Tue, Jul

Does He Or Doesn't He? Pull Out Of The Presidential Race, That Is


GELFAND’S WORLD - A couple of weeks ago, I speculated about whether Donald Trump was going to show up for the debate. As most of you are aware, he did. But now we have a new question based on Biden's debate performance combined with a cacophony of rumors and stories about Biden's cognitive decline. Should Joe Biden drop out of the race or even resign the presidency? Considering the clamor coming from more than a few former Biden supporters, Biden is in big trouble with his own community and at the moment is trailing badly in the polls -- polls in which he was essentially tied prior to the debate. Can and should the Democrats find a replacement?

Paul Campos gives his answer with a football metaphor. When you are trailing by two touchdowns with 4 minutes left, you are already losing badly and have to try something risky.

I've got internet friends who are still supporting the Biden candidacy, pointing out exactly how risky the alternatives are. When challenged, they concede that we are all on the same side -- desperately trying to avoid a second Trump term -- and that we are just arguing about strategy. They don't see a way out of fighting to the very end and hoping for Biden to pull out some sort of miracle. I tend to see it differently. I don't see how a Biden candidacy would do anything other than lose the presidency and drag down a lot of congressional candidates with him.

On the day before the Fourth of July, the nation's Democratic governors were publicly saying they support Joe. The Democratic Party apparatus did the same.

You might want to take these public affirmations with a grain of salt.  There is an unwritten law in politics that is on display here. Candidates who are behind in the polls and know that they are going to lose badly will nevertheless put on a brave face and predict victory. Their supporters are expected to do the same. There's something about admitting weakness that seems to go against the political culture. Even on election night, losing candidates will walk into the ballroom and tell everyone that it's going to be a long night.

But when the stakes are this high, it's necessary to add rigorous honesty to our hopes, to be both calculating and hopeful at once. And being calculating, we can look at recent polling results which show -- apart from Biden -- several possible presidential candidates essentially even with Trump.

Ever heard of Andy Beshear? He's a Democrat and governor of Kentucky in his second term. His hometown newspaper points out that he polls close to Trump, as you can read here. If by some stroke of fate, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party were to name Beshear as their nominee, the campaign slogans would write themselves: "Beshear: conservative enough for Kentucky and Democrat enough for California"

I bring up Beshear (as I previously brought up Gavin Newsom) to point out that the Democrats are not without people who have the qualifications to serve as president.

The problem is that as of July 4, we are almost exactly 4 months away from the election. Every day that goes by is a day lost in the time available to acquaint the American people with the new ticket.

Kamala Harris is in a difficult position. As weak a candidate as she was in the 2020 primary season (she dropped out before the first caucus), she is credited by the political establishment with being the next in line after Biden. Her record as prosecutor, Senator, and Vice President suggests that she has what it takes to function as President, but she has not yet shown that she can be a good presidential candidate. On the other hand, Joe Biden was never a really effective presidential candidate until he was anointed as the consensus opponent of Donald Trump.

Would a Harris - Beshear ticket carry the day in November? We don't know, but we know that neither has the baggage that Biden has just come to own. It is true that Harris will have difficulties with a certain type of voter due to her sex and ethnicity. On the other hand, she can form a complete sentence and ought to be able to point out Trump's flaws and to do so emphatically.

There is, I believe, a more optimistic way of looking at an immediate reassortment of the Democratic ticket. It's that Donald Trump, for all his luck as of this moment, carries a huge load of negatives. And by the way, the Supreme Court appointments he made are near the top of the list, not just because of the reversal of Roe v. Wade, but also due to the overall moral and legal corruption that the court now represents.

Before the debate, pundits referred to a group of potential voters as "the double haters," meaning that they were unhappy with both candidates. With Biden out of the race, Trump inherits that antipathy. It may be that some of the same voters would have the same antipathy towards both sides of a Trump vs Harris race, but at least on the Democratic side it wouldn't be about mental infirmity.

I think that by now, even Republican voters understand that Trump has a problem with the truth. Against any ordinary politician, he comes up suspect. Kevin Drum listened to the debate and took notes so that the rest of us didn't have to, and he has listed a bunch of Trump's lies from that debate. You can read it here.

A younger, rested opponent would be able to nail Trump on the Russia scandal, on his storied history of crime, and even on the recent felony convictions. But mostly, a fresh candidate ought to be able to nail Trump over his theft of secret documents and his refusal to return them to where they belong.

So here's another question that comes to mind. Will this little essay be proved to be totally wrong, in that Biden will hang in there and go on to victory in November? Or will Biden stay in the race and turn the presidency and the congress over to the Republicans? Or will Biden concede that he has to go and turn everything over to Kamala or some governor? Your guess is as good as mine on this Independence Day of 2024.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)