Biden Can’t Win Without Help From Trump

February 15, 2024

The Biden campaign took a torpedo to its engine room last week in the form of special counsel Robert Hur’s report. Mr. Hur wrote that he chose not to seek an indictment of the president for mishandling classified material in part because he thought a jury would see Mr. Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” According to Mr. Hur, that was how Mr. Biden presented himself in meetings with the special counsel. 

Team Biden complained this was gratuitous. But Justice Department regulations required Mr. Hur to consider whether a jury would convict and to explain his decision. It rested on several reasons, he said, including whether Mr. Biden had the “mental state of willfulness” that a conviction would require. The president’s mental state is certainly relevant to that analysis.

Even before Mr. Hur’s eight damning words, a Jan. 30 NBC News survey found that 76% of voters were concerned Mr. Biden lacked “the necessary mental and physical health to be president.” A Feb. 10 ABC News/Ipsos poll reported 86% of Americans think he’s “too old for another term,” up 12 points from September. No wonder: As the Dispatch’s Nick Catoggio points out, Mr. Biden’s birth date was closer to Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration than to the date Mr. Biden took office. 

Granted, Mr. Trump isn’t in great shape either. In the NBC poll, 48% of respondents worried that he lacks the mental and physical health being president requires. In the ABC/Ipsos poll, 62% of Americans said the Republican front-runner was too old for a second term, up 13 points since September. Still, Mr. Biden’s numbers are worse and unlikely to improve. Americans formed their opinion of his age during three years of visible deterioration. A couple of months of ads won’t change that.

Nor will outrage at Mr. Hur for pointing it out. Mr. Biden made a mistake when he complained at an already ill-conceived press conference last Thursday that it “wasn’t any of their damn business” when the special counsel asked when his son Beau died. The president’s attempt to sidestep his failure to recall the date fell flat. 

It won’t turn things around, either, to ask voters to “look at all he’s accomplished,” as Jill Biden did in a campaign email after the special counsel’s report. Team Biden has beaten this drum for more than a year, yet his numbers remain underwater at 39% favorable, 57% unfavorable in the RealClearPolitics average. If bragging could raise numbers, Mr. Biden’s would be in the stratosphere.

Vice President Kamala Harris didn’t help by asserting that she’s “ready to serve” if something happens to Mr. Biden. That was better left unsaid. Ms. Harris boasted that anyone who observes her as vice president “walks away fully aware of my capacity to lead.” That reminds swing voters that Mr. Biden might not last until the end of a second term.

Similarly, Mr. Biden’s attempts at humor underscore the problem more than they obscure it. Joking as he did Monday that “I’ve been around a while, I do remember that” won’t make him sharper, younger or stronger. To voters looking at an increasingly dangerous world, this is no laughing matter. 

To win, Team Biden has only one option—an all-out attack on Mr. Trump, using every means of communication every day in an assault of unusual scope and expense. Victory would require Mr. Trump’s cooperation in making truly outrageous appeals to his hard-core supporters that alienate swing voters. Fortunately for Mr. Biden, the former president has done his best to help.

There’s another path to Democratic victory, admittedly highly unlikely. Mr. Biden could pull a Lyndon Johnson and declare he’s not running. He could wait until after the anniversary of LBJ’s March 31, 1968, announcement. Unlike in 1968, that wouldn’t leave time for a primary contest. By April 3, almost 78% of Democratic convention delegates will have been selected and by April 29 nearly 85%.

Read More at the WSJ

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