At the end of the day, all most of us want is someone who’ll pander to us.
Doesn’t matter how cynical and expedient the pander is. The cynicism might even be a virtue of sorts, as a politician who’s willing to toss a stance he’s held for 40 years overboard overnight to get elected is a politician who’ll be verrrrrrry wary about crossing his base as president. Joe Biden wouldn’t have humiliated himself by bending the knee on the Hyde Amendment unless he was terrified of pro-choicers’ wrath. That terror won’t fade for a long time.
No one really cares whether an elected official shares their beliefs. What matters is whether an elected official will implement those beliefs. Trump learned that lesson as a newbie politician. Go figure that an old hand like Biden has learned it too.
Nearly a third of voters who say they plan to participate in a Democratic presidential primary or caucus, 32 percent, say they are more likely to vote for Biden after he changed his position on the Hyde Amendment, the ban named for the late Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill). Just 19 percent of potential Democratic primary voters say Biden’s flip-flop makes them less likely to vote for him.
Asked about the Hyde Amendment — which bans federal funds from being used by programs like Medicaid for abortion in most cases — Democratic primary voters lean against it, though not overwhelmingly. A plurality, 45 percent, oppose the amendment, while 38 percent support it. The energy is on the side of its opponents, however: 32 percent of Democratic primary voters “strongly oppose” the Hyde Amendment, more than the 19 percent who “strongly support” it.
I never know what to make of polls that ask voters if they’re more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate because of X. It all depends on which voters, no? It may be that many millions of progressives are now technically more likely to vote for Biden after his Hyde reversal, but that likelihood may have increased from one in 100 odds to two in 100. It may be that pro-choice Biden-loving centrists are also now more likely to vote for him following his Hyde flip-flop, except in their case the likelihood has increased from 98 in 100 odds to 99 in 100. In both cases, Biden’s Hyde switcheroo will have barely moved the electoral needle and yet it would nonetheless be true that many more people are likely to vote for him. Marginally, negligibly more likely.
Peek into the crosstabs and you’ll find that the split between those who said they were “much” more likely and “much” less likely to vote for him because of his Hyde reversal is closer than the split described in the excerpt above — 13/9 to be exact, which means that Biden’s reversal might have helped him a tiny bit in the primary. In the general election, though? Different ballgame. Here’s the split when the overall population was asked how his Hyde flip will affect their vote:
Among all registered voters and in every gender and age group (except one), more people are now less likely to vote for him post-Hyde reversal than they are more likely to do so. Notably, every group reaches double digits in the “much less likely” category. There may be a small but sizable minority of right-leaning voters out there who have no use for Trump and who like Biden enough personally that they’d consider crossing the aisle next year if Uncle Joe meets them a quarter way on the issues, but who now have misgivings. Call them the Meghan McCain demographic if you like. McCain told TV viewers yesterday that she’s no longer as high on Biden as she was before his flip. She’s not alone, apparently.
People will forget the Hyde flip-flop soon enough. The question is how many other flip-flops are still to come. Dude?
On May 1, Biden said in a speech, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man — They can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the West. They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They’re not bad folks, folks … They’re not competition for us.”
Driving the news: Campaigning in Iowa on Tuesday, the same day that President Trump plans to visit the state, Biden will tell supporters in a prepared speech: “You bet I’m worried about China—if we keep following Trump’s path.”
“While Trump is tweeting, China is making massive investments in technologies of the future. While Trump is name-calling, China is building roads, bridges, and high-speed rail. While Trump is pursuing a damaging and erratic trade war, without any real strategy, China is positioning itself to lead the world in renewable energy. While Trump is attacking our friends, China is pressing its advantage all over the world. … But the reason I’m optimistic, and the point I’ve been making for years is— IF we do what we need to do here at home, IF we stand up for American interests, IF we invest in our people, live our values, and work with our partners — We can out-compete anyone.”
He’s flip-flopping on China now too? I wrote last night that the Hyde reversal was a sort of compromise with the left, with Biden willing to give a little on cultural issues because he won’t, and can’t, give much ground on economic policy to socialists like Bernie. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Biden’s going to switcheroo on economics too. The conventional wisdom about the primary is that he’s the centrist and Bernie’s the progressive and they’re about to wage war on behalf of their respective camps. But maybe Biden’s theory of the race is different: He’s Joe Biden, everyone knows him, everyone to the left of Susan Collins and to the right of Elizabeth Warren likes him, and black voters are poised to rally to him by virtue of his service in Obama’s administration. As much as the left wishes this election were about policy, in other words, Biden knows that it’s about intangibles — likability, electability, experience. If he needs to endorse Medicare For All to get nominated, fine, he’ll do it. And then if he needs to run away from it during the general election, he’ll do that too. What’s the left going to do at that point, reelect Trump?
Here’s the president offering his own theory of why Biden’s begun flip-flop-flipping.
Trump calls Biden "weak mentally" before heading to Iowa pic.twitter.com/DqtlRevjcV
— TPM Livewire (@TPMLiveWire) June 11, 2019