Biden equivocates in 2024 as Republicans send culture wars into overdrive


If America’s angry politics weren’t mixed enough, President Joe Biden has just injected new uncertainty into a head-spinning midterm election campaign.

His comment, in a ’60 Minutes’ interview aired Sunday night, that it was ‘far too early’ to consider a 2024 re-election bid that had previously seemed self-evident, added to a swirling sense of turmoil before the November critical vote.

The midterm campaign once seemed certain to activate Biden’s low approval ratings. But Democrats have some momentum after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion and the president’s approval ratings began to rise amid falling gas prices.

After earlier predictions that the midterm election curse that haunts first-term presidents would drive a Republican wave, the GOP now appears to be burying its most effective message — tied to runaway inflation under Biden — by reigniting wars. cultural.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis caused an uproar – but likely boosted his potential Republican presidential primary campaign – by transporting a group of Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard last week. A day earlier, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina shocked her colleagues trying to uphold abortion by proposing a bill that would impose a nationwide ban on the procedure after 15 weeks.

Add to all of this the extraordinary spectacle of former President Donald Trump still falsely claiming he won the last election and launching into the crowd to make somber hints of possible violence if accused of mismanagement of highly classified documents.

With Election Day seven weeks away, unpredictable and possibly dangerous political forces are multiplying and it is difficult to resolve the issues that will decide whether Democrats cling to both houses of Congress or lose one or both.

It was into this destabilized political stew that Biden’s comments, aired while he was in London for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, arrived.

Of course, it could just be Biden being Biden. His spontaneous remarks are often rebuffed by his staff. But his statement, and a similar one from first lady Jill Biden last week that they had not discussed a re-election race, are sure to spark speculation.

“Listen, my intention, as I said at the start, is that I will run again. But that’s just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to see,” Biden told CBS’ Scott Pelley on “60 Minutes.”

Biden, who has a life marked by tragedy, has often said he is a “great acceptor of fate.” He would be over 80 if he ran again, and a lot could happen before the 2024 election in which Trump is already indicating he is likely to run.

But Biden’s remarks were striking given that he left himself a way out. They will likely renew questions about who, besides him, could be a Democratic nominee in 2024 – a wave of speculation that had died down after the president’s recent string of legislative successes.

DeSantis is a possible Republican nominee whether Trump runs or not. He has already used his platform to establish a formidable conservative power base on transgender issues and Covid-19 precautions, which would look impressive in a Republican presidential primary.

He received a standing ovation away from Florida, Kansas on Sunday for sending migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, hailing a decision critics called un-American and inhumane.

In some ways, DeSantis and Graham’s attempts to appeal to the populist base hint at political malpractices in the party since the biggest annual rise in food prices since 1979 would seem to give Republicans a winning campaign theme.

But while a focus on the economy is the stated preference of GOP leaders, grassroots voters are often drawn to the kind of stunt politics pioneered by Trump and DeSantis. It can sometimes seem like the GOP is locked in a perpetual primary cycle to appeal to its most fervent voters while ignoring the broader mainstream electorate, which could prove problematic for some of the Trump-backed candidates who have won this year’s primaries.

It’s far too early to call the November election, which sees Republicans still well positioned to take the House and within striking distance of capturing the Senate. History suggests the Democrats are poised to be beaten, but earlier predictions of a Republican wave look more shaky as a new NBC News poll shows Democrats closing in on the GOP on the generic ballot and that Biden’s approval ratings are at their highest since October. Democratic momentum has grown as the GOP returns to its culture war playbook, especially after the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion in June.

Unexpected twists and turns with Election Day less than two months away blur the 2022 campaign and make it much harder to predict what the winning issue will be for the victorious party in an internally distant nation.

All of this is also taking place against the backdrop of Trump’s efforts to turn the midterm elections into an arena of revenge for the 2020 election, which he refuses to accept having lost, and his ongoing legal troubles. worsen following the FBI’s search for Mar-a-Lago. . His darkening and inciting rhetoric was on display at a rally in Ohio on Saturday night. But the ubiquity of the ex-president, who has not been charged with any crime, risks reminding many more moderate voters why they turned against him.

Democrats rushed to capitalize on the openings offered by DeSantis and Graham.

“Migrants are human beings and we must treat them as human beings. They are used as political pawns to gain publicity,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“It is a scourge for our whole country,” he added.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, compared the latest immigration stunts by Republican governors — including Governor Greg Abbott of Texas, who had migrants dropped off outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ residence last week — to the Trump administration’s hardline anti-immigrant policies.

“Why is it that when Republicans want to enforce their theories on immigration, it’s always the kids who end up being the victims,” ​​Durbin said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “We have seen it with children in cages. We have seen it with the forced removal of children from their parents, some of whom have never been reunited with their families. And now, once again, it is children and families who are being put on these buses and transported for political purposes across the United States.

DeSantis argued that liberal states like Massachusetts, where the migrants were flown in, are to blame for encouraging the influx across the border, and he was provocative when he appeared in dark red Kansas. “It’s a crisis. He’s getting a little more attention now,” DeSantis said.

While Republican approaches to the border often seem extreme, there could be fertile political ground for the party on the issue given that the Biden administration has failed to come up with a compelling strategy to tackle border crossings. Earlier this month, Harris told NBC the border was “secure” – a statement that seemed to run counter to reality.

The Republican approach to immigration is a classic example of how the two parties appeal to entirely different electorates in a fractured nation. A Pew Research poll this month, for example, found that overwhelming majorities of conservatives want stronger border security and more deportations of undocumented migrants. Democrats, while viewing border security as important, were mostly concerned with finding a way for them to stay.

Yet the majority of both groups of voters support offering asylum to refugees fleeing war and violence. That’s one reason why DeSantis’ use of Venezuelan migrants, who may be fleeing a repressive socialist dictatorship, could prove to be a risky move among the wider electorate.

It remains unclear whether this scorched-earth republicanism, parallel to Trump’s populist rhetoric, is a recipe for winning the general election.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton suggested in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday that this relentless attack policy was designed to “scare” people. Democrats, he argued, were trying to solve people’s problems — but that’s a goal with its own significant challenges.

“It’s harder to build a barn than to tear one down. And then when you build it, you have to explain what you built and why it’s a good thing to put your animals in your barn,” Clinton said. “It’s more difficult, but definitely worth it.”

While DeSantis appears to be eyeing a future presidential bid by deliberately enacting policies that anger Democrats, Graham is more curious.

Some Republicans in Washington have barely contained their frustration with him for imposing a new position on the GOP to defend, just as they try to contain the political damage caused by the Supreme Court’s decision. But Graham was unrepentant during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Here’s what I would say to the Republican Party: don’t be afraid. Defend the baby,” Graham said. “When you’re asked about abortion, the answer can’t be ‘I’d like to bring inflation down.’ Give a logical answer.

Sign of the political sensitivity of the issue, Republican Senator from South Dakota, Mike Rounds, would not approve of his colleague’s proposal on the “State of the Union” on Sunday.

“I think the states are in a better position to explore and find the right direction state by state.”

Rounds, however, did not break with DeSantis and Abbott on the other major issue on the right this week – immigration. Unity on this issue proves how much, much like Trump in 2016, it appears to be a mobilizing force for the GOP base in 2022 and beyond.