But Biden’s Democratic allies say Biden’s ability to defeat Trump can’t be overlooked.
The idea of a Trump run is “weighing” on Biden, who will speak tonight on threats to American democracy.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California has been testing a message on “economic patriotism” that he thinks could resonate across the country. His name comes up as a possible presidential contender, and he says he’d like to play a larger role in leading the country.
But that will come later, “after we defeat Trumpism,” he told Insider. He’s backing President Joe Biden if he decides to run in 2024 — because he’s already proven that he can beat former President Donald Trump.
“The question is simply, who will be the best to defeat Trump?” Khanna said. “Obviously he has the advantage of having defeated him before. For those who are saying someone else, the metric should be, well, make the case of why they would be better to beat Donald Trump…and carry Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
Polls have shown most Democrats want a different presidential nominee in 2024. But Biden’s Democratic allies, who are concerned about the future of democracy, say Biden’s ability to defeat Trump can’t be overlooked as the twice-impeached, legally challenged former president appears poised to try again.
“If our focus is on winning, then going with the guy who knows how to beat Donald Trump is a pretty smart play,” Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, told Insider.
Eric Schultz, deputy White House press secretary during the Obama administration, said Biden being the only candidate in either party to defeat Trump is “not a small thing. And given Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP, that’s a fairly compelling credential.”
Biden has compared the “MAGA philosophy” that Trump espouses to “semi-fascism.” He will give a prime-time speech tonight on his concerns about threats to American democracy, hours after Trump told a radio show host that he is “financially supporting” and will look “very favorably” on pardons for those convicted of crimes related to the January 6 Capitol riot if he runs and is re-elected in 2024.
Biden’s sense of obligation to the country, himself and his family “would be even greater” if Trump decides to run, given what he’d be like if re-elected, said a Biden friend and former staffer, who declined to be named to speak candidly. “The obligation would be cataclysmic, existential, monumental,” the friend said.
Biden considers Trump and Trumpism an “existential threat,” said the friend, defining “Trumpism” as “mindless craziness.”
Khanna said the possibility of Trump running is “weighing” on Biden. “It’s not just the next generation of Republicans,” Khanna said. “It’s someone who literally has done so much destruction, damage to our democracy.”
Khanna is a progressive who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2020 presidential election and he said he would support him again. But even Sanders, an independent, said he would support Biden in 2024.
Biden, who is 79, has said he expects to run in 2024 if he is in good health.
If Trump doesn’t run, Khanna said, “I think it would be a different calculation” for Biden. But Khanna expects Biden to run, based on his conversations with senior officials in the White House and Democratic National Committee and the sense that Biden “understands the challenge we face with Donald Trump.”
A USA Today/Ipsos poll released on August 28 showed most Democratic voters (56%) think Biden should not run for re-election in 2024. In July, 64% of voters planning to participate in the Democratic primary in 2024 said they don’t want Biden to be the nominee. His age and job performance were part of the problem, according to the New York Times/Siena College Poll.
Former presidential advisor David Gergen told Insider that Biden and Trump should both sit out 2024 because of their ages. Younger candidates may be able to beat Trump, but they won’t get attention until it’s clear that Biden won’t be the nominee, he said. A Republican blowout in the midterms will put “enormous pressure” on Biden to step aside, he said.
Presidential historian Doug Brinkley agreed that as long as Biden believes he’s the best person, no one can see the alternatives.
At this point, Biden must have a “messianic streak, a feeling that ‘the country needs me,'” Brinkley said. Democrats are united in their opposition to Trump in power and “Biden’s the one that can say I already slayed that dragon and I’ll slay him again,” he said.
Biden wasn’t going to run in 2020, “for real,” he told the Associated Press. But he was persuaded when he heard the “other guy,” Trump, say there were “very fine people on both sides” during a violent clash in 2017 between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
Before running in 2020, Biden hosted the Delaware congressional delegation for a lunch in Washington, overlooking the Capitol mall and Washington monument, said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat. Biden laid out polling and advice from consultants that made a compelling case for him to run against Trump, Carper said during an interview last year. He was trying to decide what to do and said his wife Jill wanted him to run more than he did.
Carper said he told Biden then that Democrats needed someone who could win, unite the party and the country, and he was the only person who could do that.
“I’m not sure our democracy could survive another four years of Donald Trump, honestly,” Carper said. “And he was like the firewall to keep that from happening.”
Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, said Biden was open to the idea, then, that someone else could win in 2020.
“It was only after being persuaded that without him, Trump would be reelected, that he dove in and chose to run,” Coons said.
Coons said he watched the January 6 committee hearings closely and he’s worried about the future of democracy.
“I think we should be aware that former President Trump is likely to run again, is likely to be a strong candidate,” he said. “And we need to put up the strongest possible candidate we can from my party, and right now that candidate is President Biden.”
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