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The GOP still struggles with big question: Move on from 2020 or relitigate it?

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Donald Trump during an event in Davenport, Iowa
Donald Trump during an event in Davenport, Iowa, on March 13, 2023.Scott Olson / Getty Images

WASHINGTON —  If it’s Tuesday ... President Biden discusses reducing gun violence in Monterey Park, Calif., then heads to Las Vegas to raise money for the DNC. ... Donald Trump rips Ron DeSantis in Iowa, attacking the governor’s past opposition to ethanol subsidies and votes to restructure Medicare. … Senate Minority Leader McConnell gets discharged from hospital. … Republican Dave McCormick, who’s eyeing a run for Pennsylvania Senate in 2024, releases a new book. ... And former Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo., dies at age 82.

But first: Two recent developments reveal what’s arguably the central GOP storyline for 2024. 

The tension between Republicans who want to move on from Trump and the 2020 election, and those who don’t.

Or who can’t. 

Development #1: It appears that establishment Republicans want  Dave McCormick — who lost to Trump-endorsed Mehmet Oz in 2022 — to run again for Pennsylvania Senate, as McCormick releases a new book today. 

It comes as Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost last year’s Arizona gubernatorial primary to Kari Lake, has met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee to discuss a possible senate run. (The NRSC also has met with Lake about the seat.) 

Development #2: Colorado’s Republican Party just tapped a 2020 election denier, former state Rep. Dave Williams, to be its party chair, joining Kansas and Michigan as other state GOPs that have elected chairs who have (at the very least) cast doubt on the 2020 election results.  

“I was one of the only few elected Republicans that publicly said that Joe Biden was not a legitimate president,” Williams said last month. “I do believe that Trump won nationally.”

This is where the Republican Party is stuck, with some 600 days until Election Day 2024. 

The cycle is set up about well as the GOP could hope for — they face a relatively unpopular Democratic president, as well as a Senate map with several pick-up opportunities for the party.  

But the GOP seems unable to break away from the forces that hurt it in the 2022 midterms. 

Election-denying candidates. Abortion. And a former (and unpopular) president who’s unwilling the leave the political stage.

Headline of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 5

That’s how many days Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spent in the hospital before being discharged Monday

McConnell suffered a concussion and a broken rib after falling at a private dinner on Wednesday. His communications director, David Popp, said in a statement Monday that he’ll begin physical therapy at an inpatient rehabilitation facility before returning home and ultimately back to the Senate. 

Other numbers to know:

5.4%: The decline in the trading price of the KBW regional banking index Monday amid concerns related to the Silicon Valley Bank implosion.  

Up to 5: How many nuclear submarines the U.S. will sell to Australia as part of a newly announced deal President Biden and other world leaders unveiled in San Diego

$27,000: How much the Michigan Democratic Party agreed to pay in fines to the Federal Election Commission for a delay in returning excessive contributions, per the Detroit Free Press

11.6%: The increase in reported hate crimes in 2021, according to new data released by the FBI.

15%: The increase in the rate of SIDS for Black infants between 2019 and 2020, new data show

Eyes on 2024: Trump targets DeSantis in first Iowa trip

Former President Donald Trump made his first trip to Iowa since launching another presidential run late last year, and he took aim at a chief rival who hasn’t even jumped into the race yet. 

Trump slammed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whom he dubbed “DeSanctis” and “DeSanctimonious,” for his positions on ethanol and entitlement programs including Social Security and Medicare, NBC News’ Vaughn Hillyard, Jonathan Allen, Kevin Urgiles and Abby Goddard report from Davenport.

Trump called DeSantis “a disciple of Paul Ryan, adding: “To be honest with you, Ron reminds me a lot of Mitt Romney,” the GOP’s 2012 standard bearer-turned-Utah senator who is a staunch Trump critic.

The NBC News team reports that Trump received a muted response from the crowd when he targeted DeSantis. “The former president’s biggest applause lines came when he talked about hot-button social issues, such as banning critical race theory from schools and transgender athletes from women’s sports,” Allen wrote.

This all comes as a new national CNN poll shows Trump as the choice of 40% of Republicans, followed by DeSantis at 36%. No other Republicans 2024er reaches double digits. 

In other campaign news:

Stuck in the middle with you: President Joe Biden is breaking with progressives on multiple fronts as he approaches an expected re-election campaign announcement, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports. The latest came on Monday when Bidenapproved a 30-year oil and gas project in Alaska despite calling during his presidential campaign to halt drilling on federal lands. 

Dividing line: DeSantis told Fox News in a questionnaire that protecting Ukraine is not a “vital” interest for the U.S., NBC News’ Sahil Kapur and Jonathan Allen report, as support for the war against Russia has become an early dividing line among current and potential presidential candidates.

Setting his plans in granite: DeSantis is making his first trip to New Hampshire next month, per NBC News’ Julia Jester, his latest trip to an early state on the presidential nominating calendar. 

Legal drama: Trump has decided not to appear before a New York City grand jury investigating a hush money payment to an adult film actor during his 2016 presidential run.

Not entitled: GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley, in South Carolina, proposed protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits for seniors, but altering them for younger people and “anyone new coming into the system,” per the Associated Press. She also floated raising the retirement age “so that it matches life expectancy” in a Fox News interview.

Throwbacks: The New York Times delves into how Trump’s 2016 rivals for the GOP nomination “are either skipping the 2024 cycle or have bowed out of national politics altogether.”

Primary plans: National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., told Fox News Monday that the committee doesn’t plan to “get involved in open-seat primaries by endorsing candidates,” but that “you may see us get involved earlier in terms of helping people build better campaigns” to help the party ahead of a general election. 

FDICulture war: Republicans, and Republican presidential hopefuls, are criticizing Silicon Valley Bank as a “woke” bank amid its collapse, despite little evidence the bank’s collapse had anything to do with something other than mismanaging its bond risks amid rising inflation. 

Drawing new battle lines: The battle for the House next year could be shaped by the courts, with redistricting lawsuits in North Carolina and Ohio potentially giving Republicans an edge in their bid to hold onto their narrow majority, per Politico. 

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Biden plans to sign an executive order expanding background checks for gun purchases on Tuesday during a visit to Monterey Park, where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in January.

In the wake of Silicon Valley Bank’s failure, some Democrats are re-examining a Trump-era deregulation bill that they say weakened the rules for Silicon Valley Bank and others. 

The federal judge overseeing an impactful case about the future of abortion pills gave notice on Monday that there would be a public hearing in the case on Wednesday.