Thursday, June 30, 2022


I understood why Joe Biden talked this way before the 2020 election, but now? Really?
At fundraisers and on the sidelines of events in recent weeks, Joe Biden has been selling Democrats — on Joe Biden for 2024.

It’s an unusual sales pitch reflecting an unusual political moment: the nation’s oldest sitting president, with a weakened political standing, grappling with questions in his own party about whether he will, or even should, run for another term, shaped by the prospect of a rematch against Donald Trump.

People who have spoken with the president described to NBC News what’s become a familiar exercise. Biden will argue he’s the only one who can beat Trump, sometimes ticking through the names of potential Democratic candidates if he stepped aside — Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, even Vice President Kamala Harris. Then rhetorically asks: Can any of them beat his 2020 rival?
In the 2020 race, Biden probably was the most acceptable consensus candidate: a long-time moderate who'd embraced an economically progressive agenda, an old white guy with strong support among Black voters, a soft-spoken would-be healer running against a bomb-throwing blowhard. But now Biden has a record. We know he struggles to find the right deeds and words in response to crises, whether high gas prices or the overturning of Roe v. Wade. He doesn't seem like a doer and he's not a reassuring speaker. We know that Republicans attack him daily and he choose to be conciliatory rather than pushing back, which comes off as implicit agreement with their criticisms. Democrats don't have a deep bench of broadly popular figures who could run in Biden's place, but that's partly because the party doesn't try very hard to make stars of successful leaders.

How bad is it for Biden? A lot worse than it is for the rest of the party. In the FiveThirtyEight polling average right now, Biden's job rating is 39% approval, 56.1% disapproval -- more than a 17-point gap. On the generic-ballot question for the congressional midterms, the Republican lead over Democrats is only 2.1 points.

Or consider the Quinnipiac poll of Georgia that was released yesterday. Senator Raphael Warnock, running for reelection, is leading his GOP challenger, Herschel Walker, by 10 points, 54% to 44%. In the governor's race, Stacey Abrams is tied with Brian Kemp, 48%-48%. Joe Biden? He has a 33% approval rating and a 60% disapproval rating -- in a state he won in 2020.

What other Democrat could win in 2024? A new YouGov poll for Yahoo News showed that Biden beats Trump by 2 and beats Ron DeSantis by 4 -- but Gavin Newsom beats DeSantis by 3 and Trump by 1, and Harris beats DeSantis by 4 and ties Trump. None of the polled Democrats are winning decisively, but Biden doesn't have a unique advantage. It's also significant 60% of poll respondents don't think Biden should run in 2024 and only 22% think he should. The yes-no numbers among Democrats are 38%-38%.

You're going to tell me that the war in Ukraine will end and gas prices will go down and infrastructure will start getting built and Biden will start looking better. But he'll still be an old, frail-looking, inarticulate man who believes it's fine to let every crisis sit and simmer, an approach that couldn't possibly be more out of touch with the pace of the world in the 2020s. He shouldn't act hastily, but he should seem prepared for critical moments. He had weeks of warning that Roe would be overturned and still he had nothing ready for the moment -- no deeds and no words.

Even if Biden is the candidate in 2024, it's not good for him to have a Trump-like arrogance about his appeal. Thinking he's clearly the best seems to have led Biden to the conclusion that he doesn't have to try to do his job better than he's doing it. I don't think he understands that he's struggling right now, which seems very Trump-like -- except that Biden doesn't have an army of superfans who agree with his self-assessment and will vote accordingly.

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