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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Why Dems Should Calm Down About Biden’s Age, Early Polls

Walter Shapiro has a zinger and insight-rich post, “Democrats, Don’t Panic! Seriously, Don’t”  up at The New Republic’s The Soapbox.

Shapiro argues that “Running protest candidates to act out policy frustrations is a luxury that the Democrats can ill afford at a time when the Republican Party has abandoned conservatism for trumped-up authoritarianism. A nomination fight against an incumbent president is an invitation to general election defeat, as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush found out.”

“Immigration remains a can’t-win issue for the Democrats,” Shapiro claims. “Every president (with the possible exception of Trump) is blamed for failing to solve insolvable issues. And the crisis at the Mexican border defies workable and humane solutions. No matter how far Biden tacks to the right (and suddenly the buzzword of this administration is “enforcement”), Trump and the Fox News megaphone will demonize the issue and rail against “open borders.” Short of actually building Trump’s phantom wall, there is no plausible way for Biden to avoid being permanently on the defensive on immigration.”

In terms of his image,  Shapiro gets brutal: “Biden will never be a compelling candidate. That was not his persona when he limped through the 2020 Iowa caucuses (fourth-place finish) and the New Hampshire primary (fifth place). As Biden insiders will privately concede, the pandemic helped Biden in the 2020 general election since it gave him an excuse to limit public campaigning. President Biden, to be honest, is boring. Last Friday, he gave his first TV interview since declaring his candidacy in April with a three-minute video. His White House conversation with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle produced little news and less excitement….The combination of Biden’s workmanlike oratory and the unprecedented ability of Americans to change channels means that this president cannot command a national audience for anything less than a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.” Further,

“Television ads, no matter how slickly produced, will not create a “morning in America” mood for Biden. A saturation ad blitz this early in the political season would require funds well beyond the current resources of the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee. And anything less than Michael Bloomberg–level spending will only be seen by hard-core viewers of CNN and MSNBC.” Also,

“Try as he might, Biden cannot defuse the age issue with a clever quip or a poll-tested boast. In his MSNBC interview, Biden argued, “I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people. And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office.” The problem is that voters are not only judging the Biden of today but also imagining an 86-year-old Biden in the White House in 2028.”

Now for the good news: “But every election is a choice between two candidates, not a quest for a modern-day Pericles. And whether GOP voters choose Trump the Sexual Abuser or another candidate from the right-wing fever swamps, that nominee is going to come with more baggage than a 1930s movie star on a trans-Atlantic crossing.” In addition, says Shapiro,

“Unless the GOP miraculously picks someone like Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor and ardent anti-Trumper, the Republican nominee will find it impossible to locate the political center even with a guide and a compass. From abortion to book banning, the Republicans are saddled with the politically unpalatable side of almost every emotionally potent issue except immigration. And if the nominee is Ron DeSantis, he may never live down the Peggy Noonan line that he “carries a vibe … that he might unplug your life support to re-charge his cellphone.”

If the Trump resurrection lasts until the Republican convention, negative partisanship will become a powerful force for the Democrats. Biden may be old and boring, but he has not been judged by a civil jury to be a sexual abuser. Biden may be old and boring, but he is not facing indictment in New York or maybe soon in Atlanta. He simply has to ask voters, in Reaganesque fashion, “Do you feel better about Trump today than you did four years ago?” The question, for almost all the voters who handed Biden the 2020 election, will answer itself as they contemplate an unhinged president motivated only by ego and revenge.”

President Biden may not be Mr. Excitement. But given the flaws of most of his opponents, he is beginning to look like Mr. Sane and Stable – which is not such a bad image at the launch of his 2024 campaign.

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