Biden and Trump’s 2022 Track Performance Doubts 2024
Appearing in a San Diego district he won by double digits, Biden garnered support from Rep. Mike Levin with a 40-minute address. The speech took so long because the president decided to engage seemingly every joker in the crowd, even telling a group of Iranian-Americans that the US would liberate Iran or that the Iranians would liberate – to a side that was quickly accepted in the Middle East.
The next day, Biden, still in Levin’s sunny district, declared that “we’re going to shut down these power plants across America and have wind and solar,” drawing the ire of fellow Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “Comments like this are why the American people are losing confidence in President Biden,” Manchin fumed, adding, “His positions seem to change daily depending on the audience and the politics of the day.”
Biden’s press secretary tried to clarify the president’s remarks and offer an olive branch to Manchin, but then Biden went to New York on Sunday to campaign for governor Kathy Hochul and told another group of hecklers: “No more drilling, I didn’t form every new drilling.”
Trump’s missteps, however, make Biden’s seem more like a bug bite than a beheading.
Former president asks Jews to ‘get their act together’, urges Republicans to somehow impeach Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnellhe mocked the name of McConnell’s Taiwanese-born wife and, while the rest of his party focused on the midterms, used the final days of the campaign only to announce his presidential bid and give the potential challenger a new moniker, Ron DeSanctimonious.
Not that any of this comes as much of a surprise to Republican officials, who are now heading into an eighth year of looking away from Trump’s race-baiting and protection racket policies for fear of angering their constituents.
What’s different now is that, after losing the House, Senate and White House under Trump, they are well-positioned to win back both houses of Congress on Tuesday and could easily win the presidency in the 2024 recession. The GOP’s fear, of course, stems from the realization that their midterm gains will come in part because Trump has been out of office and that his nomination could complicate the race to win two years from now.
What every Republican leader knows, but few dare to say out loud, is that 2022 will be the third year in a row that Republicans not appointed or tainted by Trump have made good choices. For all the affection Trump enjoys among his base, there’s a reason Democrats are most eager to make him the face of the GOP.
For his part, McConnell is enthusiastic about the prospect of the South Carolina senator’s presidential bid. Team Scottespecially now that another of the leader’s favorite Republicans is in the Senate, Arkansas Tom Cotton, signaled that he would not run away.
McConnell is hardly alone in his strong preference for a candidate other than Trump. I asked another GOP senator how many of today’s 50 Republican senators want their last president to be their standard-bearer in 2024. This senator, no Trump antagonist, set the ceiling at five.
But, as has been the case since Trump announced his candidacy in 2015, the question remains whether Republicans will take steps to oppose him. The last NBC poll before the election found that only 30 percent of GOP voters call themselves more supporters of Donald Trump than supporters of the Republican Party, a new low.
Still, if the party doesn’t rally around an alternative, that 30 percent could still be enough of a basis for Trump to win the nomination against a divided field, his path to nomination six years ago. Most Republican strategists see DeSantis, the Florida governor who is poised to run for re-election on Tuesday, as the strongest candidate against Trump, and the backlash many conservatives had for Trump’s “DeSantictimonious” move showed the governor’s potential. DeSantis is the only other top Republican who can give GOP primary voters what they crave most: a clenched fist.
And a strong midterm showing would eliminate any impulse for reflection or reform of the kind that has fueled other movements out of power, whether Bill Clinton’s Third Way politics in 1992 or George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism in 2020.
Long before Trump publicly disparaged him, DeSantis and his enthusiasts were positioning themselves for 2024.
DeSantis used the midterms not only to disrupt other candidates, but also to use out-of-state rallies to build his mailing list. The governor is also considering writing a new book, another way to grow his list and build events outside the state. And while he refrains from criticizing Trump by name, DeSantis is closely following the concerns of rank-and-file Republicans about their former president, namely the perception that the media will never give him a fair shake and that, at 78, he is too old to run.
One constituency is already eyeing a DeSantis presidency: Florida’s battalions of lobbyists. Tallahassee’s influence industry is aware that the governor will monitor their contributions in the 2024 race and are eager to set up shop in Washington if he wins.
Not that any of the Florida firms would dare make such a move while Trump is still in the picture.
If Democrats lack an obvious Biden alternative, their leaders also lack the repressed disdain for the incumbent that many Republican officials harbor for Trump.
Democratic voters tend to think more about Trump and his potential comeback than their own president, which may be the best thing Biden can do for him. To even consider succession, or to grapple with concerns about renominating the 82-year-old incumbent, would be to distract from Trump’s threat or, worse, repeat the right’s main line of attack on Biden.
This reluctance was evident in the long line to enter Barack Obama’s Nevada Democratic campaign rally last week in North Las Vegas.
When one participant gently said of Biden, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but maybe he’s a little too old,” another participant interjected, “Trump’s only a year younger!” (Trump is actually four years younger.)
If the former president formally announces his candidacy this month, top Biden officials believe it is almost certain that the incumbent will at least begin to push for re-election.
After much grumbling about the lack of care and feeding, the White House has taken steps to engage supporters before 2024. Last week, senior aides Steve Ricchetti and Jennifer O’Malley Dillon held a Zoom with several dozen longtime Biden supporters, including former Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and some from early primary states. Next month there will be an in-person gathering of some of the same believers in the West Wing.
It’s easy to see why he thinks Trump’s announcement could quell any talk of passing the Democratic baton.
Almost every conversation I had with voters last week at an Obama rally in Nevada and at a Biden campaign for Levin near San Diego turned to Trump, directly or obliquely, but usually immediately. They are concerned about the former president and the threat he poses to American democracy.
These Democrats had nothing but praise or sympathy for Biden, but showed little enthusiasm for his re-election, a topic few have broached.
“I’d like to keep it up to Joe Biden,” said Tom Murphy, a retired Las Vegas attorney, before laying out the same Sorkin-esque vision that some Democrats had for Biden this summer: that he would unselfishly retire and fulfill his promise to be bridge president. “He’s the kind of hero who would do that.”
In California, Cheryl Hartvigsen expressed a similar sentiment about Biden’s re-election. “If he wants to,” Hartvigsen said, before musing without hinting that she’d like “to have a stronger vice president” because Biden “would feel more secure if he had good support.”
It was the only time a Democrat, in any state, mentioned Kamala Harris. When asked who intrigued them for 2024 if Biden did not run, the most common names voters offered were governors. Gavin Newsom of California and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan along with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
If Democratic voters have barely begun to think about Biden’s alternatives, the topic increasingly preoccupies the potential heirs themselves, as well as their spouses. Doug Emhoff, another gentleman, told Democrats that the party must rally around Harris if Biden does not run.
Such talk, however, is causing eye rolls in the West Wing, where officials believe Harris is on stronger footing now than she was in her first year, but remain skeptical about her viability in 2024.
Those misgivings are shared by most Democratic lawmakers, whose fears about 2024 range from the specter of nominating an eight-year-old with bad ratings to the equally delicate dilemma of whether to nominate their more unpopular vice president or skip over the first black woman for the job.
“The next question we’re going to get after we say we don’t want Biden is, ‘Do you want Kamala?'” one House Democrat explained.
Another lawmaker showed in a little-noticed October interview how Democrats can sidestep the issue in the future. Asked on WMUR in New Hampshire if he wants Biden to run again, Rep. Annie Kuster from the first in the state’s primary states, said, “I don’t think they will” before trumpeting the “big bench of the party which is made up of very, very qualified people.”
The good news for leaders of both parties is that voters may still be doing their dirty work.
James Carville, a Democratic strategist, said he has only one guaranteed round of applause when he speaks to any audience, regardless of their politics: “We’ve got to find someone under 75 who can run this country.
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