Leland Vittert’s War Notes: The General Election Begins Today

NewsNation Chief Washington Anchor and On Balance host Leland Vittert was a foreign correspondent for four years in Jerusalem. He gives you an early look at tonight’s 7 p.m. ET show. Subscribe to War Notes here.  

Eight Months

Lord willing, eight months from today, we will know who the next president of the United States will be. 

Until then, good luck — eight months is multiple eternities in American politics. 

The race in two sentences

  • Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden are historically weak figures and candidates by every possible measure. Yet, both are inexplicably convinced that the unpopularity of the other makes their reelection inevitable. 

Virginia’s Border with West Virginia 

In the more than eight years since Trump appeared on the political stage, leave it to the former Biden White House press secretary Jen Psaki to offer the best video explanation of why he STILL resonates with voters. 

Newsflash, Jen: The recent (alleged) rape of a 14-year-old by an illegal immigrant IN VIRGINIA might have something to do with it. 

It’s not just Virginia and Georgia: Over the weekend, an illegal immigrant with a long criminal history allegedly killed 27-year-old Washington State Patrol trooper Christopher Gadd. 

Zoom out: The ridicule and scorn are up there with Hilary Clinton’s “deplorables” and Obama’s bitter voters who “cling to their guns and religion.” 

Zoom WAY out: Immigration is a proxy for the chaos and disorder so many feel in America. 

Terry McAuliffe famously mocked Virginians concerned about “education” in his 2021 campaign: “I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decisions. … I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” 

He lost.

In November 2021, education served as a proxy for COVID-19 lockdowns, boys on girls sports teams, scolding of parents who cared and critical race theory.

Immigration as a proxy covers issues like:

  • crime 
  • the economy 
  • entitlement programs where migrants get gift cards and working-class Americans can’t pay for gas
  • feelings of a resentful working class left behind 

It all comes back to immigration.

Bottom line: The Washington elite really does think they are better than everyone else — everybody else doesn’t like that. 

Thought bubble: For all the wasted TV time over the next two days discussing what Biden will say in the State of the Union Address, we know he won’t say Laken Riley or Christopher Gadd’s names.

More for tomorrow’s State of the Union Address: Biden will blame Republicans for not fixing the border. It is unlikely he will address the 320,000 immigrants brought into the United States secretly by air to keep the crossing numbers down. Read more from Katelyn Caralle (@Katelyn_Caralle) at The Daily Mail

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – MARCH 05: Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks at an election-night watch party at Mar-a-Lago on March 05, 2024 in Palm Beach, Florida. Sixteen states are holding primaries and caucuses today as part of Super Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republicans Have a Similar Problem

During his prime-time speech last night and again today, Donald Trump not only did not reach out to Haley voters — he insulted their candidate and practically dared them to vote for Biden. 

Equally inexplicable to Democrats’ ridicule of issues like the border is Trump’s unwillingness to be gracious save one line in his statement today: “(I) would further like to invite all of the Haley supporters to join the greatest movement in the history of our Nation.”

  • Thought bubble: Who couldn’t be inspired by that? 

Worse still: Republicans (specifically Trump) have no desire to reach out to the center. 

The irony: The one person actually reaching out to Republican Nikki Haley voters is the current Democratic president. 

  • In a statement today reacting to her dropping out of the race, President Biden said, “Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters. I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign. I know there is a lot we won’t agree on. But on the fundamental issues of preserving American democracy, on standing up for the rule of law, on treating each other with decency and dignity and respect, on preserving NATO and standing up to America’s adversaries, I hope and believe we can find common ground.” 

To be fair: A lot of Democrats — or at least persuadable independents — voted for Haley in protest against Trump. 

Trumpies counter: “Polls show Trump ahead – he will win in a landslide.”

  • There is an emoji for that, but my mom reads this newsletter.  
  • The state polls show a large group of undecided voters. 
  • General elections are additive contests.
    • Trump won in 2016 by:
      • Adding traditional Republicans who held their nose when voting for him
      • With evangelical Christians voting on the Supreme Court 
      • With traditionally working-class whites who felt left behind 
    • Biden won in 2020 by:
      • Adding an energized anti-Trump base
      • With progressives who went along on spec 
      • And suburban voters tired of mean tweets 

Biden is at least making an attempt to add in Haley voters — Trump isn’t even trying. 

But don’t forget “uncommitted”: You have to hold before you can add — and “uncommitted” hit nearly 20% of the vote in Minnesota. 

Trump’s small advantage is there are actually people who support him. It’s very difficult to find a committed voter picking Biden because they LIKE Biden

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MARCH 6: New York Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a press conference to announce new subway safety measures at NYCTA Rail Control Center on March 6, 2024 in New York City. Hochul announced that 1,000 New York State Police, MTAPD and the New York National Guard will be used to support the NYPD in conducting bag checks. (Photo by Adam Gray/Getty Images)

Bring in the Guard

Suddenly, stopping crime is politically advantageous again.

Isaac Schorr (@isaac_schorr) quotes D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in Mediaite, saying, “We don’t want to lock up our kids, but we might have to if they’re using guns.”

  • Thought bubble: Emphasis on “MIGHT”?!?!? “Might” have to lock them up? 

This comes as Washington, D.C., passes a large bill aimed at reducing crime, ending some of the more progressive policies in the city.

Cuneyt Dil (@cuneytdil) quotes Bowser in an Axios article, saying, “We are a city that is committed to creating opportunity and that believes in second chances, but we will not tolerate violence and we will not tolerate criminal activity that disrupts our sense of safety and our ability to build thriving neighborhoods” (emphasis mine). 

  • Thought bubble: So Bowser now admits she tolerated criminal activity in the city up until now?

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is also looking to combat crime, particularly on the subway system. He’ll be reinstituting bag checks to keep weapons out of the subways, according to Marcia Kramer (@MKramerTV) at CBS

  • Governor Kathy Hochul plans to deploy the State Police and National Guard to handle crimes on the subway for these new bag checks.
  • Look back: Just four years ago, Democrats lost it when Trump wanted to deploy the Guard to stop mass riots. 

San Francisco sees a similar change in crime policy, as the mayor is quoted in Fox News saying the city’s “policies swung too far to the Left.” 

Joe Nocera (@opinion_joe) writes in The Free Press about the crime in Austin, Texas, where progressive policies are also being called into question. Blame is placed on their district attorney who “promised to make the criminal justice system more humane—eliminating most drug possession prosecutions, calling for fewer and shorter sentences, holding the police to account. But this progressive agenda simply hasn’t worked.”

Watch Israel’s North 

In January, we told you to watch Israel’s north as the Israelis would love nothing more than goading Iran-backed Hezbollah into a war…

  • Well, last night, after repeated Israeli attacks, Hezbollah launched a massive rocket barrage at Israel’s north.  
  • Watch Israel’s north. 

Goodbye, College Sports 

Dartmouth’s men’s basketball players became the first major NCAA team to unionize, and, yes, you read that right. 

Thought bubble: The team is 6-21 … don’t you have to be good to unionize? 

The concept of college sports is done.

Watch tonight: Former college lacrosse player, good friend and NewsNation correspondent Elizabeth Prann joins with how the commercialization of college sports is great for the very few and awful for thousands of college athletes.

Tune into “On Balance with Leland Vittert” weeknights at 7/6C on NewsNation.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily of NewsNation. 

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