As former President Donald Trump traveled to rainy Washington, D.C., to face arraignment Thursday on charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and as Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida faced criticism for promising to curb the federal bureaucracy by “slitting throats,” President Biden relaxed at the beach.
While the race for the GOP presidential nomination has been ferocious, Biden is all but certain to be the Democratic nominee — even if the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a persistent irritant.
To be sure, Biden’s advanced age remains a top concern. And there is little excitement from the Democratic Party’s progressive base, a troubling reality reflected in his reelection campaign’s struggle to attract small donors.
Those headwinds could persist. Others could materialize. But his closest advisers nevertheless believe he is in a strong position to win reelection, especially if he runs again against Trump.
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You’re going to hear a lot about Bidenomics…
Bidenomics is less a single coherent policy than a vibe, an optimistic view of the American economy that the White House hopes will propel the president to a second term in office.
Bidenomics refers to the billions Biden has invested in green energy, infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing, but it is also the Federal Reserve’s deft management of interest rates to stem inflation, decisions over which the president has no influence.
Bidenomics is, above all, Biden’s answer to a Republican Party now largely defined by culture wars waged by Trump, DeSantis and others.
True, most Americans remain pessimistic about the economy. But unemployment is at historic lows, growth is exceeding expectations, wages are rising and a recession looks increasingly unlikely.
Read more from our partners: Bidenomics has been a boon for working-class voters. Why don’t they give him credit?
…and about MAGA Republicans
Ahead of the 2022 congressional midterms, Biden regularly called out “MAGA Republicans,” a reference to how thoroughly the GOP had been captured by Trump and Trumpism. MAGA Republicans, in Biden’s telling, were nothing like the Republicans he had worked with for decades in the Senate.
This new brand of Republican, he argued, was determined to outlaw abortion, make it more difficult for Black people to vote and loosen restrictions on gun possession — all while continuing to falsely claim that Trump won the 2020 presidential election.
“MAGA forces are determined to take this country backwards — backwards to an America where there is no right to choose, no right to privacy, no right to contraception, no right to marry who you love,” he said in a fiery speech last September. “They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence.”
Several weeks later, some of the most extreme Republican candidates in state and federal races lost, seemingly validating Biden’s approach. Politicians tend to stick with what works, and Biden is already running against MAGA Republicans, regardless of who the nominee turns out to be.
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A soft launch
Biden launched his 2024 reelection campaign with a video announcement, just as he did in 2020. But whereas that campaign was defined by the coronavirus and restrictions on large gatherings, there is nothing stopping candidates in 2024 from campaigning the way they did before the pandemic.
But as the sitting president, Biden enjoys a benefit none of his Republican challengers do: the White House. He is expected to use the so-called Rose Garden strategy, using his bully pulpit instead of holding large rallies across the country.
Some Democrats have called on him to campaign more aggressively, which could help with voter (and donor) enthusiasm. But many of those same worries surfaced ahead of the 2022 midterms, when Biden was criticized for not campaigning more frequently or energetically.
He largely ignored those critics, only to see the Democrats perform better nationwide than many expected. He isn’t likely to heed their calls this time, either.
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The age issue won’t go away
Biden turned 80 last fall, making him the oldest sitting president in American history. While Trump is 77, other Republican primary candidates are almost half the president’s age. And each of his stumbles or misstatements serves as a reminder — whether fairly or not — of his advanced age.
A poll conducted by Yahoo News and YouGov last spring found that 68% of respondents — including 48% of Democrats — believed Biden was “too old for another term as president.” Like the rest of us, he isn’t getting any younger. And though the Rose Garden strategy may work amid a contentious Republican primary, he will have to engage in the grueling business of campaigning once the general election season begins late next summer.
He will also need young voters, whom his campaign says he will court with policies relating to climate change, gun control and economic opportunity.
“We will meet younger Americans where they are and turn their energy into action,” a campaign spokesman, Kevin Munoz, told the Associated Press.
Read more from Yahoo News: Are Biden and Trump too old to be president?
Trump may be stronger than he seems
Polls have consistently shown that the last thing most Americans want is a Trump-Biden rematch. But increasingly, it looks as if that’s exactly what they’re going to get.
Biden and his advisers like their odds in that matchup. Trump was indicted earlier this week for his role in trying to subvert the 2020 election, the latest of his legal woes — but almost certainly not the last. By next year, Trump could be in the midst of several trials and potentially facing a lengthy prison sentence. And he is already toxic to many Americans.
Then again, there are millions of Americans who say they will only vote for Trump. The temptation to underestimate him can be dangerous, as Hillary Clinton discovered in 2016. Recent polling puts Biden and Trump in a tie among voters, with each at 43%.
In other words, 2024 may not be quite the cakewalk some Democrats imagine. Former President Barack Obama reportedly made that point to Biden at a White House lunch last month, warning his onetime vice president not to treat the likely rematch with Trump with too much confidence.
Read more from our partners: Can the race really be that close? Yes, Biden and Trump are tied.