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President Joe Biden reportedly told former President Barack Obama he will run for re-election. It doesn’t matter what Biden tells anyone today. What matters is what is about to happen in November.
In a little over six months, Republicans will likely win the House and the Senate. As important as Election Day 2022 will be, what happens the next day will be more significant.
Former President Barack Obama (C) and President Joe Biden greet friends and guests at the conclusions of an event to mark the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House on April 05, 2022 in Washington, DC. With then-Vice President Joe Biden by his side, Obama signed ‘Obamacare’ into law on March 23, 2010. ( Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
That’s the day the Democrats will turn on President Biden. It’s the day that the whispering campaign among Democrats about whether a soon-to-be 80-year-old man is in good enough health, politically and cognitively, to be the man at the top of the ticket in 2024, will burst into the open.
It’s inevitable. The stop Biden drumbeat will grow every day, whether it takes weeks or a few months, until Biden acknowledges reality and declares he will not run for re-election.
The notion that an unpopular party, on the heels of a major midterm defeat, will want an unpopular, 80-year-old whose health and vigor are in decline, to lead it into the future is the stuff of fantasy. Among Democrats today, it may be good manners not to talk about it, but it’s time to stop pretending.
Joe Biden will have no choice and won’t run.
Democrats have never loved Joe Biden. But they did love Biden’s ability to defeat Donald Trump. Despite Biden’s losses in the first three presidential nominating contests in 2020 (Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada), Biden won the Democratic nomination because of the Democrats’ deep desire to throw Trump out of the White House.
Recent polls show Trump is now beating Biden. According to the Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll published by The Hill, Trump is ahead of Biden by 6 points. According to the latest presidential poll by FiveThirtyEight, Trump is ahead of Biden by 4 points. On the heels of defeat in November, the Democrat Party and its leaders will be in a surly mood. On the one hand, they know that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama came back from massive defeats in their first midterm elections to be re-elected to the White House two years later. Is Biden, Democrats will wonder, another Clinton (then aged 50) or Obama (then aged 51)?
Or will he remain an 80-year-old in decline, who defeated Trump, but now it’s time for him to go?
In 2019, twenty-eight Democrats ran for President. Who can forget Beto O’Rourke, Michael Bloomberg, Marianne Williamson, or Andrew Yang, to name a few, in addition to Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris? Democratic primary debates took place over two consecutive nights given how many candidates there were.
Many of these people, along with new contenders (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez possibly), will want to run, beginning immediately after November 2022. The day after election day, they will want to plan how and when to run, who to hire, and what donors they can line up.
They know that the longer Joe Biden insists he is running, the harder it will be for the party to organize an alternative. They’ll start to maneuver quickly after Election Day 2022 to save the party and the country. They’ll want Biden out of the way.
In 2018, Elizabeth Warren and Julián Castro announced exploratory committees in December, just one month after the midterm election. Five other Democratic candidates declared their candidacies or exploratory committees two months after the midterm, in January 2019.
Biden’s best hope for re-election is that COVID fades, inflation recedes, and his verbal stumbles become rare. How long will the party wait in case these things don’t happen? How long will leaders give Biden until the whispers become roars?
Not long at all.
Too much is at stake in 2024, including the possible return of Trump to the White House. The Democratic problem will be urgent as they contemplate who their strongest candidates might be, in the wake of losing the House and the Senate. Will they really think Biden in decline is their best shot?
I predict the kingmaker who saved Biden’s campaign in the 2020 primary, South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn, will this time be the king slayer. After Biden insists that he is running for re-election, Clyburn, a respected elder statesman with gravitas, will tell Biden his defeat of Trump in 2020 was enough, and now it’s time for another candidate, without Biden’s baggage, to lead the way. Biden, a stubborn man, will eventually agree. By Spring 2023, more than 20 Democrats will enter the contest and the party in 2024 will emerge with a newer, younger leader.
It’s too soon to know who will win in 2024, but in 2023, Joe Biden will be a lame duck and Democrats will breathe a sigh of relief.