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POLITICO Playbook: How Trump’s 2024 rivals are spending Christmas

DONALD TRUMP may be the once and future Republican presidential nominee, but after the midterms and other recent events punctured his sense of political invincibility, a crowded field of would-be rivals is jostling to get ready for the race.

Over the holidays, many politicians are gathering with loved ones to plot out their next steps, as potential decision points on 2024 loom this winter and spring. In the new year, a flurry of events in early-voting states — where elections are barely a year away! — will entice more Republicans onto the putative campaign trail. And moves on staffing or fundraising are already underway.

“Many operatives said they see benefits to sitting back and methodically preparing while Trump deals with growing problems,” WaPo’s Hannah Knowles reports. Her story and this dispatch from CBS’ Aaron Navarro and Robert Costa run down a variety of potential contenders and their holiday-season maneuverings. Who will take the plunge or bow out? Here are the latest moves:

— Florida Gov. RON DeSANTIS, who looks like the strongest Trump challenger right now, “just restarted his Google and Facebook ads, targeting a national audience ahead of a state legislative session he believes will highlight causes that will help him in a presidential primary,” per WaPo. State legislators have their eyes on abortion, guns, data privacy and companies’ environmental, social and governance moves.

— MIKE PENCE is aiming to hire more finance staffers and discussing the race with his family at home in Indianapolis. His book tour will hit megachurches next month, beginning with Dallas evangelical pastor ROBERT JEFFRESS, who hasn’t yet endorsed Trump.

— South Dakota Gov. KRISTI NOEM is likely heading to Iowa soon, while her advisers try to take DeSantis down a notch by noting that she banned TikTok on state devices first.

— Maryland Gov. LARRY HOGAN has stepped up fundraising efforts in recent months and said he’s thinking through a potential run over the holidays, as is NIKKI HALEY.

— Arkansas Gov. ASA HUTCHINSON is having discussions with donors and banking on a Trump implosion: “You never know when that early front-runner is going to stumble,” he says.

— Virginia Gov. GLENN YOUNGKIN is gearing up for a legislative fight over tax cuts with the Democratic-led state Senate. He’s been talking with donors all fall.

— MIKE POMPEO and his team are talking with possible staffers in the early states.

— New Hampshire Gov. CHRIS SUNUNU is putting up early-state Facebook ads and giving lots of interviews to national media.

— Sen. TIM SCOTT (R-S.C.) has put up Facebook ads in early states, too.

Good Sunday morning, and merry Christmas from Playbook’s token Jew! Thanks for reading. The rest of the team is off, so they can’t stop me from declaring the best Christmas song to be “Joseph, Who Understood” by The New Pornographers. Drop me a line with your favorites at [email protected], or reach out to the others: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.


— President JOE BIDEN on Twitter: “There is a certain stillness at the center of the Christmas story: a silent night when all the world goes quiet. And all the clamor, everything that divides us, fades away in the stillness of a winter’s evening. I wish you that peace this Christmas Eve.”

— Trump on Truth Social: “Merry Christmas to EVERYONE, including the Radical Left Marxists that are trying to destroy our Country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation that is illegally coercing & paying Social and LameStream Media to push for a mentally disabled Democrat over the Brilliant, Clairvoyant, and USA LOVING Donald J. Trump, and, of course, The Department of Injustice, which appointed a Special ‘Prosecutor’ who, together with his wife and family, HATES ‘Trump’ more than any other person on earth. LOVE TO ALL!”


— Rep. JAMIE RASKIN (D-Md.) on Electoral Count Act reform and abolishing the Electoral College, on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “It’s necessary, but it’s not remotely sufficient. You know, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year exporting American democracy to other countries, and the one thing they never come back to us with is the idea that, ‘Oh, that Electoral College that you have, that’s so great, we think we’ll adopt that too.’”

— Rep. PAT FALLON (R-Texas) on the omnibus bill, on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures”: “A 4,155-page bill shoved down our throats at the last minute in a lame-duck session. And it’s just littered with pork. There’s $12 billion additionally for the IRS, and the IRS — that agency just got $80 billion in what I call the Inflation Enhancement Act. … It was an absolute piece of garbage, and that’s why I voted not only no but hell no.”

— Rep.-elect DAN GOLDMAN (D-N.Y.) on what comes after the Jan. 6 committee report, on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show”: “We are in unprecedented times where we have a routine, regular and persistent onslaught on our democratic institutions, on a democratic way of life. … Now that we are entering into a new era where authoritarian forces have a grip on the Republican Party, we need to be thinking about ways that we can preserve and protect our democracy that lasts generations.”

TOP-EDS: A roundup of the week’s must-read opinion pieces.

“Was the World Collapsing? Or Were You Just Freaking Out?” by NYT’s Katherine Miller

“The Homeownership Society Was a Mistake,” by The Atlantic’s Jerusalem Demsas

“Free speech is not in peril in America,” by The Economist’s James Bennet

“The Americanization of Religion,” by NYT’s Ross Douthat

“Sotomayor and Kagan need to think about retiring,” by Vox’s Ian Millhiser

“ESG Won’t Stop the FTC,” by Chair Lina Khan in the WSJ

“Say Donald Trump’s Name,” by Rich Lowry for POLITICO



1. EDGE OF THE LAKE: On Christmas Eve, a judge rejected KARI LAKE’s claims of an unfair Arizona gubernatorial election and said Democrat KATIE HOBBS fairly won the race. “Lake’s legal team never offered clear and convincing evidence showing the election was rigged against her,” the judge found, per the Arizona Republic’s Ray Stern.

This may not be the end of the road, though: Lake said she’ll appeal the ruling, which could move quickly ahead of Hobbs’ expected swearing-in Jan. 2.

2. MORE NUGGETS FROM THE JAN. 6 TRANSCRIPTS: Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL asked then-national security adviser ROBERT O’BRIEN to investigate rumors of a potential attack on Biden’s inauguration in the hectic weeks of January 2021, O’Brien told the House Jan. 6 committee. The detail revealed in transcripts newly made public — of a fear that didn’t come to pass — “underscored the intense fears and instability that gripped Washington in the two weeks between the Jan. 6 assault and Biden’s ascension to the presidency,” Kyle Cheney reports.

There’s also a tense exchange between KAYLEIGH McENANY and Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.), CNN’s Sarah Fortinsky reports, which includes this quote from McEnany: “I in no way, shape or form would eat a turkey sandwich if I thought Capitol Hill was being sieged.”

3. IMMIGRATION FILES: Several buses of migrants sent from Texas were dropped off Saturday night outside Harris’ residence in D.C., per CNN’s Noah Gray. In the frigid Christmas Eve cold, some of them had only T-shirts, but local aid groups quickly arrived to usher them to warmth.

At the other end of that journey, hundreds of migrants are waiting out in the cold on the Mexican side of the border, waiting for the Title 42 policy to be lifted, Reuters’ Daniel Becerril and Daina Beth Solomon report from Matamoros. And in Ciudad Juarez, “[m]any have been sleeping in the streets. Officials have provided more space in shelters in recent days, but some migrants are wary.” Just over the line in El Paso, Texas, some migrants are staying in churches and depending on the kindness of strangers to get shelter for Christmas, NPR’s Angela Kocherga reports.

“How San Antonio became a hub for migrants,” by Katelyn Cordero: “The city, along with El Paso in recent weeks, has become ground zero for migrants as they search for better opportunities … On the ground in San Antonio, DeSantis’ flights and [Gov. GREG] ABBOTT’s busing program caused a backlash from residents, migrants, relief organizations and officials.”

4. WHAT WASN’T IN THE OMNIBUS: State and local election officials received significantly less funding for security measures in Congress’ huge government spending bill than they’d hoped, AP’s Christina Cassidy reports from Atlanta. “They also were disappointed that proposals to make such threats a federal crime with more severe penalties fizzled.” Instead, the officials may have to turn to state legislatures for backup.

5. THE NEW MAJORITY, PART I: With Republicans in charge of the House next year, the prospect of an economy-shaking debt ceiling standoff between the parties has started to loom larger, WSJ’s Lindsay Wise and Andrew Duehren report. Sen. CHRIS MURPHY (D-Conn.) is ready to play hardball on an issue that he says shouldn’t be up for discussion: “We’re not negotiating, we’re giving them nothing.” But Republicans are still projecting that they see the debt ceiling as a potential leverage point.

6. THE NEW MAJORITY, PART II: House Republicans are considering a major “top-to-bottom” investigation of the FBI, modeled on the Church Committee from the 1970s, Just the News’ John Solomon reports. Likely incoming House Judiciary Chair JIM JORDAN (R-Ohio) told Solomon he endorses the idea, as did House GOP Leader KEVIN McCARTHY on Fox News this week. “The goal, they say, would be not only to expose failures and wrongdoing but also to impose reforms on the bureau.” Among the names floated for the panel: DEVIN NUNES and JOHN RATCLIFFE.

7. MUSK READ: “Twitter restores suicide prevention feature after Reuters report,” by Reuters’ Kenneth Li, Paresh Dave and Sheila Dang: “Twitter Inc has restored a feature that promotes suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users looking up certain content … [T]he removal was ordered by the social media platform’s new owner ELON MUSK. … About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who did not initially respond to requests for comment, tweeted ‘False, it is still there.’ In response to criticism by Twitter users, he also tweeted ‘Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.’”

8. HISTORY MAKING: “West Point to Remove Confederate Monuments From Its Campus,” by NYT’s Amanda Holpuch: “The United States Military Academy at West Point will start removing Confederate symbols from its campus, including taking down a portrait of Gen. ROBERT E. LEE dressed in his Confederate uniform from the academy’s library … Over the next year, West Point will also remove, relocate, modify or rename busts, memorials, streets and buildings named after Confederate figures as part of a directive from the Department of Defense.”

9. THE TALENTED MR. SANTOS: “Madcap Details Emerge of Santos’s Criminal Past In Brazil,” by Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall: “GEORGE SANTOS’s criminal history in Brazil turns out to have several comedic elements to it and provides some additional color about the man who would win election to Congress fourteen years later.”

Nancy and Paul Pelosi stopped by Tiffany’s in San Francisco.

Matt Gaetz wants Jim Jordan for speaker.

Mike Lee found a way to tie Santa Claus to the Commerce Clause.

IN MEMORIAM — “Dax Tejera, Executive Producer of ABC’s ‘This Week,’ Dies at 37,” by The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Weprin: “Tejera died suddenly of a heart attack on Friday … Tejera, a veteran TV news producer at both ABC and NBC News, had led the Sunday show anchored by George Stephanopoulos, Jonathan Karl and Martha Raddatz since just before the COVID-19 pandemic erupted … Tejera was known for his competitive spirit, pushing the This Week team to become the top Sunday public affairs show.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Mike Donilon Karl Rove … OMB’s Wintta WoldemariamTim Miller … Jones Day’s Brian Rabbitt Bill Bailey of the Walt Disney Co. … Stephanie Mathews O’Keefe … USAID’s Sophia Lalani … NBC’s Hilary KriegerScott Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing … Atlas Strategy Group’s Michael BlakeRachael Slobodien of the America First Policy Institute … CBS’ Natalie PahzDaniel Fisher of the Associated Equipment Distributors … Garrett Bess of Heritage Action … Amanda MungerMiranda Margowsky of the Financial Technology Association … Google’s Anne WallRebecca Pilar Buckwalter-PozaKristen ShatynskiJames Fitzella … former CEA Chair Christina Romer … DLA Piper’s Irene ShermanSarah Levin … CTA’s Tiffany Moore … Rokk Solutions’ Benjamin Khoshbin Zachary Hooper … Canadian PM Justin Trudeau

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected] or text us at 202-556-3307. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike DeBonis, deputy editor Zack Stanton, digital editor Garrett Ross and producers Setota Hailemariam and Bethany Irvine.

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