ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Carl P. Leubsdorf: Will Biden run again? Should he?

From the commentary: Still, as Biden quietly marked his 80th birthday on Nov. 13, the basic Democratic dilemma remained: Will it be best for the party — and the country — to renominate the nation’s oldest president, even if the alternative is chaos?

President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference a day after the midterm elections, from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference a day after the midterm elections, from the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9, 2022.
(Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)
We are part of The Trust Project.

President Joe Biden has been in an upbeat mood since the Democrats’ best first-term midterm showing in 60 years — and no wonder.

WCT.OP.Commentary.jpg
More Commentary:
From the commentary: In another America where laws were once supposed to be equally enforced (the exception being the rule) and truth was not personal, this would likely not have been a problem.
From the commentary: (The judge) said he’d alert everyone when his ruling was coming. ... And that he would give everyone a chance to respond before he released the report, if (it was to be) released.
From the commentary: It's clear that whatever else happens, sets should be safer as a result of what Baldwin did.

For a second straight election, he achieved his presidency’s overriding goal of protecting the nation’s democratic institutions from the Trumpian threat. And the results relieved any immediate party pressure for him to forgo a 2024 re-election bid.

In fact, last weekend’s USA TODAY/Ipsos poll showed the percentage of Democrats wanting Biden to run and believing he would win up about 10% since August, though half still opposed his re-election candidacy.

Still, as Biden quietly marked his 80th birthday on Nov. 13, the basic Democratic dilemma remained: Will it be best for the party — and the country — to renominate the nation’s oldest president, even if the alternative is chaos?

Biden’s best argument for running again is that, as in 2020, he feels able to do the job and may be the only Democrat who can beat Donald Trump. But though Trump still dominates the GOP, its unexpectedly poor 2022 showing has more Republicans saying openly that it is time to move on.

ADVERTISEMENT

Midterm election exit polls showed a higher percentage of voters opposed another race by Trump than opposed a second term bid by Biden.

The prospect of a 2020 rerun against Trump apparently animates the president’s thinking. “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative,” he likes to say. Of course, with a burgeoning GOP field, almost every alternative is younger and possibly more electable than Trump.

On the other hand, just as France’s King Louis XV correctly predicted more than two centuries ago that his departure would prompt a “deluge,” so too do the Democrats face the possibility that a post-Biden free-for-all could undercut their hopes of retaining the presidency.

Both parties regard Vice President Kamala Harris, the natural heir to Biden and almost certain to run if he bows out, as a weak candidate who would encounter difficulties in both a nominating race and the general election.

But potential rivals need to consider that opposing the first Black, Asian-American and female vice president would be tricky in the increasingly multi-racial Democratic Party. Though Democrats have not yet set their primary calendar, a key early contest will almost certainly again be South Carolina, where the 2020 primary electorate was more than half Black.

And if Harris faces impediments, so do her potential rivals. For Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, it’s the glass ceiling for women that contributed to Hillary Clinton’s defeat. For Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, it’s being an openly gay man with a husband. For California Gov. Gavin Newsom, it’s an image as a trendy California liberal. And for the best-known progressives, it’s not only being too far left but too old (Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders), too young (New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), too sharp-edged (Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal) or too obscure (California Rep. Ro Khanna).

Though Biden would be 86 by the end of a second term, he still seems inclined to seek re-election, as has every modern president. But the nation’s oldest president has left the door ajar, if his health deteriorates or he and his family decide it’s time to end his half-century political career.

“Our intention is to run again,” Biden told his Nov. 9 post-election news conference. But he said it was “ultimately, a family decision” that would be made sometime early next year, though he added, “I think everybody wants me to run.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Not everybody in the public. The Election Day exit polls showed a majority of independents and nearly half of all Democrats thought Biden should not run again.

But the pre-election expectation of post-election Democratic disarray focused on Biden’s future didn’t happen. Instead, Republicans are beset with internal strife after failing to meet their expectations of a “red wave” that would capture the House, the Senate and key governorships.

That disarray is providing the Democrats and Biden with a useful respite. If it persists, the House GOP focus on investigating instead of legislating may make him look good by contrast.

Still, many Democrats expect a Biden re-election candidacy would face opposition from the party’s progressive wing, which opposed him in 2020 and has often pressured him to act more boldly. But its most prominent leader, Sanders, is even older than Biden.

Meanwhile, continued good health may be the best way for Biden to allay concerns about his age, along with occasional videos showing him riding his bike. Though he skipped a dinner at the end of one long day, Biden last week completed an arduous, weeklong round-the-world trip to conferences in Egypt, Cambodia and Indonesia that showed him on top of the issues and very much in command.

Still, signs of his age show in his often awkward gait, verbal stumbles and sometimes less-than-forceful public speaking. A re-election campaign would be challenging both politically and physically.

More Opinion:
From the commentary: By passing bipartisan laws and enforcing strong ethics, our elected leaders can once again demonstrate that they are working for the people and promoting the common good.
From the commentary: People who threaten to blow up an airplane if their political demands aren't met are political terrorists.
From the commentary: A policy of complete openness in most areas of information would lead to a more useful debate of national security issues and perhaps sounder policy choices.
From the commentary: More than anything else, Democrats’ current harmony reflects the fact that few party members now see themselves as facing such a dilemma (back home).
From the commentary: Every day is a new embarrassment, not just for (George Santos) but for the Republicans in Congress.
From the commentary: It is time to recognize obesity in childhood and adolescence for the complex chronic disease that it is.
From the commentary: To be clear, their questions are mainly about determining the best way to deliver care to teens — not about the value of treatment itself.
From the commentary: Businesses are already struggling under the extraordinary cost of doing business in Minnesota.
From the commentary: Today, many Confederate memorials are being curated with markers being erected nearby to tell the story of how the Lost Cause was mythologized. Stone Mountain would certainly need a big marker. Or, a museum.
From the commentary: For many, politics is either an aphrodisiac, or a drug. Both are addictive and difficult to break free from.

In 2020, the COVID pandemic enabled Biden to avoid the usually hectic speaking schedule and campaign from his basement. That won’t be possible in 2024.

As for a possible Trump rematch, Biden insists he feels no pressure for an early decision “no matter what…my predecessor does.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But the former president’s prospects could ultimately affect Biden’s decision if his principal motivation remains his belief he has the best chance of keeping the 45th president from becoming the 47th.

Carl P. Leubsdorf is the former Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News. This commentary is the columnist's opinion. Send feedback to: opinion@wctrib.com.

©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

______________________________________________________

This story was written by one of our partner news agencies. Forum Communications Company uses content from agencies such as Reuters, Kaiser Health News, Tribune News Service and others to provide a wider range of news to our readers. Learn more about the news services FCC uses here.

What To Read Next
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
Leadership takes honest reflection and thinking about the needs of others, Jenny Schlecht writes. With that in mind, do we have the right leaders to get a new farm bill passed by Sept. 30?
"Church worship now competes with everything from professional sports to kids activities to household chores. ... we can either have a frank conversation about what church can be, or we can continue to watch the pews empty in cherished houses of worship across the country."
When Katie Pinke directed her daughter to a beef expert in preparation for her speech meet, it made her think about the need for trusted ag sources of information.