WASHINGTON — Pick a metaphor: President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign is a “five-alarm fire.” It is a heart case that requires a “defibrillator”. Or a lemming on its way to “slowly march into the sea and drown.”
All come from Democratic strategists whose frustration with Biden’s candidacy emerged over the weekend amid a deluge of dismal poll numbers. No less a party mastermind than David Axelrod, architect of Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, suggested a social media post that Biden is considering dropping out of the race and letting someone more electable take his place as the Democratic presidential nominee.
The 2024 presidential election is increasingly looking like a repeat of four years ago, and Democrats are increasingly worried that the outcome may not go in their favor this time. But at this point, they’re sticking with Biden, whether they like it or not.
Biden has given no indication that he is interested in exiting. His campaign team doesn’t seem to be breaking a sweat either New York Times/Siena College poll That showed he lost to Republican Donald Trump in five of the six swing states he captured in his 2020 victory.
The poll shows worrying signs for Democrats. The party’s most important constituency, black voters, appears to be dwindling. In 2020, black voters preferred Biden over Trump by a margin of 78 percentage points. In the new poll, Biden’s lead had fallen to 49 points.
Democratic pollster Terrance Woodbury said that when he hears from young and black voters in focus groups, they are frustrated with foreign aid rather than domestic spending, and it is important for Biden to explain why that foreign investment is necessary.
“‘We don’t have money for student loans, but we have money to send to Ukraine.’ “We don’t have money to invest in schools, but we do have money to send to the Middle East,” Woodbury said. “It’s less about a position one way or another and more about, ‘Stop investing there until you take care of your home first.'”
Biden advisers counter that the poll numbers are not particularly meaningful at this phase of the race. Biden’s political advisers point to a memo from campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez last week that said: “In the off-year, we built a strong operation to re-convert the coalition of voters that sent President Biden and Vice President Harris to the White Party.” “Mobilize.” House of Representatives with a record number of votes in 2020.”
A source familiar with the Biden team’s thinking also dismissed Axelrod’s comments, calling him one of Biden’s “most consistent critics, even before Biden even launched his presidential campaign.”
“Once more regular people tune in, our record will come into focus,” this person added.
Team Biden’s reassuring words could not prevent the feeling of an inner-party insurrection. Democratic officials and strategists point to weaknesses in Biden’s message and missed opportunities to build leads in swing states.
Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said in an interview that she told the president’s advisers that he needed to spend more time in Michigan, a state where Trump is five percentage points ahead of Biden in the NYT/Siena poll . (Biden has spent seven days in Michigan as president, compared with 28 in another key battleground, Pennsylvania, where he also traveled to family events.)
“I’m going to do what we have to do to win Michigan next year and maybe some people will believe me,” Dingell said. “We’re going to need some attention and resources. I really hope the president comes to Michigan more often.”
Biden’s main economic message has stalled. He touts “Bidenomics” – a series of economic policies – as a formula for a broader distribution of wealth in the US. But polls show voters still believe Republicans will manage the economy better than Democrats.
“The five-alarm level in the polls is the economy’s 25-point deficit,” Rep. Ro Khanna of California said in an interview. “Given the president’s record and an election in which Republicans are literally promoting tax breaks for the rich and cuts to education, it is a misdemeanor for us not to be economic leaders.”
A new flashpoint for Biden opened on October 7, when Hamas militants launched attacks that killed 1,400 Israelis. Biden is facing backlash within the party for supporting Israel as it mounts a fierce counterattack in the Gaza Strip.
A number of Democratic lawmakers have called for a ceasefire. including prominent progressive representatives: Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley.
The Biden administration maintains that a ceasefire would only help Hamas and “give it time to regroup and plan a new attack,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a recent press briefing.
Divisions within the party over the months-long war reflect the heated debate over the Vietnam War that led then-President Lyndon Johnson to forgo re-election in 1968.
Johnson’s demise should be a warning sign for Biden, said a former Democratic official from Iowa, who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak more freely.
“The killing of young children in Palestine can quickly develop and spread like a fire, leading to a nationwide attempt to force Joe from office,” this person said. “I’m afraid this is what will happen to Joe if he doesn’t stop the slaughter of children.” Palestine. He needs to hear from his long-time friends and supporters like me before it’s too late.”
The person familiar with the Biden team’s thinking added that while the president is receiving criticism, “imagine the backlash from many more places if we hadn’t sided forcefully with Israel.”
Although they are restless, there is not much Democrats can do at this point to give American voters another option. After Biden decided to run, the party apparatus advocated for his candidacy. Democratic heavyweights like California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stayed out of the race. The structural obstacles to defeating Biden are enormous at this point.
The registration deadlines for the primaries in New Hampshire and Nevada have already passed South Carolina Deadline is Friday. Candidates only have until Dec 8th to file the ballot in Michigan, which will move to the early state window for the first time in 2024. And numerous other states, including delegate-heavy ones like Texas and California, have deadlines of mid-December, leaving little time for potential challengers to jump in.
While party rules allow for changing candidates at the convention and beyond, the process is messy, untested and likely to result in litigation. In addition, Biden controls the Democratic National Committee through allies he appoints, as is customary, and the party apparatus is already enmeshed in Biden’s campaign.
In fact, at Biden’s behest, the DNC rewrote the primary calendar, moving up South Carolina, which Biden won in 2020, and downgrading New Hampshire and Iowa, which he lost.
Any new changes would go through the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee, made up of Biden allies who have so far easily signed off on his wishes.
That means Biden will be the nominee unless he voluntarily resigns. If he were to withdraw, it would lead to further complications. However, Vice President Kamala Harris would be the natural successor their approval ratings are also low. If Harris were to run, other Democrats would likely step in and challenge her, potentially angering black voters and dividing the party ahead of the general election.
“If David Axelrod can convince [former First Lady] “If Michelle Obama runs for president, we can have this conversation,” Khanna said. “Until then, show me the candidate who will poll better than Joe Biden in the swing states.” The polls I’ve seen that are trying to put others in the race still show Biden in those swing states compared to all the leading candidates the media has been talking about.”
Still, some Democrats believe a vote without Biden could be a more viable path to victory.
One progressive leader said that if Biden loses to Trump, “he will go down in history as incredibly selfish and could potentially derail democracy as a result. It’s a huge gamble and most people will be respectful of the decision. But more. “People now recognize that he has a real decision to make.”