Give President Joe Biden credit for this much, especially in contrast to former President Donald Trump.
He knows where he doesn’t want to be and when it’s time to go.
This is why the Democrats outperformed in the midterm elections, and the Republicans look more like Trump’s circular firing squad than a confident ruling majority, however narrow.
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In the final weeks of the campaign, Biden has largely avoided the battleground states that will (eventually) determine which party controls the Senate. Instead, he backed Democrats in blue states who were on the hook because of crime and inflation, but where approval ratings for president jobs were just above the national average.
The two exceptions were Pennsylvania, where Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman had his own needs to ditch the spotlight and rely on proxies, and Florida, where the election wasn’t really in doubt, but Democrats wanted to see Biden slam the GOP with a Trump triple. and Governor Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) and Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.).
Two days after the election, a reporter asked Biden what he would do for Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) in a runoff against Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
“I plan to do what he wants me to do for him,” Biden replied, suggesting that might include continuing to stay away if it’s for the best.
Trump has been generous with his time, if not money, during his campaign, rallying Republicans in the toughest Senate races. Some of those candidates even won on Tuesday night.
But in doing so, Trump has often made races around himself, just as Biden and the Democrats wanted.
When Trump campaigned for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), headlines were about his exclusion of DeSantis from the rally lineup and the duel’s subsequent events. Since then, Trump’s rhetoric about DeSantis and other potential 2024 Republican challengers has turned untenable.
march l Hillbilly Elegy Author J.D. Vance was gripped by rumors that Trump would announce his third presidency at the event. Although Trump refrained from doing so, he vehemently mocked Tuesday’s announcement that is widely expected to mark the start of his 2024 campaign.
Either way, the coverage was dominated by Trump’s ambitions — precisely where Biden and the Democrats wanted it, but not the Republicans.
Vance and Rubio won anyway. Other Republicans are not so lucky.
Polls indicate that Biden played a smaller role than expected in the election. “Let’s be clear: This election is not a referendum,” the president told a Maryland Democratic National Committee rally, of all places, the night before the election. “It’s a choice. It is a choice between two very different visions of America.”
All this was returned to the Democrats electorally. Biden’s job approval ratings remain poor. These polls reveal deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, the impact of Biden’s policies on the economy, and the choices voters will face if Biden and Trump both run in 2024.
The midterm man ran for himself. The other tried to change the subject to almost anything else. The latter approach, to some extent, won.
The White House has steadfastly defended its approach to the midterm elections, arguing that cuts to Trump and former President Barack Obama during the campaign took a heavy toll on their parties in 2010 and 2018. Chief of staff Ron Klain asked an interviewer why anyone should be surprised they didn’t want to Repeating failed strategies.
In fact, they’ve stuck with what’s pretty much worked for them in the past.
Biden won the 2020 presidential election while holding a handful of events and making himself a rarity on the trail, citing the pandemic. He has been mocked as “Bedroom Biden” and “Hidden Biden”. But the end result was that it reduced his exposure and chances of slips. He is now on his way to becoming the country’s first eight-year-old president.
To be sure, the media allowed this strategy to work for Biden and Fetterman in a way it likely wouldn’t have been possible for a Republican in the same situation facing questions about age or disability. But lack of vanity is the starting point.
After months of legislative inaction, notably the failure of a multi-trillion dollar party rebuilding bill, Biden contracted COVID-19 and retreated into quarantine. The White House also reduced its involvement in the negotiation process for the Reconciliation Act.
The end result was a deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) that involved spending much less money and was rebranded as the Lower Inflation Act. It passed and Biden signed it into law.
That kicked off a flurry of legislative activity over the summer, much of it bipartisan, that led to a modest rebound in Biden’s approval ratings as disaffected liberals went home.
None of this speaks well of the vaunted Biden’s ability to lead. But he showed a willingness to follow through or get out of the way.
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Democrats have benefited.
Trump should pay attention, but he probably won’t.