• D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG
rotating globe
  • D.C.
  • BXL
  • Lagos
Semafor Logo
  • Dubai
  • Beijing
  • SG

In today’s edition: Ron DeSantis says goodbye, Joe Biden’s challengers on the New Hampshire primary ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌  ͏‌ 
sunny Washington
cloudy Waukesha County
cloudy Rochester
rotating globe
January 22, 2024


Sign up for our free newsletters
Today in D.C.
  1. Goodbye, Ron DeSantis
  2. The Dems’ N.H. contest
  3. Media’s Trump bust
  4. Biden’s abortion play
  5. SALT caucus qualms
  6. Fani Willis’ brewing controversy

PDB: Tim Scott is getting hitched

Netanyahu rejects Hamas conditions for release of remaining hostages … Pakistan, U.S. lead Semafor’s latest Global Election Hot ListPolitico: Will Trump trials happen before the election?

— edited by Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann and Morgan Chalfant


Ron DeSantis calls it a campaign

Ron DeSantis campaign / via REUTERS

Ron DeSantis’s disappointing campaign ended as it began: With an announcement on X. Our political team breaks down 13 reasons why his campaign failed and, honestly, it’s an abridged list. It’s hard to believe now, but only one year ago DeSantis was leading polls in New Hampshire, where he dropped out before an expected single-digit finish. It was all downhill from there, though, as he refused to engage with Trump for months while the former president was weak; organized a disastrous campaign rollout with Elon Musk; spurned the press for a too-online strategy that blew up in his face; and presided over a bloated campaign and super PAC hybrid that collapsed under its weight. “A lot of these things didn’t make a lot of sense,” one DeSantis backer told Semafor. “They didn’t want to win.” DeSantis — along with everyone else in the field — also struggled to pierce Trump’s armor once a long series of indictments rallied Republicans to his cause. It’s possible that the indictment backlash made Trump unbeatable even against a strong campaign — but we’ll likely never know. Nikki Haley will take her best one-on-one shot at Trump tomorrow after DeSantis endorsed the frontrunner’s campaign (“superior to the current incumbent”) and anti-endorsed hers (“warmed-over corporatism”), but it’s increasingly hard to see how the race lasts much longer.


Meanwhile, in the Democratic New Hampshire primary

REUTERS/Faith Ninivaggi

For the first time, Joe Biden has more active primary opponents in New Hampshire than Donald Trump. Semafor’s David Weigel has the latest on the strange Democratic race unfolding ahead of Tuesday. Biden is not on the ballot and not campaigning after the state party defied the DNC’s new calendar, but supporters are organizing an independent write-in campaign in the hopes of staving off an embarrassing loss. Meanwhile, rivals Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson are on the ballot, but currently competing with an abstract concept for votes: Some critics of Israel’s Gaza war are planning to write in “ceasefire” as a protest. Trump, for his part, is encouraging unaffiliated voters — a critical swing vote for Haley who can participate in either primary — to vote for Phillips to mess with Biden. One potential factor in the Democratic contest: Trump’s increasingly imminent nomination, which is forcing voters to grapple with the reality of a potential second administration. “I told friends two weeks ago, after two margaritas, that I couldn’t possibly vote for Biden because of this Middle East thing,” voter Sandy Keans said after hearing Phillips speak. “But I’ll mellow out before Tuesday. And I’ll be sober.”

Read on for David's view on the stakes in New Hampshire. →


No ‘Trump Bump’ for the media

Semafor/Max Tani

Eight years ago, the chairman of CBS notoriously quipped that the election “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Semafor’s Max Tani went to New Hampshire last week and found the opposite: The debates are losing TV money, the hotels are empty, and the buzzing, lucrative American political-media-industrial complex has gone bust. Media hoping for a “Trump Bump” will be disappointed, according to the incoming CEO of the Washington Post. What’s left, Max writes, is Donald Trump as “the campaign equivalent of an aging rock band touring on a new album: He’ll try some new stuff, but largely just plays the hits the crowd came to see.”

Read more about how the 2024 media landscape is shaping up. →


Biden’s abortion messaging gets turned up

Screen grab / Biden campaign ad

Today marks the 51st year since Roe v. Wade was decided, and the White House wants to make sure its demise — and Donald Trump’s role in that — is top of mind for Americans in 2024. Vice President Harris heads to Wisconsin today to kick off a tour on “reproductive freedoms” and will take aim at the former president in her speech, invoking his recent comments taking credit for ending Roe v. Wade. “He made a decision to take your freedoms and it is a decision he does not regret,” Harris will say. At the White House, President Biden, who derided “extreme and dangerous abortion bans” across the country in a statement this morning, will meet with his White House task force on reproductive health care. In timing with the anniversary, the Biden administration will move to expand contraceptive coverage under Obamacare and launch a new education campaign focused on access to care for patients experiencing pregnancy-related emergencies, the White House said. Meanwhile, the Biden campaign is also trying to draw a more explicit contrast between Biden and Trump, who is mentioned by name in a new ad featuring Austin Dennard, the Texas OB-GYN who had to leave Texas to get an abortion after finding out her fetus had a fatal condition. After the 2022 midterms, Democrats see abortion as a critical motivating issue, particularly for female voters. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged Biden to talk more about the issue in an interview on CBS yesterday.

Morgan Chalfant


One group that’s unhappy with Congress’ big new tax deal

REUTERS/Leah Millis

Republicans looking to loosen up limits on the State and Local Tax Deduction are furious that the issue got left out of Congress’s new $78 billion tax deal. “[House Ways and Means Chair] Jason Smith has failed miserably,” a GOP member of the bipartisan SALT Caucus told Semafor, referring to the current chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. “His ears are closed and his mind is closed.” The member added that Smith had “starved fellow House Republicans” of information as the bill was negotiated, and stated their personal opposition to the legislation as long as it didn’t raise the current $10,000 SALT cap. Smith said in a Bloomberg TV interview last week that including changes to the cap could kill the entire bill. “I have been talking to all my colleagues from day one, both in the House and Senate,” Smith told Semafor last week when asked about his outreach on the bill. Spokespeople for the Ways and Means panel didn’t return requests for comment. Will the SALT club’s ire matter? Maybe in a close vote. That said: The Ways & Means panel approved the bill 40-3 Friday, suggesting it might have blowout bipartisan support.

— Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Kadia Goba


Allegations against Fani Willis threaten Trump case

REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

It’s looking more and more like allegations about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and one of her lead prosecutors could disrupt their case against former President Donald Trump and his allies. Two weeks after one of the defendants in the election interference case alleged in a filing that Willis improperly hired Nathan Wade, someone with whom she was having a “clandestine personal relationship,” neither Willis nor Wade have publicly addressed the specific allegations. Late last week, credit card statements filed in Wade’s divorce case showed that he bought plane tickets for himself and Willis for trips to San Francisco and Miami. The New York Times reports that the two have been friends since 2019 and “had at times been affectionate with each other in public settings.” The Times also raises questions about Wade’s qualifications for the role. “The realm of attorneys who handle Georgia RICO cases is a small one, and he is not someone who was in that realm before the Trump case,” one Atlanta-based trial lawyer told the paper. According to the Washington Post, Trump’s team is salivating, seeing the allegations as a “gift” that help discredit the investigation. If the controversy becomes large enough, it could also potentially delay the case. Norm Eisen, who served as a special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first Trump impeachment, is now calling on Wade to voluntarily step aside while Willis keeps at it; he argues that the episode would not disqualify Willis from her role even if the allegations were true.

Principals Live

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill. joins Semafor’s Morgan Chalfant for an exclusive interview focused on the latest news and priorities of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, how he thinks Democrats should be talking about foreign policy heading into this election season, and his take on the recent presidential election in Taiwan and how it could affect the island’s future. Sign up here.


Beltway Newsletters

Punchbowl News: Senators are close to nailing down a border security deal but it’s not done yet: negotiators could unveil text as early as Tuesday, but an agreement is still not guaranteed this week.

Axios: Ron DeSantis’ decision to pull the plug on his campaign just before New Hampshire isn’t just about wanting Donald Trump to win, it’s about wanting Nikki Haley to lose — and serves as the “latest blow in his increasingly bitter fight” with the former South Carolina governor.

Playbook: A DeSantis insider said this when assessing the candidate’s fall: Trump’s indictments solidified the former president’s support; DeSantis’ early financial challenges gave donors permission “to look elsewhere”; and the campaign “was trying to fight a super PAC that was like deliberately trying to screw it every step of the way until it was restructured.”

White House

  • President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held their first phone call in weeks during which Netanyahu said that he wasn’t ruling out the creation of a Palestinian state, despite remarks he made a day earlier. — CNN
  • The White House’s Brett McGurk is headed to the Middle East again for talks about hostages and the Gaza war. He’s going to Qatar and Egypt. — Axios


  • The Senate is in this week, and will hold a procedural vote tomorrow on Christopher Koos, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Amtrak Board of Directors.
  • Senate negotiators could unveil an agreement on a bipartisan border security package as soon as this week. A Schumer spokeswoman said that negotiations continued over the weekend, and Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. said on CNN that he believed the parties were “very close” to finalizing a deal.
  • The House is out. But Democrats will spend the week advocating for women’s reproductive rights, honoring gun violence survivors, and promoting the impact of healthcare subsidies throughout their districts with social media blitzes, roundtables, and local press events.
  • Some House Republicans are predicting that Speaker Mike Johnson won’t stay in his top leadership role if Republicans suffer defeat in the 2024 election. — Politico
  • Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas has a bone to pick with United Airlines involving his family dog.
  • Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif. is leading a letter with members of the California delegation urging the Los Angeles Times and the guild to “reach a consensus” after reports that the newsroom is expected to lay off a significant number of journalists.

Outside the Beltway

Larry Summers isn’t impressed by Harvard’s new task force meant to combat antisemitism.


Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is headed to Chicago and Milwaukee later this week to talk about President Biden’s economic agenda.


REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein

The annual March for Life in Washington attracted thousands of anti-abortion activists.


Before Ron DeSantis dropped out, three polls of New Hampshire voters found Donald Trump with a double-digit lead over Nikki Haley, including one from the Washington Post/Monmouth University out this morning that finds Trump with 52% of the vote and Haley with 34%.

On the Trail

  • House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good, R-Va., who backed Ron DeSantis, endorsed Donald Trump minutes after DeSantis dropped out of the GOP presidential race. Trump’s aides had signaled they would target Good in his own race.
  • Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. endorsed Trump and wouldn’t rule out joining his ticket as vice president nominee during an appearance on CNN yesterday. More importantly, though, he got engaged! His proposal to interior designer Mindy Noce took place Saturday, and Scott told The Washington Post it was “the most exciting thing I’ll do with my life besides making Jesus my Lord.”
Tim Scott (@votetimscott) / X
  • Rep. Nick LaLota, R-N.Y., who represents a Biden-won district in New York, also endorsed Trump, and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called Trump the “presumptive nominee.”
  • Ahead of the New Hampshire GOP primary, Nikki Haley received an endorsement from the New Hampshire Union Leader, as well as from former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (who recently exited the race).
  • Haley started to attack Trump’s mental fitness after he mixed her up with Nancy Pelosi. President Biden also piled on.
  • Four Wall Street billionaires are hosting a fundraiser for Haley in New York City on Jan. 30. — Bloomberg
  • Democrats are worried about Biden’s standing in the battleground state of Michigan. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. has worried Biden’s poll numbers could drag her down in her Senate race. — WSJ

National Security

  • The Pentagon said two Navy SEALs lost off the coast of Somalia are presumed dead.
  • U.S. military personnel in Iraq were injured over the weekend in a missile attack by Iranian-backed militants on the Al-Asad Airbase.

Foreign Policy

  • The U.S. along with Qatar and Egypt are pushing for a diplomatic resolution to the war in Gaza that would see Hamas release hostages and eventually pave the way for Israel to withdraw forces. — WSJ
  • Russian-backed officials in the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine reported some two dozen deaths from shelling in the area.

Big Read

The Financial Times’ Christopher Miller sat down with Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, who has survived 10 known assassination attempts and was a special forces soldier who fought against the Russians in Donbas during the 2014 invasion. Budanov said Ukraine would not alter its strategy of conducting operations inside Russia — like a recent drone attack on a St. Petersburg oil depot — and acknowledged the challenges of the counteroffensive. Miller writes that Budanov is known for “dramatic assertions that are almost impossible to verify,” like his claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is suffering from cancer. In the interview, Budanov also suggested that Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin could still be alive, despite the widespread assumption he was killed (and possibly assassinated) in a plane crash last year. “I’m not saying that he’s not dead or that he’s dead,” Budanov said. “I’m saying that there’s not a single piece of evidence that he’s dead.”


Stories that are being largely ignored by either left-leaning or right-leaning outlets, according to data from our partners at Ground News.

What the Left isn’t reading: President Biden said he doesn’t believe the U.S. southern border is secure.

What the Right isn’t reading: Kevin Morris, a Hollywood lawyer and Hunter Biden benefactor, accused House Republicans of misrepresenting his closed-door testimony.

Principals Team

Editors: Benjy Sarlin, Jordan Weissmann, Morgan Chalfant

Editor-at-Large: Steve Clemons

Reporters: Kadia Goba, Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Shelby Talcott, David Weigel

One Good Text

Celinda Lake is a pollster for the Democratic Party. She runs Lake Research Partners.