What the larger GOP field says about Trump and DeSantis

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If it’s MONDAY… President Biden meets with Speaker Kevin McCarthy in the afternoon to discuss raising the debt ceiling… Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., announces his 2024 presidential bid… Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., endorses Scott (and will be at his announcement), per NBC’s Julie Tsirkin and Ali Vitali… And Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., holds press conference at 11:00 am ET to announce decision on whether he’ll seek re-election.

But FIRST… The Republican race for president is only getting bigger.

Sen. Tim Scott today officially announces his presidential bid (after filing his paperwork on Friday). Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to make it official later this week as well. And former Vice President Mike Pence, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, former Gov. Chris Christie and others are all signaling they could enter the race too, NBC’s Henry Gomez and Allan Smith report.

That expansion probably helps frontrunner Donald Trump; it suggests weakness about DeSantis’ status as the clear alternative to Trump; and it creates a lot more unpredictability in a race with several months to go until Iowa and New Hampshire.

How it probably helps Trump, at least in the short run: “The unfortunate reality is the new names won’t make a dent in Trump’s current numbers,” former Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Trump critic, tells Gomez and Smith.

The logic: If Trump holds on to about half of the party’s primary voters, with the other candidates splitting the other half, that creates an easy path to victory for Trump, especially in the GOP’s (mostly) winner-take-all delegate game.

How it probably hurts DeSantis: “If I’m DeSantis, this is the hell scenario,” says a Trump ally, per Gomez and Smith. “Remember, the conventional wisdom from January and February was, ‘Oh, actually this is going to be a really small field. The money has been choked off.’ And it’s very clear, it ain’t gonna be a small field now.”

And how it could scramble the race, especially if Trump vs. DeSantis turns into an ugly fight: “If the brawl between DeSantis and Trump gets nasty enough, candidates like Scott could become interesting, could become attractive,” former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said on “Meet on the Press” yesterday.

Indeed, Scott’s advisers remind us that at this stage in the 2016 cycle, the frontrunners for the GOP presidential nomination were — drum roll, please — Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

One other point to consider: What if DeSantis had officially entered the race back in January?

Would Scott have gotten in? What about others?

It’s a reminder why the field’s growing size says so much about DeSantis’ current status. 

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … $14 trillion

That’s the net loss in GDP that the U.S. economy experienced due to the Covid pandemic, according to USC’s Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics, NBC News’ Dante Chinni writes. 

Now that the government Covid health emergency declaration expired earlier this month, Chinni takes a look back at the pandemic’s cost to the country, although its full impact is still unclear. Chinni writes that the group finds the greatest economic impacts “were due to changes in human behavior that accompanied the pandemic — less air travel, fewer rides in taxis and buses, less eating out, and fewer live events.”

And then of course there is the human toll. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.1 million Americans have died from Covid. 

Other numbers to know

2: The number of days before the first anniversary of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where families still question why it took law enforcement so long to confront the shooter.

About 4,400: The number of migrants who have crossed the Southern border each day since the end of Title 42, down from the numbers of migrants who crossed before the regulation expired.

40%: The share of Americans who approve of the way Biden is handling his job, according to a new AP-NORC poll.

13: The number of queries in a foreign intelligence database that an FBI analyst ran to see if any suspected rioters from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol had foreign ties, among a group of actions it took that violate the agency’s own rules, a redacted court order reveals

16,000: The number of miles one Afghan woman traveled from her home to the U.S. — Mexico border to seek refuge after she was put in danger following the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

11: The number of days Iowa GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds has to decide whether to sign a child labor law passed by her state legislature, which the U.S. Department of Labor says violates federal law.

41%: The portion of votes the ruling party won in Greece’s parliamentary elections Sunday, short of the votes needed to form a government outright.

65: The number of cities that have passed local abortion restrictions, according to one anti-abortion rights group traveling the country, urging local leaders to pass restrictions at the city level.

$1.3 billion: The amount that Meta has been fined by European privacy regulators, a record.

Eyes on 2024: Thune backs Scott’s nascent bid

As Tim Scott announces his presidential bid Monday morning, he’s doing so with the backing of not one, but two GOP senators — the only two senators so far to back a candidate who isn’t former President Trump. 

Scott already won the backing of South Dakota Republican Sen. Mike Rounds. And on Sunday, NBC News’ Julie Tsirkin and Ali Vitali reported that Senate Republican Whip John Thune, who also represents South Dakota, is endorsing Scott and will attend the senator’s announcement. 

May 22, 202303:38

Thune is the highest-ranking Republican senator to weigh into the presidential race and the first to not back Trump. 

The former president is backed by 10 Republican senators, including National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines, R-Mont.

But more senators could be waiting on Scott to officially announce a run. Rounds recently told NBC News that other senators were “holding back” on endorsing in the primary until Scott decided to jump in. 

“Once he’s made his decision at that point, then a lot of us would really like to see him succeed,” Rounds said.

In other campaign news…

The latest in DeSantisland: NBC News’ Julia Jester and Vaughn Hillyard report that Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis, Fla., and Chris Sununu, N.H., met Friday afternoon as the two weigh presidential bids. The New York Times reports on how the private flights that DeSantis has taken around the country as he readies his presidential bid have largely escaped public scrutiny.

And the NAACP issued a travel advisory warning that “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.” 

Get by with a little help from his friends: The Associated Press looks at how the pro-DeSantis Never Back Down super PAC is trying to build out an organizing apparatus for a campaign that currently has no candidate and with which it can’t officially coordinate. 

Not everyone’s enjoying the party: The New York Times reports on Democratic apprehensions over the possibility of No Labels running a third-party candidate for president, with Democrats in Congress worrying it would help re-elect Trump.  

Summer judging: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to release her charging decisions in her investigation into Trump and his allies’ interference in the 2020 election in early August. 

Return of the pickup truck?: Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., is hosting GOP presidential contenders in New Hampshire, and Brown tells Fox News he would consider another run for Senate in the Granite State in 2026.

Manchin breaks with Biden: As he weighs running for re-election, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., once again broke with Biden, opposing the president’s nominee for labor secretary and looking for a list of alternatives, NBC News’ Liz Brown-Kaiser, Julie Tsirkin and Mike Memoli report.

Carper watch: Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is holding a press conference at 11 a.m. to announce whether or not he is running for re-election, according to a press release.

Tester’s test: The Washington Post delves into the Montana Senate race, which will test Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s “authenticity and connection with his home state’s voters can override most Montanans’ inclination to vote Republican.”

Downballot downers: Some Republicans considering running further down the ballot have been “spooked” by Trump’s early strength in the presidential primary, and they’re concerned about Trump’s impact on their own potential races, Politico reports. 

Walker’s running: Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker announced over the weekend that he is running for governor in North Carolina, pitting him against two other statewide Republicans who have launched runs so far: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson and state Treasurer Dale Folwell.

Beshear on the air: Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is up with the first TV ad of his re-election, per AdImpact. In the 60-second spot, Beshear says, “We’ve been through a lot these past four years and some days have been tougher than others, but I will always show up to help the people of Kentucky working to make sure our kids and grandkids have a bright future here.”

PAC play: A group of Democratic strategists is re-launching Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison’s PAC, which will have access to Harrison’s Senate fundraising list that helped him break records in 2020.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world:

The U.S. and its allies plan to give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets, though the timeline for when Ukraine would receive the jets is unclear.

Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified military documents, was ordered to remain in jail until his trial.

At least one Federal Reserve official is open to foregoing a rate hike in June, as the benchmark federal-funds rate stands at a 16-year high, the Wall Street Journal reports.