Counting on Clowns
Team Biden's plan in plain sight...
If you read Wide World of News, you should think about paying for Wide World of News.
Paid subscriptions and contributions are voluntary.
But, really, if you can afford to kick in, you should consider paying for what you get.
My work on this newsletter is funded exclusively via the generosity of readers like you.
There are no corporate or institutional backers (or colleagues) contributing to this work, seven days a week.
Please become a subscriber or contributor today.
If you wish to contribute a different amount of your choice to the cause (rather than buy a formal subscription), you have these options:
* Buy me a cocktail (at American prices….), tax and server tip included, by clicking here.
* Buy me a cup of coffee (or a week’s worth) by clicking here.
* Check. Send a simple email to firstname.lastname@example.org and ask where you can send a payment.
• PayPal. email@example.com
• Venmo. Mark-Halperin-4 (telephone number ends in x3226)
• Zelle. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support and encouragement by kicking in.
In 2016, Donald Trump won because he was running against Hillary Clinton.
In 2020, Joe Biden won because he was running against Donald Trump.
Recent events suggest Joe Biden could win again in 2024 because he is running against a gang who can’t shoot straight, regardless of who the Republicans nominate to oppose him.
There is not a single Republican on the national stage who scares Team Biden.
No one like, say, George W. Bush in 1999, who Democrats recognized as a formidable force.
To declare the obvious, things could change. Biden and his party have some issues they are dealing with, to be sure. But the snapshot of today suggests one side that is united and has a plan and that the other is divided and has no clear plan.
As of now, Joe Biden will run for and win his party’s presidential nomination without a challenge, while working with his allies in Congress and among well-funded interest groups to wage war in Washington and around the country again Republicans.
Republicans are deeply divided over strategy, tactics, policy, and personality, with their House majority an ungovernable mess and their looming presidential nomination fight poised to make “Game of Thrones” look like the Dalai Lama meditating alone.
Again, don’t overread the situation; Joe Biden has some real challenges, including how to make gains with government divided both numerically and (deeply) ideologically.
If the unprecedented and staggering number of Democrats who don’t want him to run to be (or be!) the party’s presidential nominee is as high in December as it is now, there will be a freakiness to the early state voting that could have unforeseeable but grave consequences for his reelection prospects. Oh, and chances are, those numbers will be at least as high as they are currently – and there are a lot of reasons to think they could be even higher.
Also: the economy could go south, the classified documents and/or Hunter Biden cases could blow up, and a lot of the country thinks he is a socialist (and that point of view goes beyond Wall Street Journal columnists).
As he often does, Karl Rove makes the best best case for his party:
People have made up their minds about Mr. Biden. They don’t believe he has made their paychecks bigger, inflation smaller or the economy stronger. They don’t see him as the powerful, effective leader the U.S. needs for the next six years. Tuesday’s State of the Union didn’t change public opinion’s underlying contours. In their heart of hearts, Americans hope he stays healthy and can handle things while the country settles on a new president.
He was elected as a transitional figure. Voters still hope he is.
However, Mr. Rove ends his column with a tell:
Team Biden’s risky bet on the economy is unlikely to pay off, at least not without a ginormous assist from congressional Republicans or the eventual GOP nominee.
What Biden World is indeed partly counting on includes being extremely fortunate in the identity and nature of the opposition.
But that list also includes:
1. Demonizing Donald Trump, other GOP 2024 hopefuls, and congressional Republicans.
2. Learning the lessons from the recent incumbents (Clinton, Bush, Obama) who won second terms in tough circumstances using some tried and true tactics and strategies and mechanics.
3. Exercising absolute command and control over the apparatus of the White House, the national party, and outside interest group allies to marshal resources and drive a message.
4. The slavish support of the Dominant Media.
5. Exploit the deep divisions that exist within the Republican Party.
6. Leverage the Democrats’ mammoth advantages in digital, low-dollar fundraising and early vote programs and practices.
7. Go on offense with working-class and (maybe even) rural voters.
This mega plan is not a secret. Any smart Republican operative or dutiful newsletter writer can see it all over the news today:
A. The Architect says the quiet part out loud to the New York Times:
Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to Mr. Biden and one of his top communications advisers, said the scrimmage between the president and House Republicans on Tuesday night should provide Americans with a more visceral understanding of what the president has been talking about.
“Clearly, having the House Republican caucus behaving the way they are, and are signaling strongly they will continue to behave, is going to give the president an easy contrast,” she said. “What the House Republican caucus is doing for him is giving him a way to draw a contrast between what he is for — what he’s trying to get done, and who he’s trying to get it done for — with the House Republicans.”
B. And don’t let the clownish behavior of House Republicans distract you from Senate Republicans, who will also be a big target for Mr. Biden on his trip to Florida today, per the press release put out by the White House this morning, chronicling all the Ron Johnson, John Thune, Mike Lee, Rick Scott statements on entitlements. This White House really pushes the envelope on being political, issuing documents that in the past would have come from the national party press shop, but this White House doesn’t care about that bright line (the Trump White House cared even less….) and no one is going to stop them.
C. The New York Times has a smart, essential reading article about how Team Biden is going after blue-collars.
D. Another smart, essential reading Times piece: how Romney vs. Santos is just part of a larger intraparty battle.
E. If you think Trump vs. DeSantis is the only part of the Republican presidential storyline that is going to be vicious, think again. This Washington Post story tilts at simply the tip of a big ol’ iceberg:
Donald Trump is going on the attack against potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination over Social Security and Medicare, seizing on the same GOP divisions over federal spending that President Biden is seeking to exploit.
Trump moved to wield the issue as a wedge in the primary, particularly against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with a video message last month urging Republicans to use negotiations over raising the debt ceiling to cut spending but not “a single penny” from Social Security or Medicare. He also posted a short video clip of a younger DeSantis praising Paul D. Ryan, the former House budget chairman from Wisconsin who famously proposed replacing Medicare with giving seniors money for private health insurance.
The emphasis reflects potential vulnerability for Republican rivals who were elected to powerful posts in the pre-Trump tea party era, embracing austerity in the last showdown over raising the federal debt limit.
And it isn’t just DeSantis who is wholly unvetted. Presidential candidates themselves, and many of the players involved, often mistakenly think that people who have won statewide office or served in the executive branch after undergoing FBI background checks and Senate confirmation have been fully vetted.
That is so so very wrong.
Just look at the 2000 election-eve disclosure of George W. Bush’s drunk driving incident – or all the stuff that came out in 1992 about Bill Clinton.
Right now, teams of oppo researchers for Democrats and Republicans are looking at the deep histories of DeSantis, Glenn Youngkin, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, and the rest. Eventually journalists will get spoon fed some of this stuff – and will maybe even do some actual reporting on their own and find more.
All of that will destabilize the Republican race, while Team Biden runs unopposed.
F. The homepage of Politico has too many articles for me to include here about Democrats in array and Republicans in disarray.
G. There is no one in the Republican Party who can control any of this. Not McConnell, McCarthy, or McDaniel. Not the donors, not the Club for Growth, not Dan Senor, not the Koch operation.
Republican Senators like Ron Johnson and Rick Scott think they are experts at the game, that they can go head-to-head with the White House and best them. Objectively, unless the battlefield is Hannity, that is false. Team Biden knows how big a mismatch it has in its favor, and they laugh and laugh and laugh behind Republican backs about it literally every day. They feel blessed that they keep getting fodder to frame the debate against what they see as such deluded, delusional, naive, and overmatched opponents.
The dominance of Donald Trump is obviously a big part of the party’s problem in countering Team Biden, but so is the (related) issue of House Republican branding, which the Washington Post smartly points out is not a new thing:
Many Republican leaders, disappointed with the results of the November midterms, have bemoaned their party’s nomination of fiery candidates who played to the GOP base but in the end attracted little support beyond it. Some within the party fear a similar effect in the 2024 presidential primary if their candidates are overly focused on appeasing the anger and emotions of Republican loyalists….
It is not the first time a Democratic president has used an outspoken, newly powerful group of House Republicans as a foil. Both Bill Clinton and Obama saw their party lose the House two years after they took office, as Biden now has. Both then ran against the GOP-led House as part of their reelection effort.
Let’s give the final word here to a very clever Democrat, one who knows the weaknesses of his own party, but also the weaknesses of the other side, as shared with the New York Times:
Last October, before the midterm elections, Eric Schultz, who served as a deputy press secretary for former President Barack Obama, predicted that Republicans would eventually do or say something to make the difference[s between the two sides] clear.
“This isn’t a group that’s known for a measured approach,” he said at the time. “The more clownish they are, the better it is for the administration. Betting on House Republicans being clownish is a good bet.”
Contacted on Wednesday, Mr. Schultz said he still agreed with that sentiment.
Hunter could be indicted; Joe could get sick; there could be a recession.
But those are all only possible.
But these things are certain:
Team Biden has a plan to win another term and an experienced, united, and tough team to execute that plan. The Republican Party has a lot of clowns in key slots, intense intraparty divisions around policy, personality, and perspective – and no one who can make the clowns less clownish, let alone usher them off the stage.
Big Democratic and progressive money is going to be spent making sure Joe Biden wins again.
The deepest pockets in the conservative movement have now declared that they will spend big money trying to stop their party’s frontrunner from getting the nomination.
That contrast alone is breathtaking.
To (again) slightly twist a favored Joe Biden line: He is not going to be compared to the Almighty for the next two years. He is going to be compared to the clownish alternative. And that will be the Dominant Media’s preferred storyline nearly every day.
Wide World of News is a reader-supported publication. To receive support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber today.