CBS: Down-ballot Dems seem to be hedging their bets on Biden

Gee, I wonder why that might be? This has an element of normal primary-phase disunity to it, but other elements may be contributing to a lack of enthusiasm among Democratic candidates in competitive House districts and Senate seats. CBS reports that a surprising number of those candidates have not yet hitched their wagons to the party’s star.

This isn’t the only sign of flagging enthusiasm among Democrats either, but this might be indirect confirmation of the trend Emerson reported earlier this week:

More than a dozen Democratic House incumbents and several Senate candidates in competitive races have yet to endorse Joe Biden, nearly a month after the former vice president became his party’s presumptive presidential nominee. The holdouts underscore challenges facing Biden as he prepares to lead a party fighting to defend a House majority and win back the Senate.

Some candidates who have yet to formally endorse Biden include Representatives Tom O’Halleran of Arizona, T.J. Cox of California, Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Jared Golden of Maine, Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico, Susie Lee of Nevada, Antonio Delgado of New York, Kendra Horn of Oklahoma, Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Ben McAdams of Utah and Kim Schrier of Washington state.

All are members of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s (DCCC) “Frontline” program to buoy members in “tough seats.”

Could this just be a lull while the party gets organized behind Biden? Maybe, but Bernie Sanders endorsed Biden three weeks ago. Voters tend to turn out more for presidential choices than down-ballot elections, which presents a powerful incentive to tie one’s campaigns to the party leader. (Republicans who held Donald Trump at arms’ length learned that lesson the hard way in both 2016 and 2018.) If the candidates closest to the voters in these “tough seats” aren’t getting enthusiastic about Biden, it’s likely a reflection that those voters are not getting enthusiastic about him, either.

Of course, there may be more to this than just some delayed harmony among the choir. The Tara Reade allegation of sexual assault and the growing number of indirect corroborating witnesses have become impossible to ignore, although Biden did his best before this morning to do so. These candidates might have wanted to see how he responded to the accusation before linking arms with someone who might end up disgraced.

His performance on Morning Joe earlier today probably didn’t do much to build confidence that Biden has put the potential scandal behind him, but that might not be the biggest problem. His larger problem might be the worry that the media’s belated attention to Reade’s accusation might embolden more accusers to come forward with their own tales. John will have more on this in the next post, but one young woman stepped forward this afternoon to claim that Biden’s creepy-uncle act included commenting on her breasts — when she was 14 years old:

“I remember walking into the lobby and being in awe of all the people in such fancy clothes,” Murry said in an interview. “Our two parties of people gravitated towards each other and everyone started saying their hellos. When it was Biden and my aunt’s turn to say hello he quickly turned to me and asked how old I was. I replied with my age and he replied with the comment ‘Fourteen? You’re very well endowed for 14!’ I was confused but it was definitely weird, he looked me up and down and hovered his eyes on my chest so I had some clue [about] the notion of his comment but didn’t fully understand at the time. We quickly separated from his area after the encounter.” …

“I feel his comments were verbal sexual harassment,” Murry told Law&Crime. “I think I was too naive to realize exactly what it meant at the time but I vividly remember the uncomfortable feeling I had in the pit of my stomach during the whole encounter. It wasn’t Biden’s words alone that made me so uncomfortable, it was the look, the tone, the whole general vibe was off.”

This is more of a piece with earlier allegations from Biden staffers that he made inappropriate comments about them on a regular basis rather than the sexual-assault allegation coming from Reade. Still, it’s a very strange thing for a 65-year-old stranger to say to a 14-year-old girl, especially the niece of his political opponent Christine O’Donnell. Law & Crime has also found four contemporaneous or near-contemporaneous corroborating witnesses for this, including three willing to go on the record.

How many more of these tales will emerge now that Reade has spoken up? Those Democrats in “tough seats” have plenty of reason to worry about that, especially given the number of times that Biden’s creepy-uncle act has been captured on video.

That will matter more in uniting the party’s voters behind Biden, too. While the Reade allegations may not be a major part of the progressives’ reluctance to rally to him, there’s no doubt that Biden’s got a problem:

A new poll shows Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, can bank on most supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders come November, but a majority of the Vermont progressive’s backers aren’t excited about voting for the moderate former vice president, and a third believe standing up for liberal policies is more important than getting President Donald Trump out of the White House.

Almost a quarter of Sanders voters say they’ll pick a third party candidate, won’t vote, will vote for Trump or remain undecided, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll released Thursday.

Eighty-two percent said they were aware that Sanders, who broke fundraising records largely with small-dollar donations in 2016 and 2020, had announced an endorsement of Biden.

The poll surveyed 638 Sanders supporters between April 18 and April 25.

Note the dates of this survey. Most of these voters, if not all of them, probably never consume news from media outlets that did cover the Reade story in that week. Only in this week has it broken through into most mainstream media outlets. Now that Biden’s floundering on “Believe All Women,” those voters will smell blood in the water — and a potential lever to push Biden out in favor of Bernie.

Down-ballot Democrats are therefore smart to keep their powder dry. It’s no safe bet that Biden will make it to the convention at this rate.

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