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Biden’s 2024 Campaign Is Worse Than Churchill’s Pudding

February 01, 2024
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Last week I explored Donald Trump’s challenges as the general election beckons. This week it’s President Biden’s turn.

That Mr. Biden trails Mr. Trump in the RealClearPolitics average, 43.9% to 47.8%, suggests the presumptive Democratic nominee has significant challenges. In the 18 polls conducted this year, Mr. Biden has led in only two and tied in three. So where to begin?

inston Churchill reportedly once rejected an indifferent dessert, saying: “Take away this pudding! It has no theme.” Mr. Biden’s campaign is worse than Mr. Churchill’s pudding. He not only lacks an effective, simple story line about who he is and what this contest is about; his attempts so far to draw one have only muddled things further.

He was elected in 2020 as a transitional figure who was supposed to return normality to the White House. Then in 2021 and 2022, his staff hyped him as the most transformational president since at least Lyndon B. Johnson. This year he is depicted as the defender of democracy and abortion. That may not be all that helpful to his re-election.

Team Biden doesn’t seem to understand that attacking Mr. Trump as a fundamental threat to democracy revs up his base. Right or wrong, MAGA supporters see four indictments, a hostile media, and efforts to kick Mr. Trump off the ballot as threats to democracy. Most attacks on him have strengthened their devotion.

But railing about Mr. Trump’s traversing of norms doesn’t energize Biden voters, many of whom remain generally lethargic. The president would have more success focusing on specific matters that independents and swayable Republicans care about. For one, Mr. Trump promises to pardon those now imprisoned for offenses, including violent ones, related to the Jan. 6, 2021, riots. That’s unacceptable to most Americans. He keeps claiming he won the 2020 election. While most Republicans believe that, nearly a third disagree, as do most independents.

Abortion may help turn out otherwise unenthusiastic Democrats in states with ballot measures on the issue, but the issue may not be all that Team Biden thinks it is. Neither Mr. Trump nor Nikki Haley is likely to mishandle the issue by supporting a six- or 10-week national ban. 

While consumer confidence is rapidly rising, Mr. Biden still doesn’t have an economic message that clicks with voters. Last year he used “Bidenomics” to describe what he claimed was a thriving economy, even though most Americans thought it stank. Now, though inflation is receding and growth is good, most voters are still adjusting to three years of price inflation and wages that didn’t keep up.

Immigration is a disaster for Mr. Biden. If Congress doesn’t pass border-security legislation, the president can’t simply blame Republicans. People know he has neglected the southern border for three years. No amount of finger pointing will erase Mr. Trump’s advantage on the issue—52% to 30% in a Jan. 22 Morning Consult swing-state poll.

Mr. Biden seems afraid that even if he gets a deal, closing the border would further diminish the enthusiasm of his party’s left wing. He’s probably right. But without action, he risks alienating other voters he needs—namely working-class and black Democrats—who are worried about illegal immigration.

Then there are the U.S. soldiers killed by an Iranian drone strike in Jordan. Such attacks often cause Americans to rally around the president. Not this time. After his botched August 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan accelerated his slide in the polls, Mr. Biden may have lost his ability to rally support. He looks feckless and weak.

Don’t forget Hunter Biden’s legal difficulties. Though the lawyer for the president’s son claims it’s a political persecution, most Americans believe people who don’t pay their taxes and lie on applications to purchase guns deserve punishment. Hunter has pleaded not guilty to these charges. There’s no evidence so far of illegal action by the president, but his wayward son’s continuing legal difficulties will hurt Mr. Biden’s re-election chances.

Read More at the WSJ

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