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Good morning, friends.

3 things to know

  1. Do you know John Stockton? Think again. The NBA Hall of Famer has entered the political arena, toying with a gubernatorial run and endorsing RFK Jr. for president. I went to Spokane to make sense of it all, and I found a man with deep concerns — and real discomfort with his new persona. Read more here.
  2. Trump got a big break Monday, when a New York appeals court more than halved the bond amount he was set to pay. Instead of owing $454 million related to his hush-money criminal case, Trump only has to put up $175 million within the next week and a half. More here.
  3. NBC is in hot water after hiring an ex-Republican National Committee chair. But Ronna McDaniel’s leadership during a string of sound electoral defeats for the GOP isn’t the issue — it’s her refusal to condemn Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen. By mid-morning Tuesday, rumors swirled that McDaniel’s contract would be terminated. More here.

The Big Idea

Breaking up with Trump

It started with last week’s monumental news. Mike Pence, Trump’s former right-hand man — his loyal vice president, his apologist, his chief rationalizer — announced he wouldn’t be supporting Trump this November.

Yes, that Mike Pence — the one who Mitt Romney once described as “more loyal, more willing to smile when he saw absurdities, more willing to ascribe God’s will to things that were ungodly” than anyone else.

Pence’s relationship with Trump soured after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, when Trump repeatedly pushed Pence to overturn the election — an action that Pence refused to do. But Pence’s decision not to endorse went beyond “our difference on my constitutional duties that I exercised on January the 6th,” Pence said on Fox News. This is the same Pence who ran a short-lived presidential campaign touting the successes of the Trump-Pence administration; at the first GOP debate in August, when asked if he would still support Trump even if the former president is a convicted criminal, Pence nodded.

The change has come more recently as Pence has watched Trump’s campaign unfold. Pence’s criticisms hone in on several issues, from Trump’s position on spending (”I’ve seen him walking away from our commitment to confronting the national debt”) to abortion (”I have seen him starting to shy away from a commitment to the sanctity of human life”) to foreign policy (”his reversal on getting tough on China”).

The Pence news is notable on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the people who agree with Pence. Per my count, the only living Republican nominee for president or vice president who plans to support Trump this fall is Sarah Palin. The 2012 ticket — Romney and Paul Ryan — are both outspoken critics. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, too. Now Pence joins their ranks.

The simple explanation is that Trump has reshaped the GOP, and the leaders of yesteryear — even the party’s ex-flagbearers — no longer have a home there. I don’t dispute this assessment. But as much as Trump cheers the expulsion of Romney-types from the party, he has to face the consequences. For now, that takes the shape of 15% or more of Republicans voting against Trump in primaries across the country, even after all of his opponents dropped out.

Much ado — Trump still secured the nomination. Come November, that could become much more costly.

Enter “Republican Voters Against Trump,” a new $50 million media blitz elevating testimonials of ex-Trump supporters who will not support him this fall. It’s the latest offering from the Republican Accountability Project, a super PAC formed by a handful of never-Trump conservatives like Bill Kristol and Sarah Longwell. In 2021, they launched Republicans for Voting Rights; last year, it was Republicans for Ukraine. Now, the newest offering attempts to “establish a permission structure” for Trump supporters to ditch him — by platforming the voices of ex-Trump supporters who’ve ditched him.

Between now and November, the group will publish ads on every conceivable medium — digital, TV, radio, streaming, billboards — in swing states across the country. Each ad features several voters who’ve filmed themselves offering a testimonial of why they once supported Trump and why they won’t again.

One of those voters is Sam Jardine, a student at Brigham Young University. He considers himself to be a conservative Republican, and he voted for Trump in 2020. “I don’t even regret that, because I still feel like a lot of the policies that he advocated for and that he was able to pass were representative of my political views,” Jardine told me.

But Jardine has two criteria for selecting a president: upholding “the oath of office” in defending the Constitution; and “that they would represent my interests.” Jardine feels Trump would largely fill the latter criterium, but Trump fails on the first.

“President Trump has denied losing the election, and all of the ways that he was encouraging not only January 6th, but the way that he was discouraging people from certifying the election, ... that really bothered me,” Jardine said.

Jardine doesn’t plan to vote for Biden, though. “President Trump obviously just has very reprehensible character, but I don’t think that President Biden has a standout character, either,” Jardine said.

What I’m reading

Blue collars, red voters: Since 2016, working-class voters — especially across the Rust Belt — have slowly started shifting to the right. Some left-leaning economists chalk it up to the Democratic Party focusing too much on cultural and social issues and not economic ones. That might be part of it. But this essay asks if there’s a deeper shift going on — and what it could mean come November: How Democrats became the party of the jet set (John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira, Deseret Magazine)

Should networks hire an ‘election denier’? It was a question that ruled the Fox/Dominion lawsuits last year, costing Tucker Carlson his job. But it’s again resurfacing in the wake of NBC News hiring Ronna McDaniel as a contributor. McDaniel, the now-ousted RNC chair (and a fellow BYU grad), has repeatedly defended Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen, and it’s caused internal chaos at NBC. A smart take: Ronna McDaniel crosses the line (Jon Allsop, Columbia Journalism Review)

Kennedy, the libertarian? It’s a possibility, according to some new reporting, that suggests RFK Jr. is in talks with the Libertarian Party chair to be the party’s presidential nominee. The problem? Kennedy is far from a Libertarian on policy, and many libertarians — who are notoriously clannish — don’t like him much. Kennedy attended the California Libertarian convention last month, and in a straw poll of 95 delegates, he only got one vote. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. flirts with the Libertarian nomination (Brittany Gibson, POLITICO)

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.