Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- Hutchinson's Turn to (Officially) Jump in

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

Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) already spilled the beans earlier this month, but he is set to officially join the 2024 Republican presidential nomination race on Wednesday, April 26. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has a write up on the Natural state's favorite son candidate for 2024.
"We've been divided before, we have struggled before, and we're resilient," he said in an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "It's because we're the greatest democracy in the world, and we have a Constitution that we try to follow. It has tensions, but we always find a way through." 
Hutchinson, 72, hopes to relay that message to the voting populace as a presidential candidate. Hutchinson announced his electoral ambitions earlier this month and will officially kick off his campaign today with an event in Bentonville.
He faces long odds in the battle for the Republican nomination. So far, Hutchinson has tested the limits of opposition to former President Trump and has drawn a launch day rebuke from a county Republican Party in his home state:
We need somebody strong,” [Saline County Republican Party Committee Vice-Chair Jennifer] Lancaster said. “We need somebody bold who is willing to take on the controversial issues and the tough issues, and he is not that person.”
And that more or less encapsulates things for Hutchinson as he sets out on a bid for the Republican nomination. He is "strong" enough to take on Trump when few others seem willing to, but not strong enough for the moment in the eyes of those who will be voting on who the Republican nominee will be in 2024. That is a tough spot to be in at the current moment with Trump riding high in most metrics that measure invisible primary success. That is especially true when "strong" is often synonymous with Trump.

FHQ does not often talk about issues or candidate position-taking on issues. But that does not mean that issue positioning by the candidates is not important. It just means that it does not often intersect with the calendar and the rules. However, it does matter in the invisible primary. And while the Supreme Court's Dobbs decision in the early summer of 2022 put the Republican Party on the defensive on abortion in the months that followed, that does provide some potential opportunities in the Republican presidential nomination race. 

Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley staked out a nuanced position on abortion on Tuesday, April 25 that has the potential for her to create some daylight between her and her competition for the Republican presidential nomination. The UN ambassador during the Trump administration called for a federal role in the matter but urged consensus building on setting abortion policy at the national level rather than racing to the right on the issue. 
“I said I wanted to save as many babies and help as many moms as is possible — that is my goal,” Haley said, speaking at the pro-life Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America offices here just outside the nation’s capital. “To do that at the federal level, the next president must find national consensus.” (Haley’s speech, according to her prepared remarks, used the word “consensus” nearly a dozen times.)
The conundrum for Haley is whether this position on abortion is better suited for the primary phase or the general election phase. It may set her apart from candidates like fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, but it also may set her back among the Republican primary electorate in 2024 if greater value is placed on ideological rigidity on abortion orthodoxy within the broader party network. It is and will be a crowded field of candidates (and would-be candidates) in the near term. There is room for nuance, but will that register?

President Biden had an understated kickoff to his reelection bid a day ago. He got a tepid nod of support from some elected officials in New Hampshire. Which is an improvement over recent months! Here is Rep. Ann Kuster (D-NH):
“What I’ve said to the president twice directly now is I think he should come. I think he should be on the ballot in New Hampshire. He’ll win handily." Even if Biden isn’t on the ballot, Kuster said he’d “probably ... win on a write-in.”
Biden even scored an endorsement from 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on day one. Look, the Sanders entry in the endorsement primary may or may not be a surprise. The party organization at the national level has only signaled support for the president, as has most of the its caucus in Congress. But a Sanders endorsement (and even lukewarm support from the Granite state) speaks to the sort of consolidation of the party that Biden is going to need, not in the primary phase necessarily, but in the general election when the party is going to need to unite anew the coalition that carried the president to victory in 2020.

Speaking of consolidating, Brian Schwartz at CNBC has the latest on big Democratic money circling the wagons on launch day for the president. The money primary will seemingly not be a problem area for Biden as 2024 approaches.

Jonathan Bernstein provides some perspective about Biden to Democrats over at Bloomberg.

Over at FHQ Plus...
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On this date... 1980, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) won a narrow plurality victory over President Carter in Michigan's Democratic caucuses. 1988, both Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis (D) and Vice President George H.W. Bush (R) won the Pennsylvania primary. The latter of the two officially became the presumptive nominee with the victory, cresting over the number of delegates necessary to claim the nomination. 2007, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore (R) entered the 2008 Republican presidential nomination race 2016, after wins in New York the previous week, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump swept the five Acela primary states in the northeast and mid-Atlantic, strengthening their grip on their respective nominations. 


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