Brooks and Capehart on the state of the 2024 race for the White House

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post associate editor Jonathan Capehart join Geoff Bennett to discuss the week in politics, including Trump's third run getting off to a sluggish start and Democrats map out a new path to the White House.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    Democrats map a new path to the White House, the previous president's third run gets off to a sluggish start, and a balloon raises tensions between world superpowers.

    For analysis of the week's news, Brooks and Capehart. That's New York Times columnist David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, associate editor for The Washington Post.

    It's great to see you both.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Hey, Geoff.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And let's start with the race for the White House.

    Donald Trump's third presidential campaign appears to be off to a slow start. His fund-raising haul is less than what he certainly expected. His support among a key part of his base, white evangelicals, has splintered.

    Still, he's a known quantity. His base of support is larger than his prospective GOP rivals. What's your assessment of his standing right now?

  • David Brooks:

    I think, right now, he's sinking. The polls are all over the place, but the higher-quality polls show significant slippage.

    If you look at how many times he's mentioned on places like FOX News, it's plummeting. If you listen to talk radio, friends of mine who listen more to conservative talk radio than I do say there's hostility. They're — when he said he wouldn't necessarily endorse the Republican candidate, there was bitterness and hostility toward Trump, which you don't often see in that quarter.

    He's running a much more conventional campaign. In 2016, he was sort of the witty outsider. Now he's running a normal campaign, where he's trying to woo the Republican establishment. His opponents are a lot better informed about what their party really wants.

    So I think, all in all, he could be saved by the fact that Republicans have winner-take-all primaries to a quite high degree. And so, if he gets 28 percent, he could get 100 percent of the delegates in some states. But, overall, I think there's a lot of evidence to show serious slippage.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Jonathan, Nikki Haley is expected to announce her bid, her presidential run on February 15. Former Vice President Mike Pence is said to be in prayerful consideration of a potential 2024 bid.

    How do potential Trump challengers thread this needle of building a coalition without alienating Trump supporters?


  • Jonathan Capehart:

    That's a great lesson for David.

    I mean, I — that means getting into their heads. That, I don't know. What we're going — we're about to find out. Nikki Haley is going to be the canary in the coal mine. Mike Pence could be the next one. Ron DeSantis certainly will be the next one.

    To add on to something David was talking about, the Republican electorate is better informed, but I think these people who are considering jumping into the race against Donald Trump are better informed about who he is, how he reacts.

    The only thing we don't know is, how will they react when they get punched in the face rhetorically by Donald Trump? How do they react when the big negative stories come out, if they come out, about them, and then he attacks them? How do they respond?

    I think, right now, they have more to fear about their own abilities to run the race than they do about anything Donald Trump will do to them as an opponent.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And, David, Republicans who say they want to turn the page away from the Trump era note that the GOP needs to keep the field from being too crowded, that that was what was — that's what happened in 2016 that led to the emergence of Donald Trump the nominee.

    Might that happen again?

  • David Brooks:

    I think, less than a 2016, if you go back and look at the polls where we were this time in 2016, there were a lot of people with nine or 10 points, Christie, Rubio, Ted Cruz.

    Now, right now, there's Trump and DeSantis, and everybody else is like 2. And so right now it's those two. And if it gets down to Trump and three others, I think the pressure on two of those three others drop out will be enormous.

    The thing that curious — I'm curious about with the Republican field is, will the electorate split into two wings? Will there be a Trump wing, which could include both Trump and DeSantis, and then a regular Republican wing, which could include people like Larry Hogan, the former governor of Maryland, and Glenn Youngkin, the governor of Virginia?

    And so it could be that Trump and DeSantis are fighting over some of the same voters. I'm not sure the party will split that neatly, but it could.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, let's talk about Ron DeSantis, because the Florida Republican governor widely expected to run for president.

    The College Board, this past week, they changed the course offering for their AP African American studies course following criticism from Ron DeSantis, and other Republicans. We spoke to the CEO of the College Board on this program this past week, and he said that the changes that were made to the course had nothing to do with the public discussion, with the criticism that the College Board faced.

    Take a look.

  • David Coleman, Chief Executive Officer, The College Board:

    The revisions were complete by the end of December, far before this public discussion.

    And what the revisions were — based only on two sources, the feedback from professors and students and teachers in the pilot course, and returning to principles that are true of every single AP course.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Do you buy with the College Board is saying?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I do. I do.

    We're talking about academics, not politicians. I mean, these sorts of things happen in academia all the time. Just because you write a book, just because you teach a course, just because you have written an important article that was big in the social discussion doesn't automatically mean that it needs to be taught in a classroom. And I know I'm going to get in trouble with a lot of people.

    But I want to pull the camera, the aperture back here. What Ron DeSantis is doing is deeply, deeply insulting. What he's basically saying to the nation and to African Americans, in particular, it's that your role in the building of this country, the maintenance of this country means nothing, that, without you, we could have gotten along just fine.

    And that's what's so — it's insulting. It's hurtful. And think about this, Geoff. The fact that you and I are sitting here right now, you in an anchor chair, me as a guest, on television, could that have happened 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 1619? No, it couldn't. It couldn't have.

    And one thing I like to remind people, particularly young people, history is not really history when you're talking about African Americans in this country. My cousins and I are the first generation in my family to not have to pick cotton. We are the first generation that did not have to live under Jim Crow. I'm 55 years old. That's how long this has been a democracy.

    So, Governor DeSantis, if you want Americans to truly understand how great this country is, you cannot understand how great this country is without filling in those gaps and holes with the history of African Americans in this country.

  • Geoff Bennett:


  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I have known David Coleman a bit over the last several years, who you interviewed. He's always struck me as a remarkably upstanding guy, a guy who's very fair, meticulously wants everybody to feel represented in this test. So, I take him at his word.

    And I think they have documents, dated documents, showing they made the changes. I would have told him, after the DeSantis thing, like wait a month, like, show some political ear, because there are people — David Blight, who wrote a magisterial biography of Frederick Douglass…


  • David Brooks:

    … he said, wait, what's going on?

    So there's questions people have. But I take them at their word that they — the big change was, they realized high school students don't like theory. They like primary documents. Well, I could have told them that.


  • David Brooks:

    I know high school students.

    And — but so I think that, on the one hand, and then I agree with Jonathan on DeSantis, that, at a time — at any time in American history, one needs to be forward-leaning about African American history. That's just — that's been true and should have been true for — since 1619. It certainly should have been true today.

    I mean, I would ask Ron DeSantis to go to the African American History Museum. It's a very fair portrayal of American history and a very moving — it's — they have done it — they have — Clarence Thomas is in their museum. Susan Rice is in the museum, Condoleezza Rice.

    And so they span the diversity of Black history. And so you can do that. And I trust that when — at the end of the day, this curriculum will end up doing.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    Well, in the time that remains, let's talk about what Democrats are going to be doing this weekend.

    They're going to vote on this new primary calendar proposed by President Biden that would do a number of things. It would remove Iowa from its primary position. It would push South Carolina forward in the calendar, followed by New Hampshire and Nevada one week later, and then primaries in Georgia and Michigan.

    Jonathan, what's your assessment of this new strategy here?

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    I mean, those states are more representative of our country than Iowa going first, New Hampshire going next.

    They tried, the Democrats tried to rectify the situation by adding Nevada and then South Carolina. But, look, this country is changing quickly. And if we're going to have a country — if we're going to have an electorate that looks like the country voting for the president, we have got to change the system.

    And I think that the way that works, those states are great. My only question is, one week after the other? I — that's the thing that gives me a little pause, not the states.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    What about that? I mean, we expect President Biden to make his intentions known after the State of the Union address. He is said to not want to deliver that address as a candidate. He wants to deliver it as a president.

    But if he's the only Democrat running, what difference does this calendar make?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, maybe not much short term. I'm pretty sure he's going to run.

  • Geoff Bennett:


  • David Brooks:

    And I'm pretty sure he's going to be the nominee.

    So — but, long term, when I look at a calendar, I want three things. One, I want it to — for the early states to be diverse. There were — there was a period, I think Biden used to make this point, where a lot of candidates had dropped out of the race by the time 98 percent or 99 percent of Black and Latino voters could vote. And so that seems wrong.

    Second, I want it to be a small state, because I don't want — a big state, it just takes so much money to run. I feel, if you're — if you're not an insider candidate with tons of fund-raising, you can't compete in Pennsylvania, Michigan. So, you want to — South Carolina's reasonably small.

    And, third and most important, I want the state to be biased in the way I like Democratic candidates.


  • David Brooks:

    And so South Carolina is an older state. It's a military state.

    And so it tends to select the more moderate. So, if I'm Bernie Sanders, I'm probably not happy, or that kind of candidate.

  • Jonathan Capehart:


  • David Brooks:

    But a moderate Democrat, they — it'll probably tend to favor them.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    David Brooks and Jonathan Capehart, thanks, as always, for your insights.

  • Jonathan Capehart:

    Thanks, Geoff.

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