Joe Biden has been hit by friendly fire again, and this time with greater precision and with clear political intent. David Axelrod, Obama administration strategist and architect of his two successful presidential runs, has advised the incumbent president to step aside and not run for president again in 2024, exactly one year from now. Last September, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote a cold editorial with the unequivocal title: “President Biden should not run again in 2024“. The reason was due to his advanced age – he is too old – and his evident psychophysical and cognitive difficulties. Ignatius was then joined by a star from TV journalism, Joe Scarborough. He revealed that there isn’t a single Democratic representative who has not privately confided to him their fear of Biden’s inadequacy against an opponent like Trump. But this time, Axelrod’s tweet and his subsequent statements on CNN are political. They come from the person closest to Obama and are linked to recent polls carried out on behalf of the New York Times in six key states that will be decisive in 2024, five of which are “battlefields” in which the current Democratic candidate is breathlessly trailing Donald Trump. The Republican is favored in Pennsylvania by 4 percentage points, in Michigan and Arizona by 5 points, in Georgia by 6 points and in Nevada by as much as 10 points. Biden is ahead only in Wisconsin, by two points.
In addition to the drumbeat of negative national polls that has been going on for some time, and now also in crucial swing states, time has become an important political factor, as the vote for the presidential elections takes place one year from now. That is, from tomorrow. The time to make a decision is now, in order to prepare and grow an alternative candidacy. However, that candidate cannot be Kamala Harris, who placed even worse than Biden in the polls.
In March 1968, eight months before the presidential election, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not run again. It was a shock, because an incumbent president always runs for a second term. He has an initial advantage over his challenger, given that he benefits from greater media exposure, including free of charge, and has levers of power that can also be used for electoral purposes.
Johnson was a president who history remembers for the package of important social and economic reforms – the Great Society – but above all for the war in Vietnam, fully underway under his administration, which led, in fact, to his unfortunate exit from the scene. Biden is moving in the wake of his Texan predecessor. His policy of reforms and repairs to the disastrous American infrastructure network is significant, his commitment to civil rights and in support of workers is appreciable, as is his attention to the issues of healthcare, education and social housing. The same cannot be said about international politics, with two wars in progress, both of which exploded under his administration and not without his responsibility, even if only that of having underestimated and not prevented – indeed, if not to say facilitated – the arrival of the crises, which moreover are in two quadrants from which America has long been planning to free itself in order to concentrate on the Asian and Pacific ones. But, paradoxically, and unlike what happened in Johnson’s time, it is precisely on the domestic front that Biden is most politically exposed and is accumulating growing hostility among the electorate.
In fact, perhaps even more worrying than the electoral polls are those regarding Americans’ expectations when it comes to the economy. A large majority of respondents in a CBS poll think they would be better off financially if Trump were re-elected. And it is interesting to note that this is where war comes into play, but due to its negative effects on Americans’ pockets. The majority of voters think that if Trump were re-elected president, he would pull the US out of the ongoing conflicts, while the chances of being at war would be higher with a second Biden mandate.
On the opposite side, the news of Donald Trump’s testimony in New York in the tax fraud proceedings against his business empire is certainly causing a sensation, but more because of the consequences of the legal case for the tycoon’s portfolio than for politics and the election. The victim mentality exhibited yesterday in the Manhattan courtroom – it’s a political witch hunt, Trump said – still has a hold on his base.
Biden’s fragility is an electoral handicap that also dramatically restricts his room for maneuvering in the ongoing crises. Netanyahu, the prime minister who works within the internal mechanisms of American politics more than any other predecessor, is unscrupulously playing his existential game in the context of the American presidential race that is already underway. Trump’s ally, he will do everything to definitively cripple Biden.
Translation by Paul Rosenberg
Cover image: On Halloween there were numerous videos of children dressed as a disoriented Joe Biden tripping and falling.
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