See Related: Susan Estrich
"I have not seen any evidence that whether I am doing well or poorly, whether I have got my agenda passed or not, is going to have any real impact on winning or losing."
So said President Joe Biden on the Monday before the Tuesday that proved how wrong he was. Even on Monday, was there anyone other than him who really believed that? Did he?
The problem is that by all rights, Terry McAuliffe should have won, and there aren't a lot of explanations for why he didn't that don't begin and end with the president. I've known McAuliffe for a very long time. He is the best fundraiser I've ever met. One of the most effective campaigners I've ever met. A real people person. Positioned exactly where you should be as a Democrat in a general election, with a strong record as governor to run on. At one point, the predictions market had him up so far it was easy to take it for granted; after all, Virginia hasn't elected a Republican to statewide office since 2009.
Who else can you blame?
I like Joe Biden. I've met quite a few politicians who I would not say that about. He has always struck me as a decent and honorable man, a man who has grown from his losses, a man who truly loves his family, which is why we forgive him Hunter, a man who wants what he believes is best for the working families in this country. A man who carried Virginia by 10 points and whose favorable rating then dropped to the low 40s.
A man who is caught in the wrong century.
Our friend from Washington is telling us about the two infrastructure bills. I know it matters. I'm exactly the sort of person who should be up-to-the-minute on what the senators from Arizona and West Virginia are doing and whether the progressives will go along and whatever else it is that has caused Congress to accomplish absolutely nothing under supposed Democratic control. But I'm not.
I'm up-to-the-minute on the price of eggs. And the cost of cans for cranberry. And the likelihood of empty shelves when I shop for all the children in my life come December.
I'm up-to-the-minute on all the big ships you can see lined up just waiting to unload at San Pedro, which is pretty far south of where we're sitting.
Twelve dollars. At the farmers market on Sunday, I did my own survey. Three stands were $11. The rest were $12. Ten minutes ago, they cost $6.
One hundred dollars. That's how much it cost my handyman to fuel up his truck.
They're warning that the price of canned cranberries is going to be 50% higher this year because of the scarcity of aluminum for the cans.
Remember overnight deliveries from Amazon? Notice that all those overnight specials now take three days, and certain products are already being slated for January delivery.
"The supply chain."
That's what the pundits are saying. McAuliffe lost the election because of the supply chain. It might be true, except I have no idea what the supply chain is or why it broke, much less who (else) to blame.
Which is where former President Donald Trump comes in. There has not been a single day when I wish Trump were back. But I miss the energy of the political debate. That was what Trump "got."
Richard Neustadt famously wrote that the power of the presidency is the power to persuade. In his time, it was Congress that needed to be corralled and persuaded, as President Lyndon B. Johnson did in the 1960s. That is also what Biden has been trying to do as president, which is not surprising since it is what he has done for his entire adult life. Trump hardly bothered with Congress; he didn't actually care (remember his dismissing the midterms), which is perhaps why they feared him so much more than they do Biden. And why it was, frankly, so much more entertaining. I mean, engaging.
Sausage-making is not a spectator sport, which suited the days when politics wasn't covered 24/7 by opinionators seeking attention the way it is now. It is that sport that Trump dominated, that gave politics the energy it had and gave Trump his power.
Tuesday was a small disaster. Bigger ones are on the horizon. Everyone gets that. The question is whether the early warning is early enough and whether Biden can recapture the attention of the country when we have the price of eggs, not to mention eggnog, to worry about.
Susan Estrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.