An earlier version of this article was published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

Good morning, friends. I spent the weekend watching an inspirational general conference and mourning the death of my March Madness brackets. There’s always next year.

3 things to know

  1. Biden’s ballot troubles: Due to an Ohio state law, President Joe Biden may be kept from appearing on the Buckeye State’s ballot this November. The Democratic National Convention is scheduled for late August, after the state’s deadline for parties to submit their presidential nominee’s name. Either the DNC will have to move its convention, or the Ohio state legislature will need to act quickly to change its deadline. Read more here.
  2. Big money: The Biden campaign said it raised $90 million in March, a huge haul boosted by over $26 million from a single celebrity fundraiser in New York last month. But Trump nearly doubled up that total at an event in south Florida over the weekend. Read more here.
  3. Trump trial set: The hush money case will go to trial Monday, April 15, making Trump the first former president to face a criminal trial in U.S. history. Read more here.

The Big Idea

The new abortion battle

By the time most Americans woke up Monday morning, former President Donald Trump had already managed to anger large swaths of the electorate, from progressive pro-choice voters to the religious conservatives who are typically among his strongest supporters.

Why? Trump finally announced his stance on abortion. It made him few friends.

In a video posted to Truth Social, Trump boasted that he was “proudly the person responsible” for ending Roe v. Wade, the result of a 2022 decision by a conservative-majority Supreme Court. The rest of Trump’s new-look position on abortion stems from the Dobbs decision: because the court returned the decision to protect or reject abortion to the states, Trump likewise opposes a federal ban and says it is “up to the states to do the right thing.”

“And whatever they decide must be the law of the land,” Trump continued. “In this case, the law of the state. Many states will be different, many will have a different number of weeks, or some will have more conservative than others, and that’s what they will be.”

The backlash was swift. In a statement, Biden said Trump is “scrambling,” trying to compensate for the “the cruelty and the chaos” that followed the Dobbs decision. The Biden campaign quickly released a new ad highlighting a Texas woman who nearly died after she was denied care for a miscarriage after her state’s abortion ban. Biden’s campaign manager and communications director led a press call in which they contrasted Trump from Biden, the “only candidate” who will “protect a women’s right to choose.”

“Let there be no illusion,” Biden said in his statement. “If Donald Trump is elected and the MAGA Republicans in Congress put a national abortion ban on the Resolute Desk, Trump will sign it into law.”

But the critiques didn’t only come from the left. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a longtime Trump ally and an advocate of a 15-week federal ban, said he “respectfully disagree(s)” with Trump’s position. Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice president, said the statement was a “slap in the face” to the “millions of pro-life Americans who voted for him in 2016 and 2020.” (Pence previously said he won’t support Trump in November.)

A host of pro-life groups expressed disagreement, including Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. “We are deeply disappointed in President Trump’s position,” Dannenfelser told Politico. “Saying the issue is ‘back to the states’ cedes the national debate to the Democrats who are working relentlessly to enact legislation mandating abortion throughout all nine months of pregnancy.”

Will it be enough to get conservatives to jump ship? Probably not. The alternatives — Biden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and other independent long shots — are more liberal on abortion than Trump. Dannenfelser said her group’s goal is still to “defeat President Biden.” But Trump’s new stance could certainly dampen enthusiasm among religious conservatives, who make up a significant and loyal portion of his voter base.

In the buildup to the Iowa caucuses, a number of conservative pastors told me they supported Trump in 2016 and 2020, but they were most concerned with his presumed backpedaling on abortion. One pastor, shortly after meeting with Trump and questioning him on abortion, said the former president’s response was “baffling.” Publicly, though, Trump stayed mum, and it didn’t matter much — he romped in Iowa, as he did in enough early states to comfortably secure the GOP nomination.

But Trump’s cards are on the table now. It may not matter much in November, as Democrats are more likely to say abortion will influence how they vote than Republicans. Trump’s new stance, though — including his carve-outs for rape, incest and the mother’s health — could be enough to quell some of the evangelical fervor surrounding Trump. Republicans overwhelmingly view him as a person of faith, because he “supports policies focused on families” and “defends people of faith.” Betraying some pro-choice proclivities may dampen some of that enthusiasm.

What I’m reading

‘18 again? While Trump was in office, he reportedly used vulgar and demeaning language to describe the countries from which immigrants came, wondering why they couldn’t come from places like Norway. He later claimed he never said it. But the former president was back at it at a fundraiser last week: not only verifying his 2018 comments, but doubling down. He painted immigrants as criminals and wished more would come from “nice countries” like Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. Here’s a smart take on it all from Philip Bump: “Why are immigrants only coming from collapsing countries with high rates of poverty instead of stable ones with wealthy populations? Well, because of the things you just said.” Trump revives his wish that immigrants came from rich White countries (Philip Bump, The Washington Post)

America’s political divide may be, at least partially, a result of the growing power of the presidency. This is a thoughtful (and perhaps provocative) essay that takes a historical look at executive authority, pitting an oversized White House at the forefront of America’s culture war: “The president, increasingly, has the power to reshape vast swathes of American life. The modern presidency, by its very nature, is a divider, not a uniter. It has become far too powerful to be anything else.” Culture Warrior in Chief (Gene Healy, Reason)

No Labels has no way forward, after selling Americans on the possibility of a third-party alternative to Biden and Trump. A pair of the groups that helped secure its demise are now turning their sights to RFK Jr., who they think could jeopardize Biden’s reelection effort. ‘He can help Trump win’: US groups take on RFK Jr after No Labels stands down (Martin Pengelly, The Guardian)

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.