Republicans are poised to nominate a presidential candidate who has been impeached twice and indicted four times. And… incumbent Democratic President Joe Biden is currently losing to him?
To be sure, we are still over a year (and a gazillion news cycles) out from the general election. But the stakes are even higher than normal. Trump has promised retribution and appears to be gearing up to weaponize the Justice Department if he is re-elected.
Democrats can ignore the flashing red lights. But if Trump defeats Biden, their decision to ignore the many warning signs and stick with Biden will have them looking like the security guard who got flattened by a slow-moving steamroller driven by Austin Powers.
Despite a growing chorus of prominent voices who are calling for Biden to exit stage left, most liberal pundits seem content to brush off this poll and remind us that Barack Obama experienced a similar scare around a similar point in the 2012 cycle.
Unfortunately, this comparison doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Obama was a once-in-a-generation political talent; Biden is not. Obama also had the potential to excite and drive the turnout of young voters and minority voters. Biden does not.
What is more, Obama was running against Mitt Romney, a Republican he could villainize and define (see the “war on women,” “binders full of women,” “the 47 percent,” etc.) and whose personal comportment caused to him to be not the most effective political pugilist.
“Biden simply can’t brag about some of his accomplishments, including American oil production being at an all-time high, for fear it will turn off the progressive base.”
It’s hard to imagine voters learning any new negative information about Trump that would move the needle, just as it’s hard to imagine him reacting to attacks with measured consideration and dignity. Trump getting convicted of a felony could possibly hurt his standing in the polls, but even then I’m skeptical.
Regardless, Biden lacks the energy, charisma, or rhetorical skills to effectively conduct a campaign like Obama’s. And if it really is “all about turnout,” as the cliche goes, it’s hard to imagine Biden motivating young Americans or minority voters to go to the polls in record numbers. (To demonstrate how bad it is, Vice President Kamala Harris actually performs better than Biden in The New York Times and Siena College polls.)
Biden’s weakness with the Democratic base is on full display right now, as his support for Israel has him out of step with a good chunk of the progressive base, including many young people.
This is a subset of a larger Catch-22. Biden simply can’t brag about some of his accomplishments, including American oil production being at an all-time high, for fear it will turn off the progressive base.
On issues like infrastructure, semiconductor manufacturing, gun safety, Ukraine, and a debt-limit deal, Biden has achieved some pretty impressive bipartisan accomplishments. Yet these accomplishments have done nothing to boost his numbers, either because he is rhetorically incapable of tooting his own horn or because he’s afraid to do it too loudly. And as journalist Damon Runyon said, “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.”
Barack Obama (like Bill Clinton before him) tooted proudly. Then again, his identity, charisma, and promise of change gave Obama the space to woo Middle America’s voters that Biden simply does not have.
Another problem with the Obama comparison is that, although Obama’s approval ratings fell precipitously during his first year in office, he was never down for the count.
From the summer of 2010 until his 2012 re-election, Obama’s numbers fluctuated, bobbing up and down, depending on the news cycle (in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, for example, Obama’s approval bumped back up above 52 percent).
Conversely, Joe Biden’s approval rating sank during the Afghanistan withdrawal and hasn’t recovered (although his nadir, so far, was in June 2022, presumably due to inflation).
What is more, it’s hard to imagine Biden fixing his fundamental problems. For example, between 2020 and today, the number of survey respondents who say that Biden “is too old to be president” shot up from 34 percent to 71 percent. While it is possible the economy could improve between now and the 2024 election, there is zero chance that Biden will grow younger.
So what should Democrats do? As a conservative, I’m confident that any advice I offer would be dismissed as concern trolling. Democrats will have to make this decision—and soon.
And like a baseball manager contemplating whether to pull his pitcher out of a game in the bottom of the ninth, you can be labeled a genius or a dope, depending on whether the reliever picks up the save or gives up the winning run.
Is it time for Democrats to call in a closer from the bullpen? My only advice is that they should not cavalierly dismiss the polls or talk themselves into believing the Obama comparison is relevant.
Hope and change, this is not.