does and doesn’t represent them. It would also impact “bad” and “good” lawmakers equally — so while the show ponies would get the boot after two or three terms, so would the policy wonks and dealmakers. And opportunities for lawmakers to develop real expertise in certain areas — a necessity for effective legislation — could be shortchanged.

There are arguments worth considering on both sides. My editor has informed me I’ve reached my term word limit. 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.