AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman
The national Democrats are finding themselves in a political corner, and some are suddenly seeking a way out of the electoral trap which has resulted.
Going into the final days of the 2022 midterm elections, the liberal-progressive party seemed to face a likely defeat in the congressional elections. The most severe predictions of the outcome were avoided; Democrats narrowly kept control of the U.S. Senate and did lose control of the U.S. House, but by fewer seats than expected.
Leading up to the midterm elections, however, a shadowy campaign to discourage their unpopular president, Joe Biden, from running for re-election in 2024 looked as though it had succeeded, thus promising Democrats the opportunity to nominate a fresh face in the all-important presidential cycle two years ahead.
Normally, of course, first-term presidents are easily renominated. But Mr. Biden and his administration have been chronically unpopular almost from the beginning because of their drift leftward in public programs and policies, recurring crises at home and abroad, and by the now 80-year-old president’s seeming physical decline.
The better-than-expected 2022 election results, however, gave Mr. Biden a sudden boost. The internal divisions of the Republican Party in its effort to organize its new majority in the U.S. House further bolstered Biden’s surge long enough for the president and his supporters to reignite their plans for re-election. The media’s post-election blame for the GOP’s worse-than-expected 2022 outcomes, directed at former President Trump, a leading potential 2024 Republican nominee, further fueled the hopes of the president and his supporters that Mr. Biden could win a second term.
Lacking an obvious candidate to replace the incumbent, the White House promptly began signaling that President Biden intended to run, and the behind-the-scenes efforts of potential Democrat presidential candidates for 2024 seemed cut off.
The immediate post-election Biden euphoria has ended, however, as Republicans successfully organized their U.S. House majority and began committee investigations of Biden’s public and private record. An administration effort to prosecute former President Trump for allegedly taking home classified material also backfired when it was disclosed that Biden himself seems to have improperly removed classified material prior to becoming president.
The singular success of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida in 2022 had made him a very serious challenger to Mr. Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, and dashed Biden campaign expectations that the president might have a much easier 2024 campaign. With the border crises worsening, inflation persisting, and the economy sputtering, Mr. Biden’s poll numbers sank once again. Most recently, the much-delayed shoot-down of a Chinese balloon assumed to be spying over the U.S. gave the impression that Mr. Biden was indecisive and weak — an impression reinforced by his physical appearances and speeches.
As he did in in 2020 when he promised to choose a woman of color as his vice presidential running mate and was forced ultimately to choose Kamala Harris from the resulting small number of possible choices, Mr. Biden has prematurely stated that he will keep Mrs. Harris on the ticket in 2024. Vice President Harris, however, has been notably unimpressive to date, and has even lower poll numbers than the president. Given Mr. Biden’s age and apparent physical condition, renominating Mrs. Harris makes it significantly more likely than normal that she might have to assume the office of president before the next term ends.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, a past presidential contender, has already endorsed Mr. Biden for re-election. The other alternative candidates are so far deferring their decisions until the president formally announces his decision, and there is no indication that any of them would oppose him if he chooses to run.
Thus, the Democrats face the inevitability of a Biden-Harris ticket in 2024.
Of course, this far from Election Day, it cannot be certain that this ticket will lose. The Republican ticket is yet unknown, the condition of the economy in 2024 is unknown, the state of the world is likewise unknown. But renominating the oldest person ever to be president and an unpopular figure for vice president would seem a singular case of a party knowingly putting itself at a disadvantage.
A potential Democratic contender could, however, break the ice and run against President Biden in the primaries, possibly emboldening others to run as well. But the history of such intraparty contests does not bode well for the party’s success in November.
As 2022 reminded us one more time, second-guessing the voters is a perilous course to take. On the other hand, when voters are unsatisfied, uninspired, or not feeling secure, they will fire those in charge.
There is much that will be decided in the next few months.
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