|Tara Pameri: Has the Mar-a-Lago search reshaped the dynamics for 2024?
John Anzalone: No, but I think it reinforces the feelings of Republicans and independent-leaning Republicans, who are kind of disgruntled and disgusted with Trump and his antics—whether it’s The Big Lie or whether it’s January 6th and his role in that. What they learned during the January 6th committee hearings, which I actually think is significant, is underestimated in a lot of ways. We’re seeing this in elections where there’s people who used to be Republican now identify as independents. We see that there’s Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are voting for third party candidates. I think we’re going to see a lot more third-party candidate votes this cycle because of people disgruntled with Trump. I mean, there’s a reason that Republicans aren’t able to take advantage of the bad political environment, and Trump is one of those reasons.
So you don’t think it’s a mistake for Democrats to emphasize the search at Mar-a-Lago?
I don’t feel like Democrats are really out there emphasizing it. It’s not like it’s on TV ads. But you never stop learning stuff about Donald Trump, and the fact is the January 6th commission exposed a lot of that. You learned what he thought about Mike Pence. You learned that he knew that there were armed people in the crowd. You just learned all of this stuff and now they’re learning that he literally had classified documents, and probably purposely moved them, et cetera. So you never stop learning about the guy, and it just keeps getting worse, and every time he just loses a few more people. Right?
So you think the January 6 committee has changed minds?
Past presidents always get a bounce [after they leave office], but Trump’s favorability has gotten worse. There’s no doubt that it has hurt Trump. Biden’s numbers have gotten better in the last five weeks, a point each week in the averages. And since the Jan. 6 hearings and Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s numbers have gotten worse. So I mean, it’s real.
Why do you think Biden’s numbers have gotten better in the past five weeks?
He’s gotten a heck of a lot done for America, right? I mean, these were really important things—CHIPS [which provided $280 billion for high-tech research and manufacturing] and bringing the supply chain back to America and all the things that were in the Inflation Reduction Act. It shows him as a president who was getting things done on the agenda that he came into office for.
Some people chalk up his rising approval ratings to falling gas prices.
No, I think it’s bigger than that. It’s much more about him fulfilling his campaign promises and his agenda when he got into office. How many American presidents can say that they lowered drug prices for seniors, and capped their drug prices, and finally made big corporations pay their fair share in taxes and, you know, actually did something about energy independence? I think it’s absolutely about him getting real things done for American families. Part of the bad branding for Democrats over the last year is we kinda haven’t been able to get things done, and this shows that we’re getting things done. I just did a poll for a female member of Congress, out west in a very competitive district, and when we said, what are you hearing about so-and-so? Literally, the I.R.A. came up in the open-ended response. People are hearing about it, there’s no doubt about that.
Even though they’re not experiencing the benefits yet?
I think that is a myth and a bad D.C. narrative, that if something isn’t happening immediately that you don’t get any benefit from it. The fact is, what’s differentiating Democrats and Republicans is that we actually have an agenda and we have an agenda that’s going to help people. We’re seeing two dynamics right now—one, the abortion issue is playing a major role. I think when Roe was overturned, the narrative in D.C., including from me, was that it’s not going to be a game-changer, but it’s going to play a minor role, a marginal role.
Now we’re two months into this and we’re already seeing the difference between hypothetical and reality. We saw some of this in focus groups after the leak, but before it was actually overturned, there were a lot of people and a lot of women who didn’t know how it was going to change in their state—they just thought it was going to be the same. And then when they learned that there’s a trigger law, and then they learned what some of the Republican candidates were saying, it changed how people thought. And so I think today, everyone, including Republicans, are seeing that this is a much bigger issue and a much more major component in the political environment than we had even anticipated two months ago when it happened. It is dominating so many races because it is not just about the extreme positions that Republicans have. It also signals that, if they have those positions of banning abortion in cases of rape and incest, that they are probably extreme on other issues that would make people uncomfortable.
So all of a sudden we’re on the offensive with a really great positive message on stuff that we’re actually doing, and we have a contrasting message where Republican are completely out of step with public opinion on major issues like abortion, plus they voted against transactional things that matter to voters, like making companies pay their fair share of taxes.
So that’s one big thing. But if you look back at the second big thing, on May 2nd when the SCOTUS opinion was leaked, it was just the beginning of the Republican primaries. And so what did all these candidates do? They just tried to out-beat each other on how far you can get to the right. So you have Tudor Dixon who is literally on camera, saying… look at the TV ads, the interviewer says “Do you want to ban abortion in cases of rape and incest?” She says, “Yes.” [Nota bene: Anzalone is working on Dixon opponent Governor Whitmer’s campaign.]
So you know, you have Blake Masters in Arizona and Joe Lombardo in Nevada getting way whacky; Ted Budd in North Carolina saying that the January 6 rioters at the Capitol were patriots. When the Roe ruling was leaked, at the same time of the massacres of Buffalo and Uvalde, all of these Republicans went way right—none of this background check shit and this bump stock ban. It was the same thing with Trump, defending January 6 and the insurrectionists.
The reality is some of these people make Richard Murdock and Todd Akin look like pikers on the abortion issue, right? They sound like Todd Akin and Richard Murdock on steroids, when you take a look at someone like Tudor Dixon or Blake Masters. It’s defining some of those races, and putting those Republicans on complete defensive and allowing us to do positive stuff. But it is a much bigger issue than I think, any Democrat or Republican, insider or consultant, or quite frankly candidate, probably imagined that it was going to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if you take a look at every major campaign and 80 percent of those campaigns have run an abortion ad on a Republican opponent.