Give Joe Biden some credit — he certainly knows how to retreat. After watching his ATF nominee twist in the wind for months, though, Biden had little choice. The Washington Post reports this morning that the White House will formally withdraw David Chipman’s nomination long after it became clear that he had no chance of winning confirmation:
The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to run the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this week amid bipartisan pushback over his gun control advocacy, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.
Politico heard it from the grapevine too, with three grapes rather than two:
The White House is planning to withdraw David Chipman’s nomination to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to three sources close to the process.
Chipman is currently a senior policy advisor to Giffords, a gun control group, and faced an uphill battle to Senate confirmation as President Joe Biden’s point person on firearms regulation. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) had previously told the Biden administration and Senate Democrats that he was not supportive of the nominee. Other moderate Democratic senators, including Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, have also remained noncommittal on the pick.
That pretty much sums up the problems with Chipman. He’s been a well-paid gun-control lobbyist for four-plus years, and he can’t even get to 50 among Senate Democrats. All of this, mind you, was apparent almost as soon as Biden announced Chipman’s nomination. And yet the White House kept insisting that they could push him across the finish line anyway.
What changed today? Perhaps Chipman himself got tired of twisting in the wind and asked to have his nomination withdrawn, and no one would blame him if that were the case. Maybe Biden’s political team learned how to count over the weekend. More likely, though, Biden’s falling approval numbers after the Afghanistan disgrace changed the landscape. When Biden nominated Chipman, he was still enjoying honeymoon levels of support and probably thought he could push Chipman across the finish line on that basis. Now that his approval numbers are heading into the thirties, Biden simply doesn’t have that kind of juice.
All of that sounds good, except that Biden will nominate another gun-control advocate for this position eventually. He can’t afford to find a compromise candidate, not with the progressives baying at his heels and already unhappy over the status of their Green New Deal package. If Biden is smart, he’ll convince Val Demings to pull out of her quixotic challenge against Marco Rubio in next year’s Senate race and accept the ATF nomination instead. Demings has experience as a police chief and would be a tougher target for Republicans than Chipman was.
But since Biden’s not smart, I’d expect him to pick another gun-control lobbyist for the slot … and for the slot to remain unfilled for the foreseeable future. If Biden was half as smart as he keeps claiming, he never would have nominated such an easy target as Chipman in the first place.