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

Hello, friends. My condolences to all the BYU hoops fans out there — a sad night for us. Kentucky, you’re getting a treasure. Onward.

3 things to know

  1. Arizona’s Supreme Court has effectively reinstated an 1864 law banning nearly all abortions in the state. Joe Biden quickly denounced the decision. Donald Trump said it went “too far,” despite his announcement a day earlier that abortion should be left up to states. Read more here.
  2. Could COVID-19 affect the 2024 election? It’s possible, according to a new Deseret News/HarrisX poll that shows a majority of American voters think the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing. Read more here.
  3. American religiosity is declining, but political fervor seems to be increasing. Are Americans trading their religion for politics? I went to a Trump rally to find out. Read more here.

The Big Idea

Battle of the bands, 2024 edition

A friend recently told me he thinks this newsletter focuses too much on politics. A fair critique, since I focus on the 2024 presidential race. If you’re a subscriber, you have at least some interest in the election, and I hope you enjoy what you’re reading. But, for the sake of my friend — and in the off-chance that some, if not most, of you are among the majority of Americans who feel exhausted by politics — let’s take a step back.

Today, let’s talk about music — more specifically, campaign music, and the way presidential candidates are using songs to ignite their base and attract attention.

I spend a lot of time at rallies, and every rally has music. Often, the campaigns have a specially curated playlist for events, featuring either the candidate’s favorite songs or the songs that they feel encapsulate the campaign’s message, or both. At every Nikki Haley event, you could plan on hearing Sheryl Crow’s “Woman in the White House” and Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” At every Trump rally, it’s Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” and the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” (emphasis on “young man”). And Dean Phillips, during his short tenure challenging Biden for the Democratic nomination, would close each rally by playing Bo Burnham’s parody song “Joe Biden.”

This is nothing new. Campaign songs date back to 1824, as Ella Creamer wrote for Politico Magazine, to Andrew Jackson’s semiofficial campaign anthem “The Hunter of Kentucky.” As the ability to record, produce and distribute music improved in the late 20th century, the proliferation of custom campaign music expanded, too. In 1996, Sam Moore (of the rock & roll duo “Sam & Dave”) recorded a remix of his 1996 hit “Soul Man” for Bob Dole. The song, “Dole Man,” played at Dole’s rallies until the original song’s record label threatened to sue. In 2008, John Rich wrote “Raisin’ McCain” for the Republican nominee, John McCain.’s “Yes We Can” became the anthem of Barack Obama’s 2008 general election campaign.

In 2024, candidates seemed to have taken music to another level. While Trump has run into issues playing some songs — a full Wikipedia page is dedicated to “musicians who oppose Donald Trump’s use of their songs” — he’s made Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” a staple of his events — Greenwood and Trump are friends and have sold custom Bibles together. There is no shortage of music written about Trump, and the former president frequently plays songs written about him at his rallies or in advertisements, like Fogatio Blow’s “Trump Train” and the Spanish-language “Canción Trump,” by Los 3 de la Habana.

It may not be long before Trump gets a custom song from his own family. His daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, recently launched a solo music career, around the same time she became the Republican National Committee co-chair. Her first song drew ire from the Democratic National Committee, which released an AI-generated diss track in response. DNC chair Jaime Harrison told TMZ Lara Trump’s “‘music career’ is just like her time at the RNC so far: embarrassing, unserious, and a waste of money.”

Meanwhile, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. collaborated with several hip-hop artists to release an official campaign song, “Standing on Bidness.”

“The track aims to unite music lovers and voters alike under a message of community empowerment and political participation,” a press statement read.

So far, Biden has yet to release a campaign anthem or use Biden-centric songs in his ads.

Is there any real upside to campaign music? Maybe. Social media provides a platform for campaigns to experiment, and there may be young voters who value a catchy theme song. But there is always a serious downside: coming across as out-of-touch or trying too hard to be trendy. “Poor music choices are not simple aesthetic mistakes,” Creamer writes. “They fuel the haters.”

Weekend reads

Trump’s Manhattan trial begins Monday, and his legal team has an unprecedented task: keep the first former U.S. president to ever face a criminal trial out of prison. A former federal prosecutor offers a breakdown of their potential strategies. The Surprising Strategy Trump Could Use to Win His Manhattan Trial (Ankush Khardori, Politico Magazine)

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida has gained a reputation as a staunch Trump ally and a leading candidate to be the next Florida governor. But he can’t seem to get out of his own way, from accusations of sexual misconduct to incessant self-promotion. This profile takes a dive into Gaetz’s past — and raises concerns about the unanswered questions: Matt Gaetz Is Winning (Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic)

The horseshoe theory holds that the extreme far-right and far-left eventually meet at a uniform totalitarianism. Jonah Goldberg spent years poking fun at the apparent quasi-religious worship of Obama on the progressive left, but he now recognizes that the illiberal right is capable of the same. “Many of the people who loved my mockery of the Cult of Obama now have their own Cult of Trump. And guess what? They don’t think mockery of the Trump cult is nearly as funny.” The Messianic Temptation (The Dispatch)

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.