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 case you missed it: Republican presidential long shot Larry Elder told us this week that Vivek Ramaswamy — who stole the spotlight at last week’s debate — stole one of Elder’s lines without attribution. Also, a new poll of Utah GOP voters shows both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis slipping in the state.

Consider this newsletter to be your formal welcome-back-to-school notice — featuring an inside look at a parents’ rights group with an outsized influence on classrooms and presidential candidates alike.

The Big Idea

Meet ‘Moms for Liberty,’ the new GOP kingmakers

During my commute to work this week, I drove past a long line of children piling into a school bus. ’Tis the season. Parents know the feeling. Presidential candidates do, too — or so they say.

Weaving education policy into stump speeches has become common practice for this election cycle’s crop of candidates. DeSantis blasts “woke indoctrination”; Scott pushes for school choice; Ramaswamy vows to empower parents by shutting down the Education Department altogether. Yet most of the leading candidates have found allies in a new, powerful group of mothers, whose grassroots organization is one of the key powerbrokers in the 2024 race.

Moms for Liberty” was formed by a group of local school board members during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were concerned with how schools dealt with vaccination, masks and social distancing; now, they’re geared toward training women to run for school boards and on how topics like race, sexuality and gender identity are taught in the classroom.

Tim Scott hosted an event with Moms for Liberty in South Carolina this week, where he rolled out his new education plan. Nikki Haley travels to New Hampshire next week for her own event with co-founder Tiffany Justice. And three other candidates — DeSantis, Trump and Asa Hutchinson — joined Haley and Scott at the Moms for Liberty annual summit in Philadelphia earlier this summer.

Related
Who are the ‘joyful warriors’ of Moms for Liberty?
Q&A: The co-founder of Moms for Liberty, in her own words

As candidates stump on parents’ rights and school choice, Moms for Liberty has become an important ally. The group has fought instruction in schools that it deems “inappropriate” for young children. All parents should have a right to know what and how their child is being taught, they say. “Government schools don’t know their place,” Justice told the Deseret News. “They have encroached upon parental rights, our rights as parents, and now we are redrawing the boundary.”

Such an approach has gained them praise from the right and vitriol from the left, with some going as far as saying that the group’s stance on LGBTQ and racism in the classroom classifies it as an “extremist group.”

“If it’s a ‘hate group,’ add me to the list,” Haley told Fox News.

Don’t expect the group to endorse a candidate — “We endorse only for school board races,” Justice said. But that doesn’t make them any less influential. Issues over parents’ rights are taking center stage this year, with cases in the New Hampshire Supreme Court and the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals pitting school districts against parents who want a larger say in what their children are taught.

Read more about the presidential race’s arrival in the classroom here.

Related
The GOP presidential race reaches the classroom as candidates speak out on parents’ rights, school choice

The latest from Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage

Poll pulse

Two interesting polls to share: one about the quality of K-12 education, and another about whether Biden is too old to run for reelection.

Education. Americans’ satisfaction with the quality of K-12 education is at a record low, a new Gallup poll suggests. Only 36% of Americans say they are somewhat or completely satisfied with American education, and for Republicans, that number is even lower: 25%.

However, parents of current K-12 students are much more satisfied, on average, than the American populace writ large; 76% of those who currently have a child in K-12 are satisfied with that child’s quality of education.

Biden. A whopping 77% of American adults think Biden is too old to serve another term as U.S. president, according to a new AP poll. That includes 69% of Democrats.

By contrast, 51% think Trump is too old for reelection.

Biden is 80 years old. Trump is 77.

The poll comes days after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell froze up during a press conference, raising fresh concerns about his health.

Weekend reads

  • An insightful column on the parenting divide in America, claiming liberals and conservatives “aren’t arguing over matters of mere prudence anymore but over deep and divisive principles.” It’s an unhealthy dynamic, Michael Brendan Dougherty argues, and we need to find a way out — “because if there is one thing I know, it’s that parents will fight for their children unto the last breath.” “Two American Childhoods” (Dougherty, National Review).
  • President Joe Biden is a storyteller. During a recent visit to Utah, he shared anecdotes about his relationships with Jake Garn, Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney. In Hawaii, he spoke about surviving a house fire. He speaks often about his childhood and his early adulthood. But are all of those stories accurate? “Biden loves to retell certain stories. Some aren’t credible” (Glenn Kessler, The Washington Post).
  • And lastly, a fitting read for a long Labor Day weekend: “Why a Big Union Is Snubbing Biden, Doing Industry’s Dirty Work and Creating an Opening for Trump” (Jamie Lincoln Kitman, Politico).

Friday mailbag

Have a question you’d like me to answer in next Friday’s newsletter? Send it along to onthetrail@deseretnews.com. Let’s talk policy, polling, candidates ... anything election-related.

Our most frequent question this week had less to do with the race and more to do with our coverage of it. This is our first Friday mailbag, so why not.

I heard several variations of: How will Deseret’s coverage of the 2024 presidential election be any different from other publications? Also: Is the focus going to be on horse-race coverage, or more about issues and character/fitness for office?

A great question. The first place I point readers is Deseret’s mission statement: to be “trusted voices of light and knowledge.” We hope this informs all of our reporting.

Ours will not be “horse-race” reporting, where we’re obsessed with polls or sound bites. Instead, we’ll prioritize the issues that are important to our readers and coincide with our mission — like faith, family, immigration, education, civility and protecting democracy.

Here are a few examples of how we’ve done this already:

That said, we’re doing this for our readers — so if you ever feel that our coverage leaves you wanting or doesn’t live up to our mission statement, my inbox is always open (onthetrail@deseretnews.com). I’d love to hear what issues you want us to cover or the questions you want us to ask candidates.

See you on the trail.

Samuel

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.