March 15, 2024

Thought of the Week:

Every job comes with its own particular package of perks. You know, things like paid volunteer days, flexible work schedules, and remote work options. I’ve always been a bit jealous of the free and discounted air travel my friends in Delta’s lobbying shop receive, and the number of times federal government sales executives attend conferences and meetings at, or near, famous golf resorts seems more than coincidental. I’ve always felt fortunate that working in federal government relations, and working in Washington, D.C., for 30+ years, has offered me my own set of unique experiences that I consider perks. Among many others, with a touch of irony, I met and spoke with President Clinton when he appeared at the “Restoring Corporate Integrity and Public Trust” conference; during a private tour of the Pentagon, by chance, a group of Tomodachi students and I were invited into Defense Secretary Carter’s office where he presented each of us with a challenge coin just days before the surge in Afghanistan began; and I just happened to ride the private Senate elevator with Sen. John McCain the day he informally announced his campaign for the 2008 presidency. This week, I had the opportunity to sit in on a discussion between Eurasia Group Founder Ian Bremmer and former New Jersey Governor Christie. The conversation focused on Governor Christie’s thoughts in the run-up to the November election. Some of the more interesting takeaways:


  • There won’t be a debate in 2024. Democrats know not to put Biden on stage with no teleprompter for 2 hours.
  • There is a 55% chance President Biden wins the election. Suburban women in major swing states are the key, and former president Trump still has a major female problem.
  • Democrats will regain the House and Republicans will regain the Senate in 2024.
  • If Trump wins the presidency, Democrats will take both the House and Senate in 2026; if President Biden wins, Republicans will control both the House and Senate in 2026.
  • Trump will consider Rep. Stefanik (R-NY) and Arkansas Governor Sanders (R) for Vice President, but his best choice is Sen. Scott (R-SC); South Dakota Governor Noem (R) is not considered a serious candidate.

Potential Trump Administration

  • Most of the GOP “adults” don’t want into a Trump administration. Sen. Graham (R-SC) might take an exit out of the Senate for a Secretary level position.
  • Anyone who comes into the administration will be in for the rudest of rude awakenings—look how Trump treated those with the stature of Rex Tillerson, John Kelly, and James Mattis.
  • Mike Pompeo is a unique case. He was the only one who understood how to deal with and distance himself from Trump at the same time. Trump was intimidated intellectually and politically by Pompeo.

Policy Issues

  • Although Trump is not interested in policy, from an economic perspective, a Trump presidency would be generally positive. The U.S. economy runs itself, and the President’s role is overstated.
  • A Trump election would have a huge foreign policy impact. Trump wants out of NATO, and he would instill a non-intervention, isolationist policy. The Chinese, North Koreans, and Iranians are rubbing their hands. His election would mean big trouble for the Ukrainians, and Trump would not commit troops to support Taiwan. Trump would leave a mess for the next president.
  • Nothing will happen to the IRA. Trump will rail against it, but it won’t go anywhere.
  • The USMCA is fine, but because Mexico is uncooperative on immigration, they should expect tariffs. It should surprise no one if Trump places tariffs on all imports.
  • Trump’s tariffs accomplished nothing, and the tariffs had nothing to do with the de-coupling from China.
  • The stock market has been rallying. As long as the Fed plays the easy money game, the market will go up.
  • He’s a real estate developer, and wants low rates and cheap money—that’s what he’ll look for in a Fed chief.


  • After Trump, there is no true successor to MAGA.
  • The GOP primary challengers were all angling for position in the 2028 race, focusing on not saying anything to alienate Trump supporters.
  • The 2028 election will feature a two-pronged GOP primary—the traditional wing and the MAGA wing. This will be a fair fight with Trump out of the mix.
  • The open question is whether the new GOP populists will stay in the party; this is doubtful.
  • Trump’s popularity is unique and is not transferable to another candidate.
  • It is difficult to tell who will lead a new Republican mantle. Those who aren’t pro-Trump are in hiding. Things will become clearer after the 2024 election.

Mood of the Country

  • The prevailing mood is that anger and selfishness are more important than country; look at student loans.
  • Those 18-34 show nothing but abject selfishness, regardless of the issue. On every issue they return to their own personal financial interests.
  • President Biden has exacerbated feelings of entitlement among young voters.
  • It has been generations since Americans have been asked to sacrifice. The missed opportunity of 9/11 was in not establishing mandatory national service.
  • The problem with a focus on self-interest is that you get candidates like Biden and Trump.
  • This election is the end-product of the most selfish generation in U.S. history—the Baby Boomers.
  • The old adage rings true: “Democracy is always just one generation away from extinction.”

Thought Leadership from our Consultants, Think Tanks, and Trade Associations

CapstoneDC Sees CFIUS Approving Nippon Steel’s Acquisition of U.S. Steel. While on the campaign trail in Michigan, President Biden issued a strong statement opposing Nippon Steel Corp.’s acquisition of United States Steel Corp. Although the political inconvenience that the deal poses to President Biden, who is trying to court union voters, cannot be overstated, the U.S. government via CFIUS will not prevent the merger—CFIUS approval is the only regulatory check on the transaction, and the process requires an evidentiary-based showing of national security risks to stop it. While Biden’s statement emphasized his belief that “it is vital for [US Steel] to remain an American steel company,” it does not represent the president’s personal intervention in the CFIUS process, nor does it signal his intent to “block” the deal. Rather, the statement is entirely motivated by domestic political concerns that will dissipate considerably if, and when, Nippon Steel and the United Steelworkers are able to reach an agreement. It is unlikely that CFIUS will identify national security concerns, and, even if they do, those concerns could be resolved through a mitigation agreement between the two parties. Bottom line, President Biden does not have the authority to force CFIUS to reach a specific conclusion, and CFIUS would not conform to a political conclusion. The release of the statement was an effort by President Biden to thread the needle, by demonstrating a pro-union posture while, at the same time, avoiding a rupture in U.S.-Japanese relations.

Eurasia Group Believes Trade Would be the Most Dislocating Part of a Trump 2.0 Agenda. Former president Trump’s potential White House return would disrupt global trade with tariff hikes and aggressive trade barriers to be applied to U.S. allies and competitors alike. In fact, President Biden’s decision to maintain most of Trump’s trade policies, adding export controls and tech restrictions on top of them, would leave a far more protectionist baseline for Trump to start with. Trump would favor tariffs over the current administration’s reliance on export controls as a trade policy tool and subsidies as an industrial policy tool; he would take a much more bilateral than multilateral approach; he would be unconcerned with issues of the green transition and human rights; and he would focus largely on specific grievances with individual countries. While Trump is open to negotiating deals with trade partners centered on market access, the political reality in Washington would curtail the scope of any deals he could strike, limiting pathways out of the volatility created by his trade policy. Fully revoking China’s permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status is likely a bridge too far for Congress, but the White House would have other means—such as de minimis reform—of addressing trade relations with China.

The Observatory Group Sees the TikTok Bill Becoming Law. The House voted overwhelmingly (352 to 65) to require ByteDance to divest TikTok in the U.S. within six months after the bill becomes law or face a ban on its operations in the U.S. There is now a 65% probability the Senate will eventually pass the legislation. The bill, drafted in secret with input from the Justice Department and White House, was moved quickly in the House to mute TikTok’s lobbying operations (the bill went from introduction to committee to passage in nine days). Momentum for the bill will slow in the Senate, where pressure will be put on individual Senators, and where a battle between national security hawks and Commerce Committee Chair Cantwell (D-WA) over how to proceed will take place. Ultimately, the national security hawks will win the argument, but it will be up to Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY), who is being pressured by pro-Israel lobbyists and the White House, to decide how to deal with the House’s TikTok divestment bill (Israel’s supporters view TikTok as advancing pro-Hamas content while limiting content backing Israel). If the TikTok divestment bill becomes law (President Biden has said he would sign it if it passed the Senate), the U.S. national security community believes Chinese President Xi, not ByteDance, will ultimately decide whether to divest and allow U.S. operations to continue. The divestment bill will also examine the influence former President Trump and his allies have on Republicans in Congress. Trump, who is backed by a major U.S. investor in TikTok, came out against the House-passed bill; however, only 15 of 219 House Republicans voted against the measure.

“Off the Record”

Behind the scenes, Republicans are admitting they pulled the trigger on President Biden’s impeachment too soon and that the effort has been hobbled by embarrassing setbacks. They’ve accused the president of profiting off the Oval Office but have yet to find any proof that the president benefitted from his family’s business dealings. And it doesn’t help their case that the informant behind the most prominent accusations was found to have lied to the FBI about those allegations and has been indicted. The GOP is also dealing with a math problem. Republicans in swing districts continue to balk at taking an impeachment vote when they say there’s no proof of high crimes, and with Rep. Buck (R-CO) announcing that he’ll resign on March 22, the GOP’s majority will tighten yet again, further complicating their whipping efforts. However, Republicans will not just come out and announce an end to their inquiry altogether. Doing so would be tantamount to exonerating Biden in an election year—hardly a smart political play, and one that would infuriate the GOP base. Instead, Republicans are brainstorming Plan Bs — exit strategies they say will keep their anti-Biden base happy but fall short of their initial impeachment goal. Among the alternatives being discussed are: (1) Criminal referrals; (2) Legislative reforms; and (3) Lawsuits. Meanwhile, there’s another matter to contend with: Trump. His spokeswoman recently insisted that the former president expects Republicans to impeach Biden. Republicans don’t have to make any decisions right away. But the clock is ticking—and every day they wait, the impeachment window closes a little more.

In Other Words

“This is not an attempt to ban TikTok. It’s an attempt to make TikTok better. Tic-Tac-Toe.  A winner. A winner,” Rep. Pelosi (D-CA).

Did You Know

In the earliest U.S. elections, electors did not differentiate their votes for president and vice president—the runner-up became vice president. By 1804, the U.S. had adopted the Twelfth Amendment, which provides, “if no person have a majority, then from the two highest numbers on the list, the Senate shall choose the Vice-President.” In the 1836 election, because no vice-presidential candidate received a majority of the electoral vote, the Senate elected Richard Johnson as vice president. Johnson’s election (to serve under President Martin Van Buren) is the only time the Senate has exercised this constitutional authority.   

Graph of the Week

Underlying inflation topped forecasts for the second month in a row in February as prices jumped for used cars, air travel, and clothes, reinforcing the Federal Reserve’s cautious approach to cutting interest rates.

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