I believe it, for this reason: Who’s going to run if he doesn’t?
Let me rephrase. Who’s going to run if he doesn’t and stand a chance of winning?
Don’t insult my intelligence by saying Kamala Harris. Ed flagged this latest demonstration of her terrible retail skills this morning but it’s worth watching again to see how much trouble Dems are in if Sleepy Joe can’t answer the bell in 2024.
HARRIS: "We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border."
Harris: "We’ve been to the border."
Harris: "We’ve been to the border."
HOLT: "You haven’t been to the border."
Harris: "I… and I haven’t been to Europe." https://t.co/dftSFsU88F pic.twitter.com/Q6pIdXQqPs
— Caleb Howe (@CalebHowe) June 8, 2021
“One of the least talented politicians in the country,” Andrew Sullivan sniffed after viewing that. This morning I tweeted that Harris will never win a national election and that Democrats should make peace with that fact and begin preparing accordingly — and I haven’t caught much flak for it from lefties. They must know by now that she’s a bad bet.
And how could they not? She was so slippery and inept at triangulating between progressives and centrists in the 2020 primaries that she ended up flaming out before Iowa, basically tied with her nemesis Tulsi Gabbard in the low single digits in polling. She’s perceived as more left-wing than Biden too, which will be unappealing to the centrists who preferred him to Trump last November. And while it’s unclear if her race and sex will be more of an asset or a liability to an electorate in 2024, it’s worth noting that Biden prevailed by peeling off a small but meaningful percentage of white voters from the GOP. Can Harris do that? If she can’t, can she make up for it by running up the score with blacks and Latinos? What reason is there to think that she can given her 2020 performance?
I think she’d lose to Trump. And I think she’d lose handily to a more traditional politician like DeSantis, whose candidacy would deprive her of millions of anti-Trump votes that benefited Biden in 2020.
The bottom line is it may be that only Joe Biden can keep the Joe Biden coalition together, and even then he might need Trump on the other side of the ballot again in order to do it. According to Politico, that’s what he and his team are imagining in 2024:
“Does a secret voluntary one-termer put four-term Franklin over the fireplace?” quipped one Democrat connected to the White House, referring to the FDR portrait hanging in Biden’s Oval Office.
According to his allies, Biden believes that he is the Democrat best equipped to take on Trump, just as he did in the lead up to 2020. They also say that is driven by the idea that his legacy could be that of the president who defeated Trump and Trumpism, which he sees as an ugly, corrosive movement.
As Trump has gotten more serious about running again, so too has the Biden team’s resolve to seek a second term. But regardless of whether Trump pulls the trigger, the 2024 campaign is still poised to be a contest between the Biden legacy and Trump’s party. And Democrats close to the White House say that Trump’s grip on Republicans may be motivation enough.
As bad as Harris is, consider this. If Biden decided not to run again and Dems somehow convinced her not to run either in 2024, whom would they draft?
Their bench is an inch thin.
Who’s capable of holding the Biden coalition together or assembling a different, bigger coalition? He had some valuable attributes in 2020, after all — universal name recognition, tons of experience, well-liked by black voters, but also perceived as enough of a centrist that moderates from both parties could feel comfortable supporting him. Who’s the electable centrist in the Democratic Party besides Biden who can also galvanize progressives and African-Americans, especially if Trump isn’t on the ballot to help out with those tasks?
If Biden doesn’t run, the “Biden coalition” is over. Even if he does run, having the GOP counter with a less polarizing nominee like DeSantis might be curtains for Joe. Without high-octane anti-Trump sentiment fueling his turnout, the prospect of reelecting an 82-year-old might be all it takes for Americans to hand the White House back to Republicans. But if he doesn’t run, Democrats will need a completely new playbook for holding off the GOP. Expect intense pressure on Michelle Obama or Oprah to get in and spare them the likelihood of a Harris debacle.