Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Say It Ain’t So, Joe

For more than a year now, we have been predicting – emphatically and without hedging – that Joe Biden will NOT be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024.  In January, for example, we wrote that “The powers that be in the Democratic Party want Joe Biden out.  They may, possibly, be willing to tolerate him for the remainder of this term, but there is no way they will allow him to be the nominee in 2024.”

This summer, we noted that the traditional Democratic coalition is beginning to crack, that black voters, in particular, are growing tired of being taken for granted and appear to be shifting – ever so slightly – toward the populist right.  And, of course, just last Friday, we pointed out that Biden is also losing the support of Arab-Americans, who were unhappy with the administration’s social policies even before October 7 and have grown significantly more frustrated with the president since.

Despite all the evidence suggesting that his reelection is likely doomed and that Democratic voters are growing restless, President Biden has remained steadfast in his desire to prove us wrong and to see his campaign through to its completion.  More to the point, the powers that be in the Democratic Party have seemed willing to hint at their frustration with Biden, his age, and his sagging poll numbers, but they have been UNwilling to do anything about it or to say anything publicly that might suggest to Biden that it is time for him to move on and let someone else run next year.  Or at least they’ve been unwilling to do so…until now.

Yesterday, David Axelrod, the political strategist who helped put Barack Obama in the White House, dropped a bomb on the Biden campaign:

David Axelrod, a prominent Democratic political strategist and former White House official, said on Sunday that President Joe Biden needed to think carefully about whether he should continue to seek reelection.

“Only @JoeBiden can make this decision,” Axelrod wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it’s in HIS best interest or the country’s?”

The proximate cause of Axelrod’s bombing campaign was the New York Times/Sienna College poll that contained some pretty terrible news for Biden, for his Vice President Kamala Harris, and for the Democrats more generally:

President Biden is trailing Donald J. Trump in five of the six most important battleground states one year before the 2024 election, suffering from enormous doubts about his age and deep dissatisfaction over his handling of the economy and a host of other issues, new polls by The New York Times and Siena College have found.

The results show Mr. Biden losing to Mr. Trump, his likeliest Republican rival, by margins of three to 10 percentage points among registered voters in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden is ahead only in Wisconsin, by two percentage points, the poll found.

Across the six battlegrounds — all of which Mr. Biden carried in 2020 — the president trails by an average of 48 to 44 percent.

Discontent pulsates throughout the Times/Siena poll, with a majority of voters saying Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them. The survey also reveals the extent to which the multiracial and multigenerational coalition that elected Mr. Biden is fraying. Demographic groups that backed Mr. Biden by landslide margins in 2020 are now far more closely contested, as two-thirds of the electorate sees the country moving in the wrong direction.

Axelrod’s “suggestion” that Biden consider getting out of the race is interesting – and important – for at least a couple of reasons.  To start, as we say above, Axelrod is the first major Democratic Party figure to say what everyone else has been thinking.  They don’t think Joe can win.  They know Kamala can’t.  And they’ll be damned if they’re going to let either of them run against Trump, knowing what could happen.

Additionally, and more to the point, David Axelrod isn’t just any old “major Democratic Party figure.”  He’s Obama’s guy, his man in the trenches.  He is to Barack Obama what James Carville is to Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Axelrod is Obama’s surrogate.

Above, we wrote that the terrible poll numbers were the “proximate cause” of Axelrod’s attack on Biden and his electability.  It might have been more accurate to call them the “proximate excuse.”  While it is true that Axelrod’s comments were made shortly after the poll was released, they also happen to have come right in the middle of a full-blown Obama revival.  You may not have noticed – and if you didn’t, we envy you – but Barack Obama is everywhere at the moment.  He’s in Washington, helping his old pal Joe write an executive order on AI.  He’s in Chicago hosting a 15th Anniversary party for the people who were fortunate enough to be allowed to bask in his splendor on the way to the White House in 2008.  He’s at something called The Democracy Forum, calling for a “new generation of heroes.”  He’s on his former staffers’ podcast declaring, yet again, that he is disappointed in us, that “all of us are complicit” in the Israel-Hamas war, largely contradicting the Biden administration’s position.

In other words, it appears more and more that Barack Obama wants Joe Biden out of the race.

While we can’t say for sure whom Obama would like to see replace Biden on the ticket, we do have our suspicions.  It also appears more and more that Barack Obama misses the spotlight, that it just kills him that people aren’t interested in his opinions on all matters at all times.  And there is only one possible candidate we can think of who could win back the Arab-American vote, win back the black vote, win back younger voters, and put the spotlight back on Barack and his “brilliant” mind.

We have written numerous times before that we like this possible candidate far more than we like Barack Obama.  We appreciate that she refused to wear a head scarf for the Saudis, for example, and we have long admired (and written repeatedly about) her friendship with George W. Bush.  None of that, however, should be taken as an endorsement of her candidacy – far from it.

At this time, of course, such a candidacy still seems far-fetched.  Don’t be surprised, however, if it becomes less so in the next several weeks.

Also, don’t be surprised if Joe Biden announces that he just doesn’t have what it takes to run another campaign and serve another four-year term.  In fact, we remain convinced that you can bank on it.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.