Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Invisible Primary: Visible -- The Professionalization of Trump's Campaign

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

Let's look at the endorsement primary for a moment, shall we? 

Because Donald Trump keeps rolling out endorsements. They are not coming in altogether. But they are not necessarily being rolled out at random either. For example, Republicans -- 2024 candidates and donors -- gathered at a retreat in Nashville over the weekend. And then the Trump campaign announced its Tennessee leadership team, including both US Senators from the Volunteer state and an additional four members of the House. Also, Ron DeSantis tried to circle the wagons in the Sunshine state last week and freeze further Florida congressional delegation endorsements of the former president. And then Trump lined up another Florida endorsement from Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL).

Taken by themselves, these actions are part and parcel of the invisible primary. But the slow, methodical and even calculated way in which they are being made public are increasingly a sign of a more sophisticated campaign. No, it is not the massing of folks behind Trump that the 45th president enjoyed as an incumbent four years ago, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of the often haphazard campaign that Trump willed to the 2016 Republican nomination. And as such, this is yet another datapoint, at least at this time, to file in answer to that "Is Trump 2023 closer to Trump 2015 or Trump 2019?" question that FHQ continues to dredge up. It is not necessarily time to stop pretending that other candidates have a chance at the 2024 Republican nomination, but Trump and uncertainty make for a fairly formidable ticket at the moment. And a relatively professionalized campaign operation will not hurt either. 

[Note also that many of Trump's endorsements at the national level are clustered in Southern states and in states with contests in or before March.]

In the travel primary, Ron DeSantis descends on South Carolina tomorrow for the first time, attending two events in the Charleston area and another in the Upstate. Vivek Ramaswamy is planning a long weekend ahead in Iowa. And Trump will be back in New Hampshire next week.

Speaking of the Granite state, visits are up or down depending on who one asks. It can be both after all. Candidates are announcing later in 2023 than they did in either 2015 or 2019 and that has had an impact on visits (because it has had an impact on candidate activity, broadly speaking). However, every cycle is different and has its own nuances. 2024 is no different. The best way to assess this is not the raw number of visits at a given time, but rather, tracking the patterns in where candidates and prospective candidates are going. And through that lens, candidates and prospective candidates are still treating New Hampshire as if it is one of the early states. 

...and that is just what the folks in the Granite state want. 

FHQ discussed Mike Pompeo ending his quest for the 2024 Republican nomination some yesterday in this space. But Seth Masket has more on that over at Tusk:
But he’s [Pompeo's] also spent two years talking to the sorts of people whose support he’d need to take down former President Trump, or at least be a credible alternative. And it seems pretty clear that those folks weren’t prepared to join his effort. They saw no need to fund him or endorse him, and perhaps they saw a risk in doing so. When Pompeo says “This isn’t our moment,” he means that he needs a certain amount of backing to go forward this year, and it just isn’t there for him.
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Over at FHQ Plus...
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On this date...
...in 1983, South Carolina Senator Fritz Hollings (D) entered the race for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination.

...in 1984, Missouri Democrats caucused, handing former Vice President Walter Mondale another victory on his way to the nomination.

...in 1988, Democratic caucuses were conducted in Delaware, with eventual runner-up, Jesse Jackson, scoring one of his final wins of the cycle.


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