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. Some exciting news on the Deseret front: Sarah Jane Weaver was named the paper’s editor on Tuesday — the first female editor since our founding in 1850.

3 things to know

  1. Voters in Idaho, Georgia, Oregon and Kentucky participated in primary elections Tuesday, voting on races from the presidency to Congress. An interesting development: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting the Georgia election interference case against Trump, won her Democratic primary. Read more here.
  2. The RNC headquarters were evacuated Wednesday after a suspicious package, addressed to Trump, was discovered — containing two vials of blood. Hazardous-materials teams from the U.S. Capitol Police were called in to address the situation. Read more here.
  3. Should Republican candidates look more like Ronald Reagan? A new federal political action committee, the Reagan Caucus, in addition to several affiliated state PACs, will seek donations and issue endorsements in Republican primaries. The group hopes to influence the GOP toward the optimistic politics of Ronald Reagan. Read more here.

The Big Idea

Haley’s support is ‘Donald Trump’s dream’

On Wednesday, Nikki Haley made her first public speech since ending her presidential campaign in March. She focused mostly on foreign policy. But when asked if she will be supporting Trump or Biden in November, she made an acquiescence: she plans to back Trump.

“Trump has not been perfect ... but Biden has been a catastrophe,” she said. “So, I will be voting for Trump.”

The statement was not surprising. In his march to the GOP nomination, Trump has managed to circle the Republican wagons, dragging in almost all of his onetime critics. Of the eight Republican presidential hopefuls who took the stage at the first debate last August, there has been a steady drip of falling in line. Ron DeSantis endorsed Trump the moment he dropped out. Vivek Ramaswamy and Tim Scott did, too, and have become loyal surrogates. Doug Burgum has appeared at Trump rallies and is being rumored as a VP hopeful.

But Haley, at least for the final month of her campaign, tried to sell herself as something different. She outlasted the other Trump critics — Hutchinson, Pence, Christie — and made a last-ditch effort to provide Republicans with a non-Trump alternative.

When it became clear that she had no chance of winning, she seemed to drop the facade. Her scathing criticisms of Trump came almost daily: Trump would not only lose in November, she said, but nominating him was “suicide for our country.” He was “unhinged” and “diminished,” she said. He was “not qualified to be president of the United States.”

I spent months following Haley across the country — from Iowa to New Hampshire to South Carolina, and through her last-minute swing across the eastern seaboard — and I spoke with hundreds of her supporters along the way. Many of them supported her because they felt the same way as she did about Trump. Some saw her as the leader of the post-Trump GOP — the last Republican willing to lead a fight against him. Many acknowledged that they didn’t think she’d win the primary but hoped she would sustain her opposition to Trump so she could lead the party in 2028.

Those hopes are dashed now.

Related
Nikki Haley's last hope tour

Trump’s Republican critics thought his 2020 loss and Jan. 6 would loosen his hold on the party; but he stormed back by early 2023. They hoped his legal challenges would dissuade voters; the cases only solidified his base. Then they hoped Haley could mount some meager challenge to Trump, perhaps even beyond the election. Those hopes ended Wednesday.

If anything, Haley’s decision to vote for Trump is a signal that the party’s MAGA wing is even stronger than its naysayers believed. “This is Donald Trump’s dream,” Miles Taylor, a DHS official during the Trump administration, told me. “Few things make him happier than seeing his rivals submit. And Haley’s acquiescence is vindication over those who said the GOP was fracturing against him.”

At a granular level, the Republican Party is being wholly refashioned in Trump’s image. The Republican National Committee is being reshuffled to serve as an arm of Trump’s campaign; his daughter-in-law is co-chair, his top advisor is chief of staff. The RNC is doling out cash to cover Trump’s legal fees. “His stronghold on the party is as strong as ever — far stronger, in fact, than it was in 2016 or 2020,” Taylor said.

Not all Republican voters are content with this. Haley’s vote totals, garnering a fifth of Republican votes in state primaries even after she dropped out, signals this. But were these pro-Haley votes, or anti-Trump ones? “There is no such thing as a Haley voter,” said Mike Madrid, a GOP political consultant and co-founder of the Lincoln Project. “She became a vessel for anti-Trump sentiment. There’s no cachet that she carries, or vote that she swings, by endorsing Trump, nor would she have if she endorsed Biden.”

That hasn’t stopped efforts to win over her voters. Shortly after she dropped out, the Biden campaign made a pitch to her supporters. One super PAC that worked to turn out Democrats in early-voting states against Trump is now attempting the opposite: to convince Haley’s Republican supporters to back Biden. “Trump isn’t working for these votes,” Robert Schwartz, the head of Haley Voters for Biden, told me. “We hope Biden will.”

When I asked what effect Haley’s announcement Wednesday had on his operation, Schwartz demurred. “We’ve always anticipated her endorsing Trump,” Schwartz said. “We just didn’t know if she’d do it enthusiastically or tepidly. I think she did it extremely tepidly.” It’s worth noting that Haley said she’d vote for Trump, but didn’t formally endorse him, encouraging voters to make their own decisions.

That is the state of the Trump-era GOP. For Trump-averse Republican voters, a vote for Trump is not only against their conscience, but could solidify Trump’s grip on the party. If Trump wins, the MAGA takeover may be complete.

But what if he loses? “The party is going to atomize,” Madrid said. “It will shatter like a windshield into many factions, led by different personalities and ideologies.” Perhaps Haley voters will find a home in one of them.

Related
Nikki Haley to Deseret News: Voters are ‘desperate for another choice’

Weekend reads

Rent prices are skyrocketing in some regions of the country. Unfortunately for Biden, some of the toughest housing markets right now are in swing states, where the president already faces scrutiny for his handling of the economy. This analysis finds rent increases over 100% in some metro areas since 2020. Largest rent increases are in swing states. Will it spell trouble for Biden? (Swapnil Venugopal Ramaswamy, USA Today)

Two pieces of campaign dogma have long held true: young voters are reliably Democrat, and voters already know an incumbent. But Gen Z first-time voters in 2024 may prove both wrong. Biden is struggling to garner support from young voters, and some polls show him trailing Trump among voters under 30. But Biden’s new pitch is part-strategy, part-epiphany: the youngest voters don’t remember much about the Trump administration. Biden wants to remind them. The Voters Who Don’t Really Know Donald Trump (Russell Berman, The Atlantic)

Mitt Romney and Meg Whitman, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya, have been friends since they were young consultants at Bain & Co. If Romney won in 2012, Whitman likely would’ve earned a cabinet position. Instead, Romney is now in the Senate, and Whitman — the ex-CEO of eBay and Hewlett-Packard — is building ties between the U.S. and Kenya, a burgeoning tech hub in east Africa. “When you’ve achieved sufficient financial success as Meg has, earning is going to be subordinate to serving,” said ex-Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt. Meg Whitman’s Trying to Be A Different Kind of US Ambassador. Washington Is Noticing. (Nahal Toosi, POLITICO Magazine)

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.