8 burning political questions for 2023
It doesn’t feel like Donald Trump is the GOP’s 2024 frontrunner. Not after the blame he’s absorbed for the party’s subpar midterms, his low-wattage campaign launch, the indefensible dinner with Ye, and the polls showing him trailing by double-digits in a head-to-head match against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
But it’s early days yet. Trump still has plenty of support among the Republican rank-and-file, and polls show him leading in a more divided primary field that splits the vote against him. Can he get back his old spark? Maybe not, but it’d be silly to count him out yet.
It doesn't appear that DeSantis is planning to announce an official presidential run any time soon. Instead, the most interesting man in GOP politics is focused on burnishing his conservative resume down in Florida. The number one topic to watch this year? That would be abortion, an issue that dragged down national Republicans during the midterms. In April, DeSantis signed a ban on the procedure after 15-weeks of pregnancy. But post-Dobbs, some conservatives want a stricter, 6-week ban, and the governor has at least hinted he would sign it. He might not have a choice, if he wants evangelicals to back him over Trump in 2024. But the move could turn out to be toxic with swing voters.
So far, it’s a two-man race between Trump and DeSantis. But a lot of Republicans are eying a run for GOP nomination, and the weaker Trump seems, the more will be tempted to take their shot at the crown.
Barack Obama did it in April 2011. Donald Trump did it the week he was sworn in as president. Democrats currently expect the president to launch his campaign for a second term in the first months of 2023, even as polling suggests most voters want a new, younger nominee. Watch who and who doesn’t endorse him right away, and whether anyone besides Marianne Williamson wants to be an alternative.
Even Republicans seem a little nervous about their new House majority. The party will have a narrow edge in the chamber, potentially putting implacable hardline conservatives in a position to gum up everyday business like keeping the government running or avoiding a debt default. In December, Senate GOP leaders decided to cut a giant spending deal with Democrats before the year ran out, in part because they worried that their fractious House colleagues simply wouldn’t be able to work out an agreement of their own. So far those fears seem justified. With just a day to go before the new Congress kicks off, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has yet to nail down the votes for speaker. Whoever ends up with the gavel, it’s an open question how effectively they’ll be able to run the place.
Speaking of basic governance: Once again, the U.S. is headed for a potential debt ceiling standoff. Republicans have said they want to use the upcoming vote to increase the government’s borrowing limit as leverage to demand spending cuts, possibly to programs like Social Security, that Democrats find unacceptable. Will this staring match turn out like the last go-round, where after a bit of posturing Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell found a face saving agreement to hike the limit and move on? Or will Biden finally be forced to ponder minting a trillion-dollar coin?
Nobody expects Congress to pile up as many bipartisan accomplishments as it did in Biden’s first two years, now that Republicans control the House. But Sen. Todd Young, a key GOP dealmaker, recently told Semafor he thinks there might still be room to work across the aisle on issues around China, where a hawkish bipartisan consensus has formed.
For now, it looks like the fabulist from Long Island will be sworn in like any other congressman. But prosecutors may have other ideas about his future.