Monday, April 17, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- The Winnowing of the Republican Field

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

The Republican presidential nomination field winnowed a bit as the work week came to a close last Friday. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R), in a solid Friday news dump with most folks focused on Republicans gathered at the NRA in Indianapolis and/or with big donors in Nashville, revealed that he would not present himself as a candidate to become President of the United States

Only, Pompeo did "present" himself. As FHQ noted after the news broke, Pompeo "kicked the tires, did some of the things presidential candidates do, but ultimately passed." And he did. Pompeo released a book earlier this year. He made several trips to Iowa. He visited New Hampshire. South Carolina, too. He even dropped in on Nevada. He bought digital ads targeted at Iowa and South Carolina. He also started a political action committee with the express purpose of helping to elect Republicans. All of this -- each and every activity -- is consistent with the actions of those who seek a presidential nomination. 

Pompeo ran for 2024, but he will not be running in 2024. He did all of that, but it never attracted donors or other support, at least not to the extent the other candidates, announced and supposedly in waiting, have at this point. And that is how winnowing works in the invisible primary. It is not about votes and delegates. It is about building the infrastructure to set one up to actually go and win votes and delegates. Pompeo reached the conclusion that his infrastructure building was not going to be enough. And that winnowed the Republican field for 2024.

[Matt Glassman also had a good thread on this subject on Saturday.]

The New York Times lede to this story about Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) pumping the brakes on a possible presidential bid was something: 
Virginia’s governor is putting the presidential hoopla on ice.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican whose surprising election in a blue-trending state set off instant talk of a presidential run, has tapped the brakes on 2024, telling advisers and donors that his sole focus is on Virginia’s legislative elections in the fall.

Mr. Youngkin hopes to flip the state legislature to a Republican majority. That could earn him a closer look from rank-and-file Republicans across the country, who so far have been indifferent to the presidential chatter surrounding him in the news media, and among heavyweight donors he would need to keep pace alongside more prominent candidates. He has yet to crack 1 percent in polls about the potential Republican field.
[emphasis FHQ's]

As noted there, Youngkin's move is a nod to reality. But waiting until after November? Yeah, that dog won't hunt. Maybe in 1984. Not in 2024. Probably not in 2004. But there simply is no substitute for getting into a race and taking your lumps: making and recovering from early missteps, honing the fundraising and campaign operations, etc. Candidates can no longer wait until the fall of the year before a presidential election to officially launch a presidential campaign. Well, they can, but it leaves such a steep hill to climb, a nearly insurmountable learning curve to overcome right before voters start voting in presidential primaries, as to be nearly impossible. 

And in fairness to Youngkin. He would not necessarily be starting from scratch in every facet of a campaign. He has been on the donor circuit across the country so far this year. But like Pompeo above, he has not gotten the positive feedback he maybe otherwise would have wanted. And donors have not exactly gotten the best impression of Youngkin either.

But waiting is not the answer. Youngkin, like all of the other candidates not named Trump or DeSantis, is hoping that things fall in his lap. That the indictments get Trump. That DeSantis implodes. That the two candidates currently atop the polls of the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race so drag each other through the mud that voters start to flock to another viable alternative on down the line. Maybe that opens up a path. And maybe it does, but it takes a lot of steps to get there, steps that have yet to really materialize six months ahead of November. 

Some of the early FEC reports are in from the first quarter. The tap still seems to be running in the money primary. The indictments have not hurt Trump yet and Nikki Haley apparently had some creative accounting to get to her $11 million total.

Over at FHQ Plus...
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On this date... 1980, Idaho Democrats conducted caucuses and Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL) withdrew from the race for the Republican presidential nomination. 2020, the vote-by-mail Wyoming Democratic caucuses came to a close with Joe Biden on top. 


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