Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Tim Scott Staffs Up

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the goings on of the moment as 2024 approaches...

The essential Caitlyn Byrd at the Charleston Post and Courier has the latest on the moves a Tim Scott-aligned super PAC has made in the staff primary. Opportunity Matters Fund Action has brought on both Matt Moore and Mark Knoop, a pair with deep ties in the Palmetto state. Moore, the one-time South Carolina Republican Party chair is a big get for Scott in a cycle in which South Carolina operatives have some tough choices to make with two home-state candidates in the running at the presidential level. Knoop was most recently a part of current Governor Henry McMaster's (R-SC) reelection effort in 2022.

Both hires say something about Scott's positioning in a Republican presidential nomination race. Yes, there is the Scott against (former governor) Nikki Haley angle, and these hires definitely say something about that battle within the state. However, that both operatives have South Carolina ties does raise some questions. First, is the field of Republican candidates so deep that Scott is left to choose from among those campaign hands closest at hand in South Carolina? Second, what do the hires suggest about the strategy of a Scott campaign? It is likely South Carolina or bust to start for Scott at the very least, so putting some to a lot of eggs in that basket is almost essential. And South Carolina is a big piece in the early calendar. Unlike the other three states, Palmetto state Republicans do not allocate their delegates in a proportional manner. They use a hybrid system that is likely to give the winner of the primary a pretty healthy net delegate advantage coming out of the most delegate-rich state on the early calendar. 

But these hires probably say more about strategy than they do about any "dregs" Scott has been left to sift through to staff a presidential campaign. Moore and Knoop are not dregs. 

Donald Trump has been able to raise more than $7 million since the Manhattan indictment came down late last week, but the former president is not the only candidate (or likely candidate) with ample resources in the money primary. Never Back Down, the super PAC backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has raked in north of $30 million in a little less than a month. Money is not everything, but these are staggering sums that give both men a leg up on the competition for the Republican nomination. And that is what the press releases about these totals are intended to signal to every other candidate: Think twice about getting in. Resistance is futile. Despite the signals, those who are running or considering a run, do not seem to have been deterred. Not yet, at least. 

A few polling quick hits (maybe against my better judgment):
  • A new St. Anselm's poll of the Republican primary race in New Hampshire had Trump leading DeSantis, 42 percent to 29 percent. Governor Chris Sununu (R-NH), who is also considering a bid, was the only other candidate in double digits at 14 percent. That would be enough to get Sununu in the delegate count -- New Hampshire Republicans use the 10 percent qualifying threshold called for in state law -- but is hardly the kind of support that a home-state candidate would like to tout. It certainly is not the kind of support that would keep other candidates away from New Hampshire over the next nine plus months. Sununu, at this point, is no Tom Harkin and Iowa 1992. 
  • Gov. DeSantis Holds Slight Lead Over Donald Trump Among Florida Voters. Without even looking at the numbers, Florida is set to hold a presidential primary on March 19. Two weeks after Super Tuesday. Likely two months after New Hampshire. Those events, not to mention the remainder of the invisible primary, will have A LOT to say about the situation in the Sunshine state in 2024. But sure, one Florida candidate has a small advantage over another Florida candidate in one poll eleven and a half months before a contest that is on few voters' radars. 
  • Trump has ‘commanding lead’ over DeSantis in Massachusetts Republican primary poll conducted after indictment. I mean, see above, but with one caveat: Trump can be two things at once. Yes, the former president more than doubles the support DeSantis received in that survey. But he also falls short of majority support. It is the latter that will have much more to say about "commanding" leads next year. Majority support triggers winner-take-all allocations in a lot of states in the Republican process. Massachusetts included (as of this writing). 

Over at FHQ Plus...
  • If Democrats in the Kansas House were unified like their co-partisans in the state Senate, then the Sunflower state would likely be headed for a state-run presidential primary for 2024. Instead, they split (with most in the Democratic House leadership against), and the bill to bring back the primary died.
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On this date...
...in 1972, George McGovern (D-SD) won the Wisconsin primary and former New York Mayor John Lindsay withdrew from the Democratic presidential race. 

...in 1988, George H.W. Bush won the Colorado Republican caucuses. 

...in 2000, both Al Gore and George W. Bush swept the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin primaries (in nomination races each had already clinched).

...in 2011, President Barack Obama announced he was seeking the Democratic nomination and running for reelection. [No, Biden still have not done likewise.]

See more on our political/electoral consulting venture at FHQ Strategies. 

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