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Happy Friday! Capitol Hill is experiencing its own March Madness, with Congress struggling to pass a funding agreement to avoid a government shutdown tonight. And as we were putting the finishing touches to this newsletter, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to vacate the chair—a procedural move to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson. It won’t be privileged, so the House won’t take up the motion immediately, but still: madness!

Up to Speed

  • A pair of new CNN polls in Michigan and Pennsylvania released Friday found Donald Trump and Joe Biden in a dead heat in Michigan at 46 percent each, while Trump led Biden 50 percent to 42 percent in Pennsylvania. Less than half of voters in both states said they were satisfied with their choices of presidential candidates.

  • Trump said Tuesday that he would likely support a 15-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. “The number of weeks now, people are agreeing on 15, and I’m thinking in terms of that, and it’ll come out to something that’s very reasonable,” he told the local New York City radio show Sid and Friends in the Morning. “But people are really, even hard-liners are agreeing, seems to be, 15 weeks seems to be a number that people are agreeing at. But I’ll make that announcement at the appropriate time.” That is perhaps the clearest stance he has taken on abortion legislation since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and his comments come a month after the New York Times reported he was leaning toward a limit of 16 weeks.

  • Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey announced Thursday he will not file to run for reelection as a Democrat, just days before the filing deadline. Menendez is under federal indictment for bribery charges, and several credible Democrats have already filed to run for his seat this year. In a lengthy video posted online, Menendez claimed he will prove his innocence on the charges but said he could not run for his party’s nomination. He did, however, suggest he would run as an “independent Democrat” after he is exonerated. Menendez will have until June 4 to file as an independent candidate.

  • Republican Senate candidate Larry Hogan of Maryland leads both of his potential Democratic opponents by double digits in a Washington Post poll released Wednesday. He leads Rep. David Trone 49 percent to 37 percent and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks 50 percent to 36 percent. The moderate former governor has the lead despite a majority of the poll’s respondents saying they would prefer Democrats to control the Senate rather than Republicans.

  • Speaking of Trone, the Democratic congressman made an unfortunate mistake on Thursday during a House Budget Committee hearing. Attempting to use the term “bugaboo” to criticize a Republican talking point about taxes, Trone instead used a racial slur, “jigaboo,” a derogatory word for black people. He later apologized for using the offensive word.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday on Donald Trump’s rhetoric on the trail suggesting the 2024 election could be “rigged” against him, including a new phrase that has made its way into Trump’s speeches and even on signs distributed at his events: “Too Big to Rig.” The presumptive Republican nominee is encouraging his supporters to help make his lead so large that his opponents cannot steal the election from him, but as the Journal notes, the message could complicate GOP turnout efforts.

Despite Electoral Headwinds, Dems Have Cash To Burn

President Joe Biden speaks to local supporters and volunteers at the office opening of the Wisconsin coordinated campaign headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)President Joe Biden speaks to local supporters and volunteers at the office opening of the Wisconsin coordinated campaign headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden speaks to local supporters and volunteers at the office opening of the Wisconsin coordinated campaign headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on March 13, 2024. (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

If you’re a Democrat, it’s tough to find positive signs ahead of the 2024 elections. President Joe Biden’s approval rating is at historic lows for an incumbent, and Donald Trump leads him in several credible polls. The party has difficult seats to defend in the Senate and no great opportunities for pick-ups. Despite the narrow Republican majority in the House, Democrats are feeling grim about their ability to win back control there.

“We’re gonna be running this election like we’re behind in every way, including financially,” Pat Dennis, the president of the Democratic rapid-response organization American Bridge, told The Dispatch.

Despite Dennis’ comments, Democrats have a major advantage in one key area: cold, hard cash. From the presidential race to the various super PACs on the left, Democrats are starting the general election season with more money than their Republican counterparts. They’re cautious about assuming their financial advantage will translate to victory up and down the ballot, and it’s possible that Republican fundraising can catch up. But the cash advantage is stark.

Biden’s campaign reported this week it had $71 million of cash on hand through the month of February, double the $33.3 million the Trump campaign reported having at the same time. And while both nominees’ joint fundraising committees won’t report their latest numbers to the Federal Election Commission until next month, the total advantage Biden has when factoring in these supportive groups, such as the Democratic and Republican national committees, is even more impressive. Including that $71 million, Biden and these coordinating groups say they have $155 million total. Trump has just recently set up his own joint fundraising committee, and between his campaign, the cash-strapped RNC, and his supportive super PACs, has just $42 million in cash on hand.

Biden’s authorized super PAC, Future Forward, reported starting the year with nearly $24 million cash on hand. The comparable groups supporting Trump are struggling to compete. Save America, the pro-Trump super PAC, reported having just over $4 million in cash on hand at the end of February. The group actually spent more than $5.6 million on legal fees to firms working for Trump’s legal defense in multiple civil and criminal cases, which was more than the $5 million it received in February as a transfer from another pro-Trump super PAC, Make America Great Again Inc. The group itself reported $19 million in cash on hand through the end of January. According to the Associated Press, money donated to the new Trump joint fundraising agreement will be directed toward the Trump campaign and Save America before heading to the RNC.

With such advantages, the collective spending power of the pro-Biden and liberal independent expenditure groups promises to be staggering, with the New York Times reporting that several organizations have pledged political programs—ad spending, organizing, and get-out-the-vote programs—to boost Democrats that total up to $1 billion. That includes $120 million from the League of Conservation Voters; $250 million in reserved ad buys from Future Forward; $200 million from the Service Employees International Union; $239 million in ad reservations from Senate Majority PAC; and $150 million from American Bridge.

Even smaller groups are promising massive budgets on campaign activities. Last month VoteVets, a liberal organization focusing on military veterans, announced a $45 million program for 2024, while the pro-Biden group Republican Voters Against Trump plans to spend $50 million on ads convincing Republican leaners to vote for the Democrat.

There are benefits to having the cash advantage now, including better rates for TV ad time. Groups that can reserve their time now won’t have to spend as much as those buying up ad time later. If conservative megadonors come in later to support pro-Republican super PACs, they’ll be getting less bang for their buck.

So far, there’s been no indication of a commensurate united effort on the right, and some of the most powerful groups that helped turn out elements of the GOP coalition in election years past likely will play diminished roles.

The political network associated with billionaires Charles Koch and his late brother David, for example, is continuing to take the measured approach to campaign spending that it has employed since Trump first won the Republican nomination in 2016. The Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, which had supported Nikki Haley’s bid, has announced some targeted spending on behalf of Republican Senate candidates in Pennsylvania and Nevada. But the $1.5 million total in ad reservations so far pales in comparison to the $122 million the group spent in the 2012 presidential election cycle, a monumental figure for the time. And the National Rifle Association’s political arm, once a pro-Republican force that spent $50 million in the 2016 election cycle, had just $11 million in cash on hand at the end of February.

Some on the pro-Biden side say the current money disparity reflects a fundamental problem GOP donors have with the man at the top of the ticket.

“Donors know that Joe Biden is running to be president and that Donald Trump is running to stay out of jail,” said Sarah Longwell, who runs Republican Voters Against Trump. “Republican donors just don’t seem that interested in paying Trump’s legal bills.”

Biden-Trump Rematch Not Dampening Turnout: Pollsters

With the rematch between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump that American voters are dreading now firmly underway, campaign pollsters are searching for signs that participation in the November election is poised for a nosedive. So far, they can’t find any.

The 2020 contest that saw Biden oust Trump tallied nearly 158.5 million votes for president nationwide out of almost 159.8 million total ballots cast. Those numbers equaled roughly 66 percent of eligible voters, the highest turnout for a national election in 120 years, according to the Pew Research Center. The question is whether those statistics, or anything close to them, can possibly sustain this fall amid the Biden-Trump sequel a majority of voters insist they don’t want.

Perhaps surprisingly, the answer less than eight months before Election Day is: quite possibly.

“I have seen no evidence in the data thus far that turnout will be diminished in any statistically meaningful way because of dislike for the two candidates,” a Republican pollster with clients on the 2024 ballot told Dispatch Politics. “My expectation is that turnout among Democrats and Republicans will not be down because partisan voters will be motivated more by hatred of the other candidate, which will keep even reluctant partisan Trump and Biden partisans engaged.”

“I have never seen more hatred for the other party’s candidate than we see right now,” the GOP pollster added. Democratic pollsters are, similarly, failing to find any data that suggests a significant percentage of voters will sit on their hands on November 5. “I don’t assume that high levels of dissatisfaction with candidates will equal low overall turnout at this point,” one of them told us.

The pollsters interviewed for this story requested anonymity to speak candidly out of concern about how their comments might reflect on their clients.

For the past several months, poll after poll has revealed voters were unhappy with the prospect of a Biden-Trump rematch that finally kicked off following the March 5, Super Tuesday primaries.

But it’s not just the do-over aspect of the 2020 campaign that is leaving voters dissatisfied. They also disapprove of the Democratic and Republican nominees on an individual basis—considerably. Take Biden: His job approval rating is stuck at 40.3 percent and his personal favorability rating—a quality that is supposed to be his strong suit, is just as bad. Trump is doing only slightly better. Yet the political atmosphere may conspire to spike turnout levels for the fourth consecutive federal election.

In particular, said a second Republican pollster we spoke with, voters broadly are viewing the upcoming presidential contest as consequential. Indeed, this pollster explained that “in spite of the fact that about 12 percent to 15 percent [of likely voters] hate both candidates, the sense of importance about this election remains very high.” That view, that participating in the 2024 election matters, is the case “even among the double haters.”

This GOP pollster, one of about 20 who recently took part in a polling summit convened by the National Republican Congressional Committee, said none in the group “has seen any evidence of decreased turnout, yet.”

Some Republican pollsters believe such evidence is unlikely to show up in future surveys because of high levels of negative partisanship—overwhelming opposition to Biden by Republicans and opposition to Trump by Democrats—and the proliferation of early in-person and mail-in voting that give campaigns several weeks before Election Day to badger voters into pulling the proverbial lever. But given the circumstances, they remain on high alert for this phenomenon to take hold.

It’s too early to know for sure how voters are going to feel about their choices after Labor Day, when they typically begin paying closer attention. That’s especially the case among independent voters, less likely to be compelled to support a candidate they don’t like.

“Common sense would say to expect it,” a Republican strategist said. “But both sides are pretty motivated and we have been running generally unpopular picks for at least the last three cycles with the last two setting turnout records.”

Notable and Quotable

“If Donald Trump put up these kinds of numbers on The Apprentice, he’d fire himself.”

–Biden reelection campaign communications director Michael Tyler in a statement in response to Trump’s fundraising numbers, March 21, 2024

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