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.

Hello, friends. As campus protests simmer, here’s a nugget from my alma mater, Brigham Young University: a 1970s student-led protest against shrinking french fry portions in the cafeteria. Fries! Fries! Fries!

3 things to know

  1. House Speaker Mike Johnson survived an effort to oust him — before Donald Trump came to his aid. Trump posted a message on Truth Social, saying “now is not the time” to vote on a motion to vacate and encouraging Republicans to focus on “fighting the Radical Left Democrats” instead of each other. The problem? Trump’s message came after Republicans had already voted and Johnson’s speakership was again secured. Read more here.
  2. Conservative state election officials are working to build trust, months ahead of the 2024 election. An “election trust forum” this week at Utah Valley University highlighted some of the ways Utah is preparing for a safe, secure election. Former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, said that claiming elections are illegitimate or stolen “undermines our system of self government.” Read more here.
  3. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. claims a parasite “ate a portion of his brain” over a decade ago, leading to memory loss and mental fogginess, according to a deposition reviewed by The New York Times. “I have cognitive problems, clearly,” he said in 2012. It’s a wild addition to RFK Jr.’s unorthodox campaign, and a possibly problematic one, as Kennedy has presented himself as the clear-headed alternative to two older men. Read more here.

The Big Idea

How does the world see the U.S.?

During a fundraiser in Park City last August, President Joe Biden asked attendees to think about the U.S.’s place as a global power. He told them to think of leaders around the world, and he offered a rhetorical challenge: “Name another leader who says they want to see Trump back.”

Biden’s argument, of course, was that the U.S. is stronger, more secure and viewed more favorably globally under Biden than under former President Donald Trump. But a new survey suggests that global perceptions of the U.S. are slipping.

The 2024 Democracy Perception Index, a survey of over 63,000 respondents across over 50 countries, shows that America’s popularity as a global power decreased over the past year, particularly in Muslim-majority countries and in western Europe. Meanwhile, the global perceptions of China and Russia increased dramatically, and those two countries are now viewed as favorably as the U.S. in most Asian, North African and Middle Eastern countries.

The U.S.’s net perception score, +22, is the percentage of respondents who say they have a positive perception, minus those who have a negative perception. In the 2023, the U.S.’ score was +27. (Interestingly, a Gallup survey among U.S. voters found that Americans think the rest of the world has a much lower view of us than it does. We gave ourselves a -15.)

“For the first time since the start of the Biden administration, many Western European countries have returned to net negative perceptions of the U.S.,” Frederick DeVeaux, senior researcher for Latana, told Politico Europe. “This rise and decline, from negative attitudes to positive (and) back to negative attitudes is particularly stark in Germany, Austria, Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland.”

The survey did not ask respondents to explain why they view countries positively or negatively. But the U.S.’s sharp decrease in popularity in the Middle East and North Africa — from +32 last year to +20 this year — is likely connected to the United States’ ongoing support for Israel in its war against Hamas.

Of the Middle Eastern and North African countries who participated in the survey, only Israel’s respondents expressed a more positive view of the U.S. than they did last year. Among Muslim-majority countries, the U.S. saw a unanimous decrease in favorability over the past year: among Iranians, a decrease of 9 points; among Egyptians, 19 points; among Turkish people, 22 points.

It’s a stark reminder that in an election year, Biden must balance both rallying support among the U.S. electorate while navigating public perception abroad.

In a CNN appearance Wednesday, Biden confirmed his administration was withholding weapons from Israel, ahead of the Israel Defense Forces’ planned offensive in Rafah, a civilian center in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border.

“We’re not walking away from Israel’s security,” Biden said. “We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas (population centers).”

Days earlier, Biden condemned the “ferocious surge of antisemitism in America,” as campus protests calling for revolution — and some accusing Biden of genocide — have gone on for weeks. Biden said there is “no place on any campus in America or any place in America for antisemitism or hate speech or threats of violence of any kind.”

But political backlash after Biden’s decision to pause weapon transfers to Israel shows how tenuous a line the president is walking. Republicans in the Senate near-unanimously condemned Biden’s decision; one Democrat, Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman, said the decision was “deeply disappointing.” The Dispatch’s Jonah Goldberg reported that “lots” of never-Trump voters in his circle “have had it with Biden” following the president’s announcement. And Haim Saban, an Israeli-American donor to Biden, warned that the decision sent a “terrible message” to allies abroad. “Let’s not forget that there are more Jewish voters who care about Israel, than Muslim voters that care about Hamas,” Saban wrote.

Weekend reads

Why we hold onto two-party stalemates: A new book examines the inefficiencies of the two-party system, and our complete inability to do anything different. The two major political parties control all the power, yet “they’re unable to perform many of their basic functions, like enforcing ideological discipline among officeholders or building effective electoral coalitions.” This Q&A with the book authors explains why. Democrats Are Feckless and Republicans Are Chaotic. Here’s Why. (Ian Ward, Politico Magazine)

Trump and the death penalty: If Trump wins reelection, one of his first courses of action may be to secure executions for those on federal death row. That’s according to the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a blueprint for the next conservative administration. It includes instruction to “do everything possible to obtain finality” for every prisoner on death row. There’s A GOP Plan For An Execution Spree If Trump Wins The White House (Jessica Schulberg, HuffPost)

RIP, Tea Party: FreedomWorks, the once-influential conservative advocacy group, shut down this week. Its dissolution likely spells the end of the tea party movement, if the movement wasn’t already buried. The rise of Trump’s MAGA either adopted the tea party stalwarts, like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, or forced them out, like Nikki Haley. The Tea Party Movement Is Dead (Dan McLaughlin, National Review)

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.