washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

As Ed Kilgore has written at New York magazine and TDS, whether or not President Biden is replaced as his party’s nominee is “A Decision Biden Alone Can Make.” There is no credible mechanism for replacing him as the Democratic nominee that doesn’t begin with his voluntary withdrawal. That doesn’t mean he couldn’t be persuaded to withdraw by family, friends or Democratic leaders. It just means only he can set the process in  motion. Even an attempt at an end run around the rules would be a bad, potentially disastrous, look for Democrats. So far, nine House Democrats have called on President Biden to step aside. But other influential elected officials, including Rep. James Clymer and Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) are hanging very tough for President Biden. To paraphrase Sen. Fetterman, hosting a recent rally for Biden in PA and pointing at the President, “Only one person in this room, state and nation has kicked Trump’s ass,” referring to Biden’s widely-certified 2020 victory over Trump. Fetterman may be the President’s most influential supporter in the largest swing state, since his PA colleague Sen. Bob Casey is busy running for re-election. “Here’s just one data point to keep in mind,” David From writes in The Atlantic, making the case for keeping Biden. “Joe Biden beat Donald Trump in 2020 in great part because he ran much better among white men than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. In 2016, Trump won white men by a margin of 30 points; in 2020, Trump won white men by a margin of only 17 points. Frum adds, “The great operational question before us is not “Is Joe Biden too old?” The question is “Do you trust the delegates to the Democratic convention in Chicago to replace the present ticket with a supposedly more winning ticket without ripping their party apart in catastrophic ways?” Further, Frum writes, “If Biden gets dumped and Democrats plunge into a civil war of who should replace him, Trump won’t even need that self-discipline: The story will be all Democratic disaster, all the time. The story told about the Democrats post–Biden dump would not be about their superb record on job creation since 2021, or about faster-than-inflation wage growth for middle-income and low-income workers, or about the funds for infrastructure and a greener economy, or about their success in reducing crime; it wouldn’t be about the Republican veto of immigration enforcement, or about Biden’s rebuilding of relationships with democratic allies, or about Democrats’ tireless work to defend women’s freedom, or about the party’s support for Ukraine and Israel in each nation’s war of self-defense. The story would be one of chaos and fratricide and splits, along lines of race and sex and ideology.”

At Common Dreams, Peter Dreier advocates a strategy for President Biden’s campaign “If he chooses to stay in the race, Biden and his team can’t simply put this dismal debate performance behind them. The Trump campaign will use clips of his many terrible moments on stage in TV and social media ads. Those clips will follow Biden from now until November….It might also be useful to recall that voters have been known to distinguish between the appearance of disability and the capacity to do the job. In the fall of 2022, John Fetterman, in recovery from a stroke, performed far worse in his debate against Trump-endorsed Dr. Amos Oz for the Senate seat from Pennsylvania. All the pundits said that Fetterman’s campaign in this swing state was over….Fetterman won the election….Those who want Biden to stay in the race believe he can recover if he can replicate that campaign style in his many personal appearances, and if the Democrats can amplify his deep engagement with national issues via surrogates. Ads that broadcast Biden at his best, including the North Carolina speech, broadcast on local TV and narrowcast on social media in the seven battleground states, will also be key….If the Democrats have any chance to defeat Trump, they must keep stressing that Trump lies about everything.” Dreier also gives the media a proper thrashing: “Whomever the Democrats’ presidential candidate is, the election will be decided by between 5,000 to 50,000 people in each of the following seven battleground states: Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania….These are the voters any Democratic candidate must persuade and turnout at this point….In the coming days, Biden and his close advisors must ask some key questions: Can they persuade and turnout these battleground state voters by practicing micro, retail politics? Did Biden’s debate debacle make a difference to these key voters? And if so, are they more likely to vote for Vice President Kamala Harris, or another candidate, than Biden?….One thing hasn’t changed: Our democracy is at stake so anyone who cares about thwarting fascism needs to stop whining and do whatever they can to keep Donald Trump from winning the White House, regardless who is at the top of the Democratic ticket.”

But Dreier also provides links to many of the strongest arguments urging President Biden to withdraw. These include:

From the New York Times:

From the Washington Post:

From The New Republic:

From The New Yorker:

From The American Prospect:

From The Atlantic:

From The Bulwark:

From The Nation:

Some nuggets from “RFK Jr. fails to gain traction despite Biden’s disastrous week” by Hanna Trudo at The Hill: “Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has failed to gain noticeable traction in the wake of President Biden’s catastrophic debate fallout against former President Trump….“If RFK Jr. was a truly viable candidate, he’d be making a credible push to supplant Biden as the main alternative to Trump,” said Kyle Kondik, an elections analyst and managing editor at the forecasting outfit Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Clearly that is not happening in the slightest and to the extent he’s making news, it’s bad news.”….A New York Times/Siena College poll released in the days after the Atlanta debate showed Kennedy at 8 percent support in the race, which is also where he is in an aggregate of surveys from The Hill and Decision Desk HQ (DDHQ)….“Think about what a horrible week Biden has had,” Kondik said. “But RFK [Jr.] does not seem to be benefiting at all, and certainly no bona fide Democrat is thinking of backing RFK Jr. as an alternative to the Democratic nominee.”….Some prominent voices in the party faithful have become particularly fearful that Kennedy — a member of their team as recently as October — could spoil the election, which many fear will result in a second Trump win. But as demonstrated this week, Kennedy has his own potential liabilities….Kennedy’s standing with the public has not been where it should be for a serious contender about four months from Election Day, experts say. He did not get to 15 percent in the four polls CNN set as a threshold for the debate, meaning he wasn’t able to appear on stage with Biden and Trump. And it’s not clear he will even appear on most ballots in November….According to his campaign website’s ballot tracker, Kennedy still needs some two dozen states before he reaches his goal of 50 states, and most secretaries of state have yet to certify his submissions. The Hill/DDHQ confirmed he has made the ballot in six states.” There are lots of arguments being bandied about as to whether Kennedy hurts Trump or Biden the most. But no source has provided conclusive aggregate data showing a clear, consistent benefit from RFK, Jr.’s candidacy to either candidate, although even a small margin can be decisive in a close election.

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. John Sweda on

    Hubert Humphrey, who didn’t run in any primaries, was selected as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1968. Something like this could happen in 2024. We are living in interesting times.

  2. Martin Lawford on

    “There is no credible mechanism for replacing him as the Democratic nominee that doesn’t begin with his voluntary withdrawal.” Absolutely right.

  3. Victor on

    There is no ideological challenge to Biden.

    Yes some leftists (most of whom are not even Democrats) would like Biden dropped as payback for the Gaza stance (a stance that most of the rest of the party shares).

    But there is no progressive challenge to Biden. Neither Sanders nor Warren have called on him to drop out (maybe because of their own age). Both (and Sanders in particular given his role in the party) have been incredibly loyal to Biden. (It is the other senator Warren that is pushing Biden out.) Same with AOC.

    The push against Biden is an inter-“centrist” issue. Why? Because centrists with no policy backbone stay silent about everything only to make rushed decisions during crises. And they only speak after reading a hundred polls.

    Centrists brough us the crisis of American democracy and have no plan on how to actually get out of it.

    Biden was actually able to hit the sweet spot when it comes to policy, specially lately with his stances on immigration. But he is a terrible communicator and always was. He is still better than almost all congressional Democrats.

    Biden is right that the party’s future isn’t among the DC elites. It is not in California or New York politics either.

    The donors pushing for an open process to replace Biden are weirdly on to something finally.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.