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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Opinion | Biden Is Doing It All Wrong

BusinessOpinion | Biden Is Doing It All Wrong


Despite this math, scared candidates are, in my experience, easily sold the idea that the Democratic base or Republican base is going to stay home in November unless they are constantly fed what they want to hear. One call from the head of a religious group, a civil rights group, a labor group and others (often called “the groups”) and fear runs through a campaign. A New York Times article this winter about Black pastors warning the Biden White House that his Gaza war policy could imperil re-election is a good example. Maybe if Mr. Biden were running against a well-liked centrist opponent, concern could be justified. But during a fall election against Mr. Trump, the final month of this campaign is going to see a frenzy of get-out-the-vote efforts, and I doubt the Democratic base is going to sit idly by at the thought of the Trump limo cruising up Pennsylvania Ave. The reality is that swing voters in battleground states who are upset about immigration, inflation, what they see as extreme climate policies, and weakness in foreign affairs are likely to put Mr. Trump back in office if they are not blunted.

Consider some Democratic electoral history. Joe Biden got 81 percent of the vote in the Michigan Democratic presidential primary in February. He got roughly similar percentages in the Colorado, Texas and Massachusetts primaries — not too far below other incumbent presidents with a weak job rating. And yet for months, liberal commentators and activists pointed to the Michigan protest vote as proof that Mr. Biden is doomed in November over his Israel stance. But Michigan was hardly a repeat of the 1968 New Hampshire primary that effectively ended Lyndon Johnson’s re-election bid — Eugene McCarthy got 42 percent and that was a truly sizeable protest.

I believe most of the 101,000 “uncommitted” votes that Mr. Biden lost in Michigan will come home in the end because they have nowhere else to go, and the threat Mr. Trump poses will become clearer and scarier in the next six months. But regardless, there’s a much bigger opportunity for Mr. Biden if he looks in the other direction. Mr. Trump lost nearly 300,000 votes to Nikki Haley in the Michigan Republican primary. These people are in the moderate center, and many of them could be persuaded to vote for Mr. Biden if he fine-tuned his message to bring them in. And remember to multiply by two: convincing those 300,000 Republicans to cross party lines has the equivalent force of turning out 600,000 Democrats. The same math applies to other battleground states, like Pennsylvania, where 158,000 people voted for Ms. Haley instead of Mr. Trump in the Republican primary — even though she dropped out seven weeks earlier.

Unfortunately, Mr. Biden is not reaching out to moderate voters with policy ideas or a strong campaign message. He is not showing clear evidence of bringing in large numbers of swing voters in the battleground states at this point. Those swing voters look for fiscal restraint without tax increases, climate policies that still give people a choice of cars and fuels and immigration policies that are compassionate to those who are here but close the borders. The balanced budget remains one of the single strongest measures that swing and other voters want. Bill Clinton’s efforts to balance the budget set off the revolution that resulted in an eight-point win even with third party candidates in 1996 and catapulted his job approval ratings to above 70 percent. Instead of pivoting to the center when talking to 32 million people tuned in to his State of the Union address, Mr. Biden doubled down on his base strategy with hits like class warfare attacks on the rich and big corporations, big tax increases, student loan giveaways and further expansions of social programs despite a deficit of more than $1.1 trillion. The results that quickly dissipated.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has fundamentally miscalculated on Israel. Those Haley voters are strong defense voters who would back ally Israel unreservedly and I believe want to see a president who would be putting maximum pressure on Hamas to release hostages. By pandering to base voters with no choice, Biden is pushing the Haley vote to Trump and so his first instincts on Israel were both good policy and good politics. Eighty-four percent of independents support Israel more than Hamas in the conflict and 63 percent believe a cease-fire should occur only after the hostages have been released. The more Biden has pandered to the left by softening his support of Israel, the weaker he looks and the more his foreign policy ratings have declined. Rather than pull decisively away from Israel, Mr. Biden should instead find a plan that enables Israel to go into Rafah and that has enough precautions for Rafah’s civilians so the American president can back it.



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