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Yglesias: 27 More Thoughts on the State of the Race

The following article, “Twenty-Seven More Thoughts on the State of the Race” by Matthew Yglesias, is cross-posted from Slow Boring:

I don’t want this blog to become 100% focused on the question of who the Democratic Party nominee should be or the questions surrounding that. I don’t think our tempo of publication is ideally suited to covering that kind of news story, and I also don’t think my take on this is particularly distinctive. Yesterday I wrote an introspective post because I am uniquely qualified to write about myself, but in terms of the future of the country, I basically agree with what Ezra Klein, Jerusalem Demsas, Eric Levitz, and Jonathan Chait have been saying.

I was glad to have this morning’s guest post about the future of transportation policy, and we’ll be publishing non-horse race pieces on Wednesday and Thursday. I’ll continue to focus on covering the election with an eye to the stakesand trying to provide a highly differentiated product that features primarily non-election content.

That said, I do have thoughts that I want to get off my chest after a week away, and here come 27 of them:

  1. The critical question in the “should Biden stand down” debate has always been, in my opinion, the question of the Kamala Line. It’s been easy to say since the midterms that Democrats would be better off with “a different nominee,” but the right question is would Democrats be better off with Kamala Harris.
  2. That’s not because Harris is the only possible option; it’s just that from the moment she was selected as VP, she’s been the most likely option. You should not wish for “not Biden” unless you’re prepared to get Harris as the alternative.
  3. In 2023, I did not think we had crossed the Kamala Line. When Ezra Klein wrote his open convention piece, the discussion of convention mechanics seemed like a concession that we were still not.
  4. After the debate, we clearly are. This is in part because her numbers have actually been on a positive trajectory recently. But mostly it’s because while I think you can still make a strong case for voting Biden, the only people who will find that case compelling are people who are comfortable with the possibility that Harris will take over if Biden’s health continues to decline — which is very likely given the linear progression of time.
  5. Under the circumstances, we’d be better off letting Harris assume the nomination and make the case for herself. She’s slightly more popular than Biden right now, has dramatically more upside, and could get a mini-burst of positive attention from becoming the nominee and rolling out her VP.
  6. Broadly, I think betting markets and external observers are grossly exaggerating the odds that Biden will, in fact, step aside.
  7. The key error that smart people who I like and respect keep making is assuming that there is some critical mass of “party leaders” or “elder statesmen” who could push Biden out of the race if they wanted to.
  8. This is just not true. A joint press release from Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, and Nancy Pelosi would not force Biden out of the race. Other people might be able to persuade him to drop out, but they would genuinely have to persuade him.
  9. To understand Biden’s mentality, you have to remember that he did succumb to informal pressure from party leaders to stand down in 2016, and everyone now thinks it was a world-historical mistake of him to do that. People are really good at self-flattery and self-deception, and this is a strong data point to bolster his desire to stay in it.
  10. The other leg of support for Biden’s self-deception — the belief that polls predicated a red wave in 2022 or that the 2022 midterm results were consistent with Biden being on track to win — is totally false, but unfortunately, these false ideas associated with Simon Rosenberg have been widely circulated in liberal circles since the midterms themselves.
  11. Exacerbating the problem is that Biden’s inner circle of advisors all have reputations that are under water at this point, and Biden staying in maximizes their chances for personal vindication. If I got to sit down with the president alone, I would make the case to him that standing down maximizes his odds at a great historical legacy. But does that apply to Mike Donilon? I’m not sure it does.
  12. Right now, the main reason for members of Congress to throw Biden under the bus is not that it will be persuasive to him, but that anyone in a swing seat — or even a D+5 seat — needs to worry about saving their own skin. A convention where leading figures in the Democratic Party stand up on stage and swear that Biden is doing great is going to make them all look like idiots and risk pulling everyone else down.
  13. On Bidenist Twitter, people are acting like “but Republicans will say mean things about any nominee” is a decisive takedown of the concern about Biden. This is like when people denied that running a self-identified socialist could be harmful because Republicans call all Democrats socialists. Just because you get attacked either way doesn’t mean you should make yourself defenseless.
  14. The key problem with Biden is that he was losing decisively before the debates. Not by huge margins, but clearly losing. He needed to make up lost ground at the debate, and he did not. Instead, he slipped. He’s clearly not going to do an impressive media blitz, so what’s he going to do? Run ads. Democrats have great ads. But ads matter less than free media, and Biden was already running ads before the debate, taking advantage of a financial edge that Trump has now eliminated.
  15. A new nominee would have fresh legs to be on television multiple times a week making the case against Trump. If you’re a pure Dem partisan who is angry that none of the media focus is on Trump right now, this is why you want a new (younger) nominee, someone who can be everywhere delivering crisp anti-Trump talking points.
  16. Is Harris the best person in the world to do that? No. In terms of pure skill, I would advocate for Pete Buttigieg, who is great at television and who leads the field in net favorability and whose head-to-head polling against Trump is strong when you adjust for name ID.
  17. Gretchen Whitmer’s polling is almost as good as Pete’s, and she might be an even better choice since she’s not a member of the Biden administration. She can say she didn’t know the details of the president’s condition and also frankly can just wash her hands of some of some of Team Biden’s worst moments, like “transitory inflation.”
  18. But again, Harris is good enough. And the leak that she would look to Roy Cooper or Andy Beshear as VP was, to me, a good sign that she sees the basic dimensions of her political problem clearly. You don’t achieve as much political success as she has without some form of political skills, but she’s never had to get swing voters to vote for her. Beshear and Cooper have, and either would be the right kind of person to add to her team.
  19. For Whitmer, I like Josh Shapiro as VP. In theory, the governor of Michigan plus the governor of Pennsylvania on the ticket together visiting every small town in Wisconsin equals victory. Chill Midwestern politicians usually lack the pizzazz to win a nomination (Barack Obama is the exception that proves the rule), but those are the swing states!
  20. If it’s Pete, I think he should do the Clinton/Gore thing of doubling down on youth rather than trying for “balance.” I’m very intrigued by a Buttigieg + Ritchie Torres ticket.
  21. With any of these tickets, think about how cool it would be to have live town halls as campaign events, five minute call-ins to cable, long sit downs on podcasts. It’s incredibly annoying to have all this focus on Biden’s fitness and acuity when Trump is also extremely old and constantly forgetting stuff and talking nonsense! Make the point by putting forward a young nominee who speaks fluidly!
  22. Just don’t get your hopes up that it will actually happen or spend your time thinking that Barack Obama or some other magic figure can make it happen. That’s not how it works.
  23. Given how central the jitters about Harris have been to this whole process, I think the question of why there was so much insider conventional wisdom in her favor in 2020 has never been properly litigated. Her problem — she’s never won votes outside of the base — was obvious. I said it at the time, and the reaction to my take was not positive. At this point, I’d be happy to support her as better than Biden and better than Trump, but Democrats did not need put themselves in this situation.
  24. Pay close attention to the wording of The Procedural Rules of the 2024 Democratic National Convention (Section IX) as stated in the official Call For The 2024 Democratic National Conventional. Specifically, look at paragraph F2(d) governing the behavior of pledged delegates on the first ballot where superdelegates do not vote: “All delegates to the National Convention pledged to a presidential candidate shall in all good conscience reflect the sentiments of those who elected them.”
  25. Biden is probably going to be the nominee and he is probably going to lose, and I think media coverage of the 2024 election ought to reflect that fact — not in the spirit of the press needing to do partisan anti-Trump crusading, but just like the pre-election coverage in the UK focused much more on Labour’s plans than on the Conservatives, because they were obviously going to win. As long as Biden is clinging to the nomination, Trump is the important story.
  26. It’s worth saying, as one moderate factionalist to others, that if Democrats lose with Biden as their standard-bearer, our side is realistically going to take the lion’s share of the blame for defeat. Of course, I and others will do our best to make our case, but the most likely outcome is not just Biden losing to Trump, but nascent efforts to revive a common sense factional project suffering a big setback as well.
  27. This is not my brand personally, but given the range of wild things people have been bullied into signing on to in the name of identity politics, I think “it’s racist to believe a Black woman is less electable than a white man who can’t get through a 30 minute television interview” is a pretty reasonable take.

If Biden “Steps Aside” and Harris Steps Up, There Should Be No Falloff in Support

At New York I discussed and tried to resolve one source of anxiety about a potential alternative ticket:

One very central dynamic in the recent saga of Democratic anxiety over Joe Biden’s chances against Donald Trump, given the weaknesses he displayed in his first 2024 debate, has been the role of his understudy, Vice-President Kamala Harris. My colleague Gabriel Debenedetti explained the problem nearly two years ago as the “Kamala Harris conundrum”:

“Top party donors have privately worried to close Obama allies that they’re skeptical of Harris’s prospects as a presidential candidate, citing the implosion of her 2020 campaign and her struggles as VP. Jockeying from other potential competitors, like frenemy Gavin Newsom, suggests that few would defer to her if Biden retired. Yet Harris’s strength among the party’s most influential voters nonetheless puts her in clear pole position.”

The perception that Harris is too unpopular to pick up the party banner if Biden dropped it, but too well-positioned to be pushed aside without huge collateral damage, was a major part of the mindset of political observers when evaluating Democratic options after the debate. But now fresher evidence of Harris’s public standing shows she’s just as viable as many of the candidates floated in fantasy scenarios about an “open convention,” “mini-primary,” or smoke-filled room that would sweep away both parts of the Biden-Harris ticket.

For a good while now, Harris’s job-approval numbers have been converging with Biden’s after trailing them initially. These indicate dismal popularity among voters generally, but not in a way that makes her an unacceptable replacement candidate should she be pressed into service in an emergency. As of now, her job-approval ratio in the FiveThirtyEight averages is 37.1 percent approve to 51.2 percent disapprove. Biden’s is 37.4 percent approve to 56.8 percent disapprove. In the favorability ratios tracked by RealClearPolitics, Harris is at 38.3 favorable to 54.6 percent unfavorable, while Biden is at 39.4 percent favorable to 56.9 percent unfavorable. There’s just not a great deal of difference other than slightly lower disapproval/unfavorable numbers for the veep.

On the crucial measurement of viability as a general-election candidate against Trump, there wasn’t much credible polling prior to the post-debate crisis. An Emerson survey in February 2024 showed Harris trailing Trump by 3 percent (43 percent to 46 percent), which was a better showing than Gavin Newsom (down ten points, 36 percent to 46 percent) or Gretchen Whitmer (down 12 points, 33 percent to 45 percent).

After the debate, though, there was a sudden cascade of polling matching Democratic alternatives against Trump, and while Harris’s strength varied, she consistently did as well as or better than the fantasy alternatives. The first cookie on the plate was a one-day June 28 survey from Data for Progress, which showed virtually indistinguishable polling against Trump by Biden, Harris, Cory BookerPete ButtigiegAmy KlobucharGavin NewsomJ.B. PritzkerJosh Shapiro, and Gretchen Whitmer. All of them trailed Trump by 2 to 3 percent among likely voters.

Then two national polls released on July 2 showed Harris doing better than other feasible Biden alternatives. Reuters/Ipsos (which showed Biden and Trump tied) had Harris within a point of Trump, while Newsom trailed by three points, Andy Beshear by four, Whitmer by five, and Pritzker by six points. Similarly, CNN showed Harris trailing Trump by just two points; Pete Buttigieg trailing by four points; and Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer trailing him by five points.

Emerson came back with a new poll on July 9 that wasn’t as sunny as some for Democrats generally (every tested name trailed Trump, with Biden down by three points). But again, Harris (down by six points) did better than Newsom (down eight points); Buttigieg and Whitmer (down ten points); and Shapiro (down 12 points).

There’s been some talk that Harris might help Democrats with base constituencies that are sour about Biden. There’s not much publicly available evidence testing that hypothesis, though the crosstabs in the latest CNN poll do show Harris doing modestly better than Biden among people of color, voters under the age of 35, and women.

The bottom line is that one element of the “Kamala Harris conundrum” needs to be reconsidered. There should be no real drop-off in support if Biden (against current expectations) steps aside in favor of his vice-president (the only really feasible “replacement” scenario at this point). She probably has a higher ceiling of support than Biden as well, but in any event, she would have a fresh opportunity to make a strong first or second impression on many Americans who otherwise know little about her.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Democrats’ Effort to Push Biden Off Ticket Hits Uncertainty,” Lindsay Wise, Natalie Andrews and Katie Stech Ferek report at the Wall St. Journal: “An effort by some Democrats to seek an alternative to President Biden as the party’s nominee faced new uncertainty Tuesday, with frustrated lawmakers struggling to find a path forward after the president said he was dead set against stepping aside….Lawmakers aired their frustrations with their predicament, but a concerted push to install a new nominee didn’t emerge, even as a seventh House Democrat publicly called for Biden to make way for a new candidate. Private meetings ended without consensus, leaving the stare-down without a clear resolution less than four months until Election Day….“Like I said before, I’m with Joe,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) repeated several times in response to questions at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon….Schumer’s terse comments followed a lengthy lunch meeting with Senate Democrats, most of whom refused to talk to reporters afterward. Some looked dejected. “The president said it’s in his hands,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.). Asked if Biden should remain on the ticket, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said, “That still remains to be seen.”….Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) told colleagues he didn’t think Biden would prevail this fall, and Sens. Jon Tester (MT) and Sherrod Brown (OH) have also expressed doubts. Later, speaking to CNN, he said he thinks Trump is on track to “maybe win it by a landslide, and take with him the Senate and the House.” He said the White House “has done nothing to really demonstrate that they have a plan to win.” But he declined to say Biden should step aside….One person familiar with the meeting said the party seemed evenly split on Biden. “One-third of the caucus wants him gone, one-third want him to stay, and one-third are resigned he is the nominee but think he is going to lose.”….“I think the conversation is important to have right now, because people do have concerns,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D., Wash.), head of the progressive caucus. “I just don’t think it should be in public. And I think at the end of the day, he is our nominee right now till he’s not our nominee.”

At Politico, Jonathan Martin outlines “Biden’s Survival Plan: Decry ‘Elite’ Critics, Appeal to His Base,” and writes: “As the president fights for his political life this week, and calls grow from party leaders that he withdraw his candidacy, he’s counting on the support of African American Democrats and his union allies as his last line of defense. It’s a playbook Biden has turned to in the past, portraying his detractors as mostly elite white liberals who are out of step with the more diverse and working-class grassroots of the party. That’s what propelled his nomination after a string of setbacks in 2020….If Biden can retain his allies in labor and the Black community, he will have a chance to reframe the boiling debate about his candidacy along the lines of race and class that have animated every Democratic nomination fight for 40 years. Those clashes, of course, played out in primaries and caucuses. This battle is taking place in a more chaotic and truncated fashion, in the media and on group texts, conference calls and Zooms….“The people Joe Biden fights for — middle-class labor union members, Blacks, Latinos — they know he fights for them and they’re going to stay in the fight for him,” Anita Dunn, Biden’s longtime adviser, told me Sunday….Much as he craves the affirmation of elites, Biden is in his comfort zone donning the armor of Scranton Joe. It recalls Bill Clinton, facing impeachment and the condemnation of censorious Democratic elites, turning to the party rank and file and especially Black Americans in his hour of crisis….This is the crux of Biden’s challenge. He knows his most loyal supporters will be those blue-collar Democrats and their representatives who’ve always had more of an affinity for him than the latte set. “We’ve been through some shit in our lives and we don’t turn when times are tough,” as Richmond put it about the Black community.”

Margaret Sullivan has some pointed comments in her article, “The media has been breathlessly attacking Biden. What about Trump?” at The Guardian. Among her observations: “That bigger story, of course, is the former president’s appalling unfitness for office, not only because he tried to overturn a legitimate election and is a felon, out on bail and awaiting sentencing, but because of things he has said and done in very recent weeks. As just one example, he claimed that he doesn’t know anything about Project 2025, the radical rightwing plan hatched by some of his closest allies to begin dismantling our democracy if he wins another term….Trump’s disavowal is a ridiculous lie, but I doubt most members of the public know anything about it, nor do they likely know much – if anything – about Project 2025….Meanwhile, what of Trump’s obvious cognitive decline, his endless lies, his shocking plans to imprison his political enemies and to deport millions of people he calls “animals”, his relationship with the late accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein?….There really is no comparison in the amount or intensity of coverage. One journalist, Jennifer Schulze, counted New York Times stories related to Biden’s age in the week following the debate; she counted a staggering 192 news and opinion pieces, compared to 92 stories on Trump – and that was in a week when the US supreme court had ruled he has immunity for official acts….On Monday, the Times sent out as “breaking news” a story whose headline announced that an expert in Parkinson’s disease had visited the White House eight times in a recent eight-month period; much further down in the story we learn that the same doctor also had made 10 visits to the White House in 2012, and that he has supported the White House medical team for more than a dozen years. But many people never get past the headline….Of course, the problem certainly is not just the New York Times, despite its agenda-setting influence. It’s also TV news, both network and cable. And, to a lesser extent, it’s other major US publications….Where does that leave us?….All of these disturbing elements – the Democrats’ dilemma, the media’s failures, and the cult-like, unquestioning support of Trump – could add up to one likelihood in November….A win for Trump, and a terrible loss for democracy.”

Christian Paz mulls over the polling data in “Do other Democrats actually poll better against Trump than Biden?” at Vox and writes: “If the goal of national Democrats is to keep Donald Trump out of the White House to protect democracy — and they’ve largely framed the 2024 election in just those existential terms — who is best equipped to do it? And after a dismal debate performance by President Joe Biden last week, is it possible that there is another Democrat better equipped to beat Trump than the sitting president?….Polling gives us one way to answer that question. But it’s not as simple as looking at the topline numbers and deciding that it’s time to dump Biden. The only timeline for which we know anything, solidly, is the one we’re living in: anything else is purely hypothetical, and requires some suspension of belief, some scrutiny in looking at numbers, and some skepticism in how we might expect the public to react….Still, it’s too soon to tell just what the American people are thinking about replacing Biden with an alternative….we are dealing in hypotheticals. Any talk about how a Biden alternative would fare against Trump is purely imaginary at this point: we don’t really know how well any of these candidates would do among specific kinds of voters or in different states or regions. How would Whitmer do in the Sun Belt? How would Newsom do in the Midwest? Those questions are crucial to winning the Electoral College, and the polls we have don’t come close to answering them….the polls show hypothetical Biden alternatives would do no better than Biden (generally what Biden defenders say). The second is that they are doing just as well as Biden without even running as actual presidential candidates — and could do better still (what Biden critics say)….Harris, post-debate, still has a better favorability score than Biden, and is doing better than the president with women, Latino voters, and young voters — groups that Biden has struggled with overall. Philip Bump at the Washington Post did some digging on this question last week as well, comparing Harris and Biden’s favorability ratings among subgroups before the debate, and found Harris seems to be viewed more favorably by younger voters, women, and non-white voters….In short, we don’t know much. These are all hypotheticals we’re trying to game out from a very limited set of data. And we’re likely to get a bunch more data as we move further from the debate. “

Biden Plans to Keep Running, Dems Not Yet Unified

It’s getting to the point where you need a playbook to sort out the supporters and opponents of President Biden continuing his re-election campaign.

If you thought it would be a matter of prominent moderates and centrists supporting Biden and left Democrats wanting to replace him, you would be mostly wrong. Thus, centrist Democrats like Sen. Mark Warner (VA) and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (NJ- 11) are leaning toward or calling on President Biden to step down and lefty Dems, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT) and Rep. AOC (NY-14 ) are affirming their strong support for the President’s re-election, alongside leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and former Speaker Pelosi.

As you can see from some of the aforementioned examples, the ages of the President’s re-election supporters and opponents don’t provide much insight into their positions, either. Support for the President’s re-election is all over the place in terms of age. Ditto for those who want him to step down.

“On Monday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that she was sticking with Biden after speaking to him over the weekend. “Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race and I support him,” Nia Prater writes at New York magazine’s Intelligencer.

“I know that President Biden and his team have been true public servants and have put the country and the best interests of democracy first and foremost in their considerations,” [Rep. Mikie] Sherrill said. “And because I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country, I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for reelection and will help lead us through a process toward a new nominee,” Miranda Nazzaro reports at The Hill.

Lauren Sforza quotes Sen. Sanders, also at The Hill: “….I think what he has got to do is get out there, interact with people, turn off the teleprompter, and people can make a judgment for themselves how well he’s doing…So what we’ve got to do is inject policy, the contrast between what Biden stands for and what Trump stands for. And then if you do that, I think Biden’s gonna do just fine,” he added.”

Although it appears the Democrats are divided at present, when the Democratic Convention is concluded, the smart bet is that all Democratic members of the House and Senate will support the same nominee, along with every Democratic governor. Regardless of who is on the ticket, the “Democrats in Disarray” meme will be long-dead by Election Day.

Teixeira: No, Democracy is *Not* on the Ballot

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

What is the Biden campaign’s theory of the case? They have persistently been running behind Trump for months and most forecasting models currently tip Trump to win the election. A just-released New York Times/Siena poll has Biden behind by 6 points among registered voters and 3 points among likely voters. How are they planning on turning the election in their favor in the coming months?

Naturally, the Biden campaign will seek to put a number of messages into play where they feel they have an advantage. But numerous reports indicate that, above all, they believe emphasizing threats to democracy will the key to victory. Mike Donilon, probably Biden’s closest and most influential advisor, has said that by election day this year:

…the focus will become overwhelming on democracy. I think the biggest images in people’s minds are going to be of January 6th.

Axios quotes Biden advisors as saying:

This is Joe Biden’s strategy — and Mike Donilon and his top advisers are in agreement with the president. The polling shows that democracy ended up a top issue of concern for voters in 2022, and it will be in 2024.

Izzat so? There are grounds for, to put it gently, considerable skepticism here. Let’s take a look at the data.

1. To begin with, preserving/defending/whatever democracy persistently trails the economy/inflation as the issue voters think is most important, even when the democracy issue is specifically mentioned as part of a list.

2. And when respondents’ most important issue is solicited in an open-ended format, where respondents give an unprompted, top-of-mind answer, democracy simply does not rate very high. In the most recent Gallup poll, only 4 percent fall into a bucket they term “elections/election reform/democracy.” This vastly trails key economic problems, immigration, etc.

3. Even more recently, the new New York Times/Siena poll finds just 5 percent of voters (3 percent of working-class voters) saying “the state of democracy/corruption” will be the most important issue in deciding on their November vote, again substantially trailing the same set of issues. In an interesting followup, the poll asked voters who they thought could do a better job of handling whatever issue they designated as most important. By 14 points (24 points among the working class), voters thought Trump could do a better job than Biden of handling that issue.

4. Further undercutting the Biden campaign theory, an earlier New York Times poll asked voters what was the one thing they remembered most from Trump’s presidency; that most definitely was not January 6th. Just 5 percent mentioned it, again dwarfed by other events and trends.

5. And, as John Sides has pointed out, Biden’s victory over Trump in 2020 was not attributable to running on democracy or anything like that. Campaign messages and advertisements focused instead on the economy, the pandemic, health care and other less abstract issues. If there was a broader theme, it was a return to normalcy not saving democracy.

6. So, democracy does not appear to be the mega-salient issue the Biden campaign is envisioning. What makes the apparent drive to center the issue in the Biden campaign even less understandable is that the issue, as an issue, does not even cut very much in Biden’s direction unlike, say, abortion rights or health care. This is because preserving/defending democracy means different things to different voters; many voters don’t see the choice between Biden and Trump on the issue as blindingly obvious. They don’t, as the Democratic faithful would have it, believe Biden = democracy and Trump = fascism. Many see Trump as their paladin and view Biden and the Democrats as privileging the interests and preferences of their supporters, especially educated elites, in a distinctly non-democratic way.

7. That explains why Biden is not typically preferred by much over Trump on democracy and related issues. One of the most favorable results is in the latest Fox News poll where Biden is preferred over Trump by a modest 6 points on “the future of American democracy.” Even here, Trump gets the nod over Biden by 4 points among working class voters.

8. And there are many results that aren’t nearly so favorable. A March Wall Street Journal poll of battleground states had Biden ahead by just a point on “protecting democracy.” Similarly, over two waves of Democracy Corps’ battleground surveys, Biden and the Democrats were favored over Trump and the Republicans by an average of only 3.5 points on “presidents not being able to act as autocrats,” by 2.5 points on “democracy being secure,” and by 2 points on “protecting democracy” (first wave only). And Trump and the Republicans were favored over Biden and the Democrats by 1.5 points on “opposing extremism” (!) and by 5 points on “protecting the US constitution” (!!). All this hardly makes the democracy issue seem like a slam-dunk for the Biden campaign.

9. Even more devastating, a massive (3,500 registered voters) Washington Post/George Mason Schar School April-May survey of the battleground states found Trump favored over Biden by 11 points on who could do a better job handling “threats to democracy in the US.” And among a group of voters the survey dubbed “the Deciders,” more peripheral voters who will surge into the voting pool in 2024 and likely decide the election, Trump is favored by 9 points over Biden to safeguard democracy.

10. Looking over these data, one must conclude that the Biden campaign plan is to somehow dramatically raise the salience of democracy and January 6th among ordinary voters in coming months and simultaneously generate a robust advantage on the issue among these same voters. This is not impossible but it does not really seem advisable; a little like drawing to an inside straight in poker. You might make it but you probably won’t.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Biden and his campaign are unduly influenced by what they believe should be true rather than what is true. They see Trump as an unspeakably evil man who is an existential threat to democracy and can’t imagine why that view wouldn’t be everybody’s and drive their vote inexorably toward Biden. But it isn’t and the sooner they realize that, the better their chances of actually beating the Bad Orange Man.

That means dropping the absurd Hitler/end of the Weimar Republic analogies and developing a more realistic model of the situation they’re in. David Leonhardt provides some helpful observations along these lines:

I’m reminded of the arguments of Luigi Zingales, an economist at the University of Chicago. Zingales grew up in Italy, where a bombastic right-wing populist—Silvio Berlusconi—presaged Trump by becoming prime minister in 1994 and holding the job on and off for years…Shortly after Trump’s 2016 victory, Zingales wrote an Opinion essay in The Times outlining the political strategies that tend to fail when opposing a figure like Trump.

Berlusconi’s least-effective opponents focused on his personality and argued that he was beyond the pale of acceptable politics. This criticism made many Italian voters like him even more. They reasoned that if the elites who had done such a poor job running the country hated Berlusconi, maybe he was the solution after all.

Berlusconi’s most effective opponents, by contrast, treated him like an ordinary politician who would not improve their lives. “They focused on the issues, not on his character,” Zingales wrote.

Biden’s campaign sometimes makes arguments along these lines….So far, though, these messages tend to be less prominent than the arguments about democracy and the soul of America.

Just so. The Biden campaign desperately needs a new theory of the case. Otherwise, they really will be drawing to an inside straight and we could all suffer the consequences.

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.

Let’s Stop the Magical Thinking About an Open Convention

As a veteran of six Democratic National Conventions who is familiar with many more, I had to object to some of the loose talk about the likelihood and desirability of an “open convention” in August, and wrote about it at New York:

Sometimes in politics, a perfectly justified maneuver falls to the wayside because there’s no way to execute it. Justified or not, the scheme to replace Joe Biden and Kamala Harris with a wholly new Democratic ticket will fail because no one is in a position to make it happen.

My esteemed colleague Jonathan Chait makes a solid, if not incontestable, case that there are stronger options than a 2024 Biden-Harris ticket, or a replacement of the president by his vice-president, for what has now become a desperate fight to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. He argues that the reluctance of Democrats to toss the incumbents and start over represents a sort of failure of nerve induced by Biden’s stubborn selfishness and Harris’s weaponization of identity politics:

“At the moment, according to one post-debate poll, only 27 percent of Americans believe Joe Biden has the mental and cognitive health to serve as president. This poses an almost-insurmountable obstacle to his election, even with Trump’s manifest unfitness. Biden is losing, and he has already squandered what his own campaign considered his best chance to change the race.

“Again, even with all her limitations, Harris is probably a stronger candidate now than Biden. I also think there are better options than Harris.”

Democrats, Chait believes, can seize the opportunity presented by Biden’s debate debacle to make a fresh start, if only they show “the collective willpower to make political choices in the clearheaded interest of their party and their country.”

I have mixed feelings about my colleague’s assessment of the political situation. But about this I have little doubt: At this late date, there is simply no instrument for canceling or reversing all the decisions the Democratic Party has made over the past four years–or indeed, over the past five months. There is no way to muster the collective judgment of Democratic voters about an ideal 2024 ticket. The primaries are long past; every single potential Biden or Harris rival has already bent the knee to the reelection effort; the soon-to-arrive convention’s only conceivable managers are in the White House or in the Biden campaign; and, even if there was agreement among Democratic elites and rank-and-file party activists that “Joe must go and take Kamala with him,” there is no consensus on replacements. Chait likes the idea of a Whitmer-Booker ticket; dozens of other ideas would arise if the party was somehow forced to upend primary voters and pledged delegates and start anew. Who, specifically, will forge the consensus? Nobody comes to mind. How, mechanically, would it be imposed? It’s very hard to envision it occurring without magic far more fanciful than Biden and/or Harris picking up a few points to beat Trump in November.

Let’s be clear: There’s no template for what the would-be deposers of Biden and Harris are suggesting. The last major-party convention in which there was any doubt about the outcome was the Republican confab of 1976, which was in turn the product of two candidates slugging in out to a draw in the primaries. Both were battle tested and could claim a popular mandate. The last multi-ballot convention was the Democratic gathering of 1952, which produced a landslide losing ticket. You have to go back to the Republican convention of 1940 — 84 years ago, long before the era of universal primaries and caucuses — to find a convention that suddenly chose a dark-horse nominee because he seemed a better bet than the career politicians he shoved aside. That nominee lost too. And the last truly wide-open convention was exactly 100 years ago, when Democrats took 103 ballots to nominate a candidate who won a booming 28.8 percent in the general election. Open conventions always sound like fun to political pundits. They are a disaster for political parties, particularly parties in mid-panic.

As it happens, the timetable for blowing up a settled nomination is particularly poor right now. Because of an Ohio ballot deadline, the Democratic National Committee has already decided to hold a “virtual roll call” for the presidential and vice-presidential nominations more than a full week before the convention begins. The idea, of course, was a pro-forma ratification that at most might represent a campaign infomercial. Is it now to become a deliberative and likely multi-ballot process that delegates enter with no idea of the outcome? That sounds like true chaos. And the only thing that could make it worse is an endless series of behind-the-scenes meetings where Democrats — which Democrats? Delegates? Delegation leaders? Party pooh-bahs? Donors? Interest-group leaders? The Clintons? The Obamas? — struggle to agree on a ticket.

Yes, there are reasons to worry about Biden’s capabilities as a candidate going forward and reasons to fear that Kamala Harris isn’t an ideal presidential candidate either. But the evidence is very mixed. If in a week or so that evidence turns unambiguously dark, the extremely efficient course for Democrats is the one Republicans chose in 1974 when congressional leaders of unimpeachable loyalty to Richard Nixon went to him and convinced him to throw in the towel. Another colleague of mine, Gabriel Debenedetti, says that the 46th president may not want to listen. But it’s the best bet for changing the ticket and eliminating the immediate source of panic. Indeed, it would be an important and appropriate consolation prize for Biden that as he “stepped aside” he would name a successor. The party could unite around this candidate and be spared the impossible chore of letting the ticket be chosen by pollsters for the benefit of politicians who did not enter a single primary. That successor will very likely be Kamala Harris, and she’s not ideal. But ideal presidential candidates do not fall from the sky or ascend via a landslide in the commentariat.

A Decision Biden Alone Can Make

After watching with concern the Biden-Trump debate in Atlanta, I offered some thoughts at New York about the path forward:

After the debate debacle in Atlanta on June 27, the well-known hand-wringing tendencies of the Democratic Party are in very plain view. That’s particularly true in the left-of-center pundit class, where full-blown panic has erupted over the terrible sight and sound of Joe Biden struggling to debate Donald Trump. We still don’t know the extent to which American voters share the horrified perceptions of Democratic elites; those not accustomed to Trump’s own routine incoherence may have thought the debate was closer to a draw than a rout. It will probably be a week or two before we can properly contextualize Biden’s bad night.

But one thing should be very clear: Democrats are not going to dump the 46th president when they gather in Chicago for the Democratic National Convention on August 19 (actually, the balloting is likely to happen earlier and virtually). Yes, removing the presumptive nominee against his will is technically possible. Unlike the GOP, the party itself doesn’t enforce delegate pledges to back the candidate under whose banner they were selected, though 14 states do have laws binding delegates to one extent or another. The real problem is that the political damage to Democrats inflicted by Biden’s debate performance is but a shadow of what would happen if a sitting president were dragged kicking and screaming off the ticket. There would be some delegates legally obligated to vote for him anyway (though the convention itself could adopt rules that might supersede state laws binding delegates). Others delegates would stick with Biden as an act of loyalty. So you’d have a convention and a party deeply divided, to the delight of the opposition. Democrats would be fools to invite that catastrophe instead of carrying on in the sure knowledge that nearly half of the electorate really doesn’t want a second Trump administration. The “dump Biden” scenario just isn’t happening.

But Biden himself could withdraw as a candidate, instantly removing any legal obstacles to the selection of a different nominee (state laws binding delegates generally release them when their candidate’s tent folds) and mitigating the political damage significantly. And even as Democratic elected officials and party leaders publicly renew their vows of support for Biden, as they must, you have to figure private discussions are underway to determine if this proud and sometimes stubborn man will indeed step aside. He surely understands that he’s now given vivid life to widespread fears that he’s too old for another term in the White House. Reversing that impression will be very difficult, particularly since Trump is unlikely to give him a chance to redeem himself in a second debate. What was already a tough uphill slog of a campaign for reelection has now become a steep and perilous climb in which the incumbent, not his calamitous predecessor, will be the focus of constant malicious scrutiny.

Biden could reset the contest with one clear statement repeating his determination to keep Trump out of the White House and passing the torch to a successor. And, yes, he’d have to name a successor, lest the Chicago convention become a riotous playground for political egos, making a general-election campaign impossible to plan, finance, and execute. Sure, the punditocracy will clamor for the spectacle of an “open convention,” but it would represent political malpractice of the highest order. If he does “step aside,” Biden must help his vice-president “step up” with the backing of a united party. Any other option at this late date would smack of desperation and would divide Democrats even more bitterly than an effort to “dump” the incumbent.

The president chose Kamala Harris as his running mate in the full knowledge that an emergency requiring her elevation was an ever-present possibility. An imminent return to power by the 45th president is enough of an emergency to justify an extreme measure of self-sacrifice by the one man who stands in the way of that calamity.

Biden and those who advise him should, of course, carefully assess the damage wrought by the debate during the next few days. Perhaps the pundits are overreacting, and the Biden-Trump race will settle back into its familiar status as a barn burner that either candidate can win. There’s only a small window of opportunity for a presidential game-changing decision to flip the board and improve the odds of victory. It could be the most momentous decision of Joe Biden’s long and distinguished life.


Pros and Cons of Biden Resigning

In the wake of  the the first presidential debate, I put together a list of 20 reasons why President Biden might and might not end his bid for re-election:

Reasons why Biden should stay on:

It’s only one debate. A good candidate can have an off night.

“You dance with the one who brought you,” as one CNN commentator put it. Biden won all of his primaries, fair and square.

Biden’s answers to the questions were substantial, certainly no worse than Trump’s responses. Don’t get so freaked out by appearances.

Replacing Biden after he won all the primaries would be a bad look for a party that extolls democracy.

The how and when of picking a “replacement” are highly problematic. If the party goes with someone other than Vice President Harris, it risks a critical mass of Black voters and women not voting.

It’s the track records that really counts. Biden’s is good and Trump is still vulnerable, especially on his abortion policy and Supreme Court choices.

Even if voters believe Biden is showing some signs of cognitive decline, Trump is showing signs of mental illness (google “batteries, undersea and sharks,” for example), as well as moral depravity.

There are growing numbers of high-turnout senior voters who have switched to favoring Biden over Trump. Biden quitting under pressure might piss off a significant number of them.

The President’s advisors have a pivotal influence on decision-making. President Biden has excellent advisors, certainly compared to Trump’s band of extremists, loonies and corrupt lapdogs.

Keeping Biden would prevent a bruising fight over his successor.

Reasons Why Biden Should End His Re-Election Bid

There is still time for a new Democratic presidential  candidate to look like a good choice.

Vice President Harris is highly-capable, despite experiencing the usual disparagement that attends her office. Allowing her to head the ticket would show consistency and respect for the democratic process. She could generate excitement in choosing her running mate.

Democrats have an impressive bench of younger alternatives, if Harris doesn’t replace Biden at the top of the ticket. A partial list: Govs. Beshear (KY); Whitmer (MI); Shapiro (PA);  Newsom (CA); Sens. Warnock (GA) Casey (PA) and Klobuchar (MN);  Reps. Sherrill (NJ); Swalwell (CA); ; Khanna (CA); Minority Leader Jeffries (NY) Sec’y Buttigieg and many others.

Damaging images of the first debate will be relentlessly replayed in Republican campaign video clips from now until Election Day if Biden stays on.

The first debate debacle would be largely forgotten by November, with a new leader making the headlines.

Republicans would squawk, but a “that was then, this is now” argument by Dems could win the day.

A new presidential candidate could be the “fresh face” many voters long for.

All of a sudden, Trump would be the too-old guy. It would flip the age issue in a way that helps Dems.

Democrats could build a compelling case for winning back alienated young voters. Dems could be re-branded as the party that has an inspiring vision for a better future.

A young presidential replacement candidate could run for two terms, the second time with an incumbent’s advantage.

Above all, Democrats should not panic. As President John F. Kennedy said, “Every crisis has both danger and opportunity.” One opportunity is to show Democrats are competent at crisis management, a desirable quality for a governing party. Another is to switch the media focus to the interesting, positive changes in the Democratic Party. A third is to showcase the Democrats’ impressive bench of young, upcoming leaders. If Biden decides to stay, Democrats can unite around defeating Trump, who remains vulnerable, no matter who he runs against.

Political Strategy Notes

In “How Biden Can Win the Debate,” Brian Goldsmith writes at The Atlantic: “This is a gamble for Biden—but absolutely the right choice. He must try to redefine the race and encourage voters to take a second look. His age isn’t changing, but he can change some of the arguments he makes. And to influence voters who are still persuadable, he will have no better platform….Biden is now the incumbent who’s behind. And to turn things around onstage, he has to address the economy as voters experience it. Barely more than one-fifth of those surveyed in a recent New York Times poll rated the economy as excellent or good; a majority said it is poor. In a Guardian/Harris poll, more than half (56 percent) believed we are in a recession, and nearly three in five (58 percent) said Biden is responsible. The economic data may show that they’re mistaken—but good luck winning votes by telling Americans that they’re wrong….Biden’s first move at the debate podium should be to deliver his economic message with empathy—and a frank admission that inflation is still too high and prices on everyday goods are hurting millions of Americans. He should talk about his own family’s past hard times. That would give him more credibility to offer a narrative about the economic mess he inherited from Trump, the millions of good jobs he’s helped create, and the programs he’s put in place—such as the CHIPS Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law—to create an even better economy in the years ahead….He needs to talk about the future more than the past. As Gore has said, elections are “not an award for past performance.” This campaign has to be about the next four years. Currently, only one of dozens of Biden campaign ads outlines a second-term agenda. The platform it laid out is popular and compelling—making child care and elder care affordable, protecting Social Security and Medicare, passing a “minimum tax for billionaires,” establishing Roe v. Wade as the law of the land, banning assault weapons, and preserving the right to vote—but that ad is more than a year old, and I haven’t seen anything comparable since….Much of the president’s first-term accomplishments, and second-term agenda, should be framed as a fight to lower costs against Republicans who oppose both what he’s done and what he hopes to do….he third piece of Biden’s message that must change is his attack on Trump. Sounding the alarm against authoritarian threats to be a “dictator on day one,”cancel the Constitution, and take revenge on his “deep state” enemies is a vital, valid mission. Those hits are one reason Biden’s support among college-educated white voters is still about where it was four years ago. But the democracy agenda is either insufficient or ineffective to stanch Biden’s bleeding among working-class voters, including Latinos and Blacks….To win working-class Americans back to his coalition, Biden cannot simply tout his administration’s achievements in reducing crime and bringing down prices. That will just make him seem out of touch, as the longtime Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg has argued. The metaphorical sign behind Biden should say a good beginning, not mission accomplished. He should explicitly acknowledge that he isn’t satisfied and has more work to do—but then Biden should go on the offensive against Trump….In attack mode, Biden will look more vigorous. And he can win arguments about the way Trump’s budgets defund the police as well as environmental protection; how Trump’s policies undo gun-safety laws, caps on insulin prices, and protections for preexisting conditions; and why a Trump presidency would reward big companies and billionaires at the expense of working families….Biden should remind the debate audience that the only major legislation Trump passed was a huge tax cut for corporations and the wealthy—a measure that remains highly unpopular. And Biden can warn viewers that Trump is proposing more of those benefits for his buddies—tax cuts that will raise prices still higher. The threat isn’t just Trump’s vindictive personality or his antidemocratic instincts; it is his actual policies….Biden should use this extraordinary platform to make new arguments to voters: that he gets what they’re going through, that his plans will produce a better future, and that Trump isn’t just a risk for American institutions—he’s a threat to American families.”

At The New Yorker, John Cassidy writes that “it’s tricky for a politician to persuade voters that things are better than they think they are. Even as many people tell pollsters that they are satisfied with their own economic circumstances, they also say that the economy as a whole is still in poor shape. But, if Biden would be wise to frame his comments carefully in this area, he shouldn’t hesitate to ballyhoo, once again, the steps his Administration has taken to address some of the exploitative and monopolistic practices that big corporations have long subjected ordinary American customers and workers to….Many of these actions haven’t received the attention that they deserve, and they contrast sharply with the record, between 2017 and 2020, of Donald Trump, whose populist rhetoric from the campaign trail quickly yielded, once he was in office, to appointing former corporate lobbyists to regulatory agencies and showering corporations and the one per cent with huge tax cuts. Biden is promising to reverse those giveaways, and he has proposed new taxes on the very wealthy. Moreover, his Administration’s measures to eliminate hidden fees and reduce prescription-drug prices are part of a larger effort to boost competition and rein in corporate power, the likes of which arguably hasn’t been seen in the United States since the days of Teddy Roosevelt and Standard Oil….A longtime moderate Democrat, he has repeatedly referred to himself as a capitalist, and since he became President there have been times when he could have been tougher on major corporations. During the pandemic, for example, some major governments, including a center-right one in Britain, imposed a windfall tax on energy companies that were making out like bandits after a global surge in oil prices. Biden restricted himself to moral suasion. Taken as a whole, however, his Administration’s record belies the trope, common on the left and the right, that both major parties are in the pockets of big business, and it doesn’t matter who wins elections. If that were the case, why would there be so much pushback against Biden’s competition policies? Right now, lawyers for Big Pharma are suing to block the new prescription-drug rules. Big banks are suing to overturn an edict from the C.F.P.B. that capped credit-card late fees at eight dollars. And a number of plaintiffs, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and individual firms, are suing to block the F.T.C.’s ban on noncompete agreements….it’s up to Biden to make the contrast visible, and to point out that he, rather than the bluster merchant standing across from him, is the real economic populist. The record is clear: Biden will never get a better chance to explain it to voters.”

Not many of those who have been watching American politics for a few election cycles would be surprised by reports that “Trump’s massive fundraising haul” is catching up with the Biden campaign’s earlier lead in election fund-raising. Republicans rarely hurt for economic resources in the closing months of a national campaign – all the rarer in a time of record corporate profits. But Adam Wren reports at Politico that “new polling from Fox News shows an 11-point swing in President Joe Biden’s favorability among independents: They prefer Biden by 9 points, a reversal from May, when they favored Trump by 2 points. For the first time this year, the poll has Biden leading Trump by two points, 50-48, within the margin of error.” Wren also cites “a special election in Ohio’s 6th Congressional District this month, “in which “massively outspent Democrat Michael Kripchak erased 19 points from Trump’s 2020 margin of victory — still losing, but becoming the first Democratic candidate to carry the blue-collar Mahoning County since Trump painted it red in 2020….Incumbent Democratic senators in battleground states like Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania are polling ahead of their Republican challengers. In Arizona’s open Senate race, Republican Kari Lake, a star of the MAGA movement, is underperforming in the polls….after Republicans over the weekend nominated a far-right candidate for lieutenant governor in Indiana, a top national GOP lawyer predicted a “serious” threat to the top of the ticket even in the heart of MAGA country.” Also, “Trump may be raking in donations. But across the country, the mood of Republicans has dimmed, according to nearly a dozen Republican operatives, county chairs and current and former GOP officials. It comes amid ongoing concerns about the effect of abortion on Republican candidates….A Gallup poll released this month found record levels of voters saying that, in major races, they would only vote for candidates who share their views on abortion — with the intensity surrounding the issue likely to benefit abortion rights candidates more….And it follows defections from Trump in the primaries and, most recently, polling that has found Trump’s conviction in his New York hush-money trial hurting him with independents….Financially, the conviction was a boon to Trump’s small-dollar donor operation. But electorally, the reality of Trump’s conviction has begun to set in, they said.” In addition, three Trump-endorsed candidates lost their primary bids on Tuesday. But there is no guarantee that disgust with Trump’s convictions will have enough shelf life to last through Election Day.

“Abortion rights initiatives are already on the ballot in four states—Colorado, South Dakota, Maryland, and Florida—and pending signature approval in seven more,” Joan McCartyer writes in her article, “Anti-choicers in 11 states should be worried about November” at Daily Kos. “That includes more red states—Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Missouri. In addition, advocates in the battleground states of Nevada and Arizona are still gathering signatures and likely to succeed. That puts the issue front and center in states key to President Joe Biden’s reelection and the Democrats’ hold on the Senate….Showing just how salient the issue is for voters, Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights announced last Friday that it had the most successful petition drive ever in the state for its constitutional amendment initiative guaranteeing that abortion access remain free in the state. It has gathered 117,000 signatures, nearly twice as many needed to get on the ballot—and from every county and all 100 House districts….The anti-abortion side has reason to panic. Voters have spoken in the past two years, from Kansas, Kentucky, and Ohio to all putting the issue on ballots in these states. They’re telling pollsters how important it is, too….The most recent Gallup poll showed a record number saying they’ll vote on this issue alone—32% of them. That breaks down to 23% of pro-choice voters and just 8% of anti-abortion voters….Civiqs polling highlights just how strong the pro-choice sentiment is in the electorate, with a plurality of 31% saying that abortion should be legal in all cases and another 30% saying it should be legal in most cases….This is a pro-choice country. Biden and Democrats get this, and it’s why they are centering the issue ahead of this election—they just need to make sure they tap into the citizens’ groundswell in every race, but particularly in the Senate and presidential campaigns.”