7 min read

A look at the calendar

Primaries, shutdown deadlines, SCOTUS rulings, and the State of the Union — all in the next few weeks.
A look at the calendar
Photo by Eric Rothermel / Unsplash

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, February 21, 2024. Election Day is 258 days away. If this newsletter was forwarded to you, subscribe here. If you want to contribute to support my work, donate here.

Let’s start off this morning by taking a look at what’s coming up on the calendar.

Today, 2/21: The Supreme Court could issue a ruling on whether states can disqualify Donald Trump from the 2024 ballot under the 14th Amendment. The court is also expected to announce in the coming days whether it will hear a case on whether Trump has presidential immunity from being charged for his actions leading up to January 6th.

Saturday, 2/24: The South Carolina Republican primary. Nikki Haley is trailing Trump badly in her own home state, but insists that she will stay in the race no matter the results.

Tuesday, 2/27: Michigan primaries. On the Democratic side, some progressive activists — including Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and the mayor of Dearborn — are urging Arab-American voters to select the “uncommitted” option on the ballot to protest Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

Wednesday, 2/28: The House returns on recess, just two days before the first government shutdown deadline. Republican leaders have said they will not support another stopgap funding bill, but the schedule affords them little time to negotiate and pass a full spending package. Pressure will also resume for lawmakers to approve a Ukraine/Israel aid package.

Friday, 3/1: The first tranche of government funding bills — covering the departments of Agriculture, Energy, Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development — expire, meaning these agencies will shut down unless Congress extends their funding. .

Tuesday, 3/5: Super Tuesday. 1,215 delegates will be up for grabs on the Republican side as 15 states head to the polls, which could place Trump in striking distance of sewing up the GOP nomination.

Thursday, 3/7: President Biden is set to deliver his State of the Union address, which his advisers are hyping up as his “reset moment” to knock back concerns about his age as he runs for re-election

Monday, 3/25: The first of Donald Trump’s four criminal trials — in the New York case stemming from hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels — is scheduled, at least tentatively, to start.

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy few weeks. Increasingly, in all three branches of government, get ready for a lot of the action to revolve around the presidential campaign. How will the Supreme Court rule in its two Trump cases? Will Trump go on trial next month? Can Congress still get things done in a presidential year? Are we headed for a shutdown? Will Biden’s State of the Union resolve any of the persistent questions about his age?

Those are all questions we’ll be getting answers to in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, as all that swirls in the background, Donald Trump and Joe Biden are gearing up to face each other in the general election — but just can’t swat away voices in both of their parties concerned about their nominations.

On the Republican side, Nikki Haley delivered a major speech Tuesday that she billed as a “state of the race” address — leading some to speculate that she might drop out. Nope. Instead, Haley announced that she will stay in the race past South Carolina, at least through Super Tuesday.

“South Carolina will vote on Saturday,” Haleys aid. “But on Sunday, I’ll still be running for president. I’m not going anywhere. I’m campaigning every day until the last person votes."

Haley also continued to escalate her attacks on Trump: “He’s getting meaner and more offensive by the day...He’s gotten more unstable and more unhinged...He’s completely distracted...And everything is about him,” she said. “He’s so obsessed with his demons in the past that he can’t focus on the future Americans deserve.”

And yet, her hopes of toppling the former president continue to fade. A Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll out yesterday showed Trump leading her, 65% to 35%, in South Carolina. In any other context, such a devastating loss in a candidate’s home state would be fatal to their campaign — but Haley seems determined to trudge on regardless, even as her long-shot campaign receives less and less attention by the day.

“The End Is Near For Nikki Haley,” the Trump campaign announced in a recent memo, reporting that their current data projects that Trump will notch the delegates needed to win the GOP nomination by March 12.

On the Democratic side, Biden doesn’t so much face a primary challenger (although Dean Phillips, like Haley, continues to fight the most uphill of battles) as he does a litany of left-of-center columnists skeptical of his elevation.

The latest pundit to step into this breach was the New York Times’ Ezra Klein, a respected voice in Democratic circles, who published an audio essay this weekend calling for the Democrats to pick a different nominee via an open convention.

I’ve made my thoughts on this clear over the last few weeks. I think Klein’s piece is worth listening to — and that his points about Biden’s age and the risks for Democrats of nominating him are well-taken.

“We had to wait ’till this year — ’till now, really — to see Biden even begin to show what he’d be like on the campaign trail,” Klein says. “And what I think we’re seeing is that he is not up for this. He is not the campaigner he was, even five years ago.”

But, for reasons I’ve laid out previously, I’m also skeptical of the solution Klein proposes, the open convention, and view it as an equally risky move for Democrats, because it would re-open up a lot of the party’s wounds that Biden papers over. (And, as I’ve noted, pundits keep forgetting that the Sanders wing of the party would have almost no representation at the convention, which will be composed of Biden delegates, which means this will be a heavily skewed fight, not the level playing field Klein imagines. Cue left-wing backlash.)

Another piece worth reading on this subject is Nate Silver’s recent Substack, where he argues that Biden needs to “put up or shut up” — proposing that the president give a series of interview (to the New York Times, to “60 Minutes,” to The Dispatch, even to Ezra Klein) to prove that he is up for the task of another campaign, especially after declining the Super Bowl interview last week.

“If Biden was willing to take five hours to speak with [Special Counsel Robert] Hur, he ought to to take five hours for this,” Silver writes. “And if he can’t, it’s awfully audacious to ask Americans to make him president for another four years.”

Biden may yet adopt this strategy — watch to see if he does more interviews and press appearances around the State of the Union — but so far his team seems much more focused on elevating Trump than their own candidate.

“President Joe Biden personally directed his senior campaign aides in recent days to focus more aggressively on former President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments,” CNN reported Tuesday, reflecting more of an anti-Trump campaign strategy than a pro-Biden one.

And, while his team does that, Biden is mostly sticking to hosting fundraisers behind closed doors instead of holding major campaign rallies. Biden’s war chest is quickly inflating as a result: in January, his campaign raised $15.7 million to Trump’s $8.8 million, ending the month with $56 million in the bank to Trump’s $30.5 million.

More news to know.

U.S. tells allies Russia may launch anti-satellite nuclear weapon into space this year (Bloomberg)

Indicted ex-FBI informant told investigators he got Hunter Biden dirt from Russian intelligence officials (CNN)

Trump and allies plotting militarized mass deportations, detention camps (WaPo)

College admissions face new turmoil after Biden’s Education Department fumble (Politico)

Ashley Biden pays off thousands owed in taxes, latest filing shows (Fox News)

‘Exhibit A for term limits’: Some Democrats question Rep. David Scott’s reelection bid (Politico)

Former CNN anchor John Avlon announces run for Congress as a Democrat (Axios)

The day ahead.

White House: President Biden is in California. He will deliver remarks at 3:45 p.m. ET on an unspecified topic. Later, he will attend two campaign fundraisers in San Francisco.

Vice President Harris has nothing on her public schedule.

Congress: The House and Senate are both on recess. On the committee level, James Biden — the president’s brother — is set to testify behind closed doors as part of the Biden impeachment inquiry being led by the Oversight and Judiciary panels. Lawmakers are investigating a wide range of James Biden’s business dealings and attempts to profit off of his last name.

Supreme Court: The justices will hear oral arguments in Ohio v. EPA, a challenge to the Biden administration’s pollution rules. They may also issue their opinion in the Trump 14th Amendment challenge.

Before I go...

Here’s something I read that stuck with me: This New York Times piece on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s final days in prison.

The cells were usually cold, damp and poorly ventilated 7-feet-by-10-feet concrete spaces. But Mr. Navalny was protesting something different: Inmates ordered to spend time in those cells were allowed only one book. “I want to have 10 books in my cell,” he told the court.

Read the piece here for free.

Thanks for reading.

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