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Good morning, friends. I’m writing today from Phoenix, where the state’s abortion ruling adds fuel to an already simmering U.S. Senate race and a toss-up presidential race. More on both of those below.

3 things to know

  1. Jury selection began Monday for Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan, relating to his falsifying business records. Potential jurors will be questioned on everything from their news consumption to their opinions on Trump. Read more here.
  2. The two major political parties now make up the same share of U.S. voters, according to new polling from Pew Research Center. For years, the Democratic Party had a slight edge with over 50% of U.S. voters identifying as Democrat; now, Republicans have closed the gap, with 49% as Democrats and 48% as Republicans. Read more here.
  3. This year’s Republican National Convention is in Milwaukee, the deep-blue city in an important 2024 swing state. I caught up with Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson — a proud Democrat — about his mandate to be “gracious hosts” and “disagree without being disagreeable.” Read more here.

The Big Idea

Arizona’s abortion paradox

Last week, Arizona stole the national (and international) spotlight when its Supreme Court upheld a near-total abortion ban dating to 1864. President Joe Biden was talking about it. Former President Donald Trump was talking about it (hesitantly). Vice President Kamala Harris flew to Arizona on Saturday to talk about it. Pundits quickly declared abortion, not the economy or immigration, the de facto issue driving the 2024 presidential race.

One person who is not talking about it? Kari Lake, the probable Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

Days after the court’s ruling shook the country’s political landscape, Lake mentioned abortion only in passing during a rally in Lake Havasu, Arizona, on Sunday. Instead, she chose to focus on immigration, the economy and transgender issues.

Her only mention of abortion came when she explained the importance of Arizona in the 2024 election. “We are the most consequential, important state this election,” she said. “We are ground zero for the border, ... for the economy, for inflation. We are ground zero when it comes to issues like our kids being indoctrinated. We are ground zero for abortion. We are ground zero for literally, the inflation, you name it.”

Lake’s dismissal of the top Arizona news story reflects a broader strategy among Republicans to downplay abortion, perhaps fearing that the issue will be a winner for Democrats, as it was during the 2022 midterms.

“If you’re the Democratic Party, you want to lean in as hard as you can into reproductive rights,” Republican strategist Justin Sayfie, told Politico. “And for the Republican Party you want to lean in as hard as you can on immigration and the economy.”

Polling tends to support that hypothesis: voters overwhelmingly trust Trump and Republicans generally to handle the economy over Biden and Democrats. On immigration, the numbers are similar. But on abortion, voters gravitate to the Democratic position. Voters nationwide largely disfavor blanket bans: 85% of voters nationally say abortion should be legal under all (34%) or some (51%) circumstances; only 13% think it should be banned. And among suburban woman, who may have secured Biden’s 2020 victory, abortion is the top issue — and they largely favor Democrats to handle it.

How should Republicans react, then? By steering the conversation away from abortion and toward the economy and immigration wherever possible. That’s the playbook Lake is employing, and among primary voters, it’s working. None of the attendees I met at her Lake Havasu rally Sunday thought she should have spoken more about abortion, despite the state Supreme Court decision shaking the nation’s political landscape less than a week earlier.

“I liked that she didn’t talk about it,” Robin Lusk, 68, said. “It’s not what will save or lose this country.” The border, Lusk said, is “much more important.”

Other voters expressed discomfort with the 1864 law. Lake opposes the ruling herself, despite supporting it during her 2022 run for governor. On Thursday, she released a video saying the ruling is “out of step” with Arizonans and called for “pro-life” people to help craft a more moderate solution.

“How they want to totally outlaw abortion — I don’t like that,” said Brett, who didn’t share his last name. “We lost a lot in 2022 over that. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes.”

Greg Carroll, who was attending his first Lake event, was more skeptical. “Her last statement was a real debacle,” he said. “If you’re a Christian, there’s no middle ground. I was surprised.” But he added that the economy was a much more important issue in the election: “That’s the top one.”

What I’m reading

Speaking of the economy, most voters across the country say it isn’t good. But if you ask those same voters what they think about the economy in their home state, a majority say it is good — a paradox that holds up in every swing state and is stumping politicians and economists alike. Voters think the nation is going off rails — just not in their state (Paul Kane, The Washington Post)

As Trump’s campaign takes a break while the former president goes to trial, a legal strategy is gaining popularity: why doesn’t Trump push for conviction on a lesser charge? For Trump’s charges to go from a misdemeanor to a felony, the prosecutor will need to convince the jury that Trump’s hush money was intended to commit or conceal another crime — in this case, campaign finance violations. The case here is that Trump’s lawyers should admit fault and hope the jury lets him off with a misdemeanor. A risky strategy, but one that is gaining popularity, even in the conservative press: The Legal Doctrine That May Be Trump’s Best Defense in Bragg’s ‘Hush Money’ Case (Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review)

Trump-Kennedy 2024? Ever since Robert F. Kennedy Jr. entered the race as an independent last year, there’s been chatter that he should join Trump’s ticket. In January, the New York Post reported that the Trump team reached out to RFK Jr. about the prospect. The rumors returned Monday when Kennedy claimed that Trump’s “emissaries” asked him to be the former president’s running mate. At this point, both sides, needless to say, seem uninterested. RFK Jr. claims Trump ‘emissaries’ asked him to be his running mate (Brittany Gibson and Alex Isenstadt, 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.