Initially, it seemed like Donald Trump wanted to face Joe Biden in 2020.
After all, Biden is predisposed to getting sucked into farcical exchanges with Trump, which plays right into the president’s hands. Trump has a solid claim to the top spot on anyone’s list of “best” social media trolls and he delighted in going back and forth with the former vice president in March of 2018, when Joe retroactively challenged Trump’s high school self to a fist fight “behind the gym”.
“Crazy Joe Biden…doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way”, a delirious Trump tweeted. “Don’t threaten people Joe!”
As we wrote back in March while (literally) begging Biden not to enter the race, American politics is already the laughing stock of the world, and just about the last thing the country needs is two septuagenarians arguing with each other about who would win a hypothetical fist fight five decades ago.
Read more: Don’t Do It Joe – Any Of It.
We also warned that Biden was being presumptuous in reportedly considering rising star Stacey Abrams as a running mate. For one thing, choosing a vice president before you’ve even declared is arrogant in the extreme (it suggests you think there’s no point in even having a primary). On top of that, the alleged plan was “so obviously clout chasing that it’s embarrassing”, to quote The Root.
At the time, Beto had a lot of momentum. He had just secured a record one-day funding haul and supporters generally saw no reason why he couldn’t perform on the national stage like he did in his nearly successful bid to take Ted Cruz’s Senate seat (an almost impossible feat).
“Until he definitively proves he isn’t the guy (by either embarrassing himself or someone else embarrassing him by releasing more hacker chronicles, for instance) the nominee needs to be Beto”, we wrote in March.
Fast forward to July and a couple of things are clear.
First, the idea that Biden would have problems and should probably pass the torch has been borne out. Ironically – considering his famous friendship with Obama and rumored affinity for Abrams as a possible VP – it was race relations that kneecapped Joe in the first debate. Of course, if you knew anything about Biden, that wasn’t entirely unpredictable, as some critics of the Abrams gambit pointed out.
Read more: The Nominee
Second, Beto has “definitively proven he isn’t the guy”- to quote ourselves. There’s still time to turn things around, but it’s not looking good. For whatever reason, the same man who was entirely comfortable playing air drums to Baba O’Riley and sharing the video with millions of people, seems intimidated by the prospect of seizing his moment, a rather disappointing turn of events that perhaps speaks to Beto’s life history of “falling up”.
In any case, Trump now seems intent to deep-six Biden’s chances. The president is piling on, perhaps blissfully unaware of the perils inherent in squaring off against a seasoned prosecutor in Kamala Harris or else content to believe she can’t win the primary.
“Joe Biden is a reclamation project. Some things are just not salvageable”, Trump tweeted last week. “Won’t win!”
Maybe he’s right. Biden has spent the last several days on an apology tour for the segregationist kerfuffle, but the damage is done. Asked over the weekend about the Harris-Biden exchange in, Michelle Obama said simply “No comment”.
“Barack and I are going to support whoever wins the primary, so … our focus is letting the primary process play out, because it’s very early”, she said of the coveted endorsement. “I mean, that’s one of the things that we learned in the campaign. It is early; it’s like trying to figure out who’s winning the World Series on the first seven games. I mean that’s where we are right now, it is so early”.
It’s true, it is “so early”. But the trends are “so clear”. Have a look:
Call it gamesmanship. Call it a “low blow”. Call it whatever you will. But, Harris dealt Biden a grievous blow on June 27, and elevated herself to a tie for second in the process.
Bernie’s support has waned every step of the way, as has Beto’s. Warren, meanwhile, continues to steadily climb, indicative of a predictable (albeit abrasive) stance on the issues and a commanding grasp of policy nuance, befitting of the Senator’s academic and legal background. Here’s a bit of possibly useful color from Goldman:
While early candidate popularity is not always indicative of electoral success in primary elections, we expect that financial markets will be attuned to the relative performance of the most progressive Democratic candidates compared with candidates viewed to be more politically centrist. Although relative polling performance has shifted recently, so far the overall balance of support for moderate vs. progressive candidates has remained fairly steady, we believe. Also, we note that early polling will be relevant in narrowing the field of candidates over the next few months. To qualify for the September Democratic debate, for example, candidates will need to have received at least 2% support in four polls conducted in July or August, as well as meet more selective fundraising goals. At the moment, this looks likely to narrow the Democratic field by at least half compared with the 20 candidates who participated in the first round of debates in June.
Although it’s impossible to know what Team Trump is thinking (primarily because even if you can get a read on the strategic bent of his campaign and his advisors, nobody really knows what’s going on his “very large brain”), one can’t help but wonder if the president is underestimating the odds of facing Harris in 2020.
Harris’s story in part revolves around the idea that she’s played it generally safe over her career in an effort to avoid rocking any boats that might prevent her from securing higher and higher offices (critics sometimes seize on that to suggest she hasn’t pushed the envelope on key issues). Implicit is the idea that she’s been saving it all up for her big chance – that she needs to climb up one more rung before laying it all on the line. Well, there is no gamble bigger than running for president.
We’ll leave you with a handy political event calendar from the same Goldman note cited above.