How to beat Democrats

William Otis started with …

The Biden Administration is a disaster for the country and — more to the point for purposes of this entry — the Democratic Party. Take a look at the Real Clear Politics averages. By more than four-to-one, Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. In the Monmouth poll, admittedly the most dire of the bunch, 87% think the country is headed in the wrong direction and only 10% disagree — the worst numbers I’ve ever seen in more than 50 years of following politics. Less than 40% approve of the President’s performance while 57% disapprove. And in the three polls RCP reports after the Dobbs decision was handed down to Biden’s loudly announced consternation, his approval is worse than in the polls taken before.

The reasons Biden is doing so poorly are widely understood so I’ll reprise them only briefly: A cowardly and precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan that cost American lives; a major war in Europe our “diplomacy” failed to avert; an increasingly aggressive and dangerous China with its sights on Taiwan; inflation at a 40-year high and visiting itself on your pocketbook in ways so ubiquitous and relentless the press can’t fuzz it over; supply chain shortages in everything from semi-conductors to baby formula; race huckstering and racial antagonism getting stoked as Biden looks on (or abets); murder surging across the country to levels we haven’t seen in a generation; an illegal immigration crisis at the southern border the Administration sort of acknowledges but seems unable or unwilling to staunch; and drug overdose deaths at levels (over 100,000 last year) unseen in American history.

When you look at that record, the surprising thing is that Biden’s approval is at anything close to 40%. And it very likely won’t be for long; after a slight uptick in April and early May, it’s been all downhill. The three most recent reported polls, all taken this month, have his approval at an average of 36.7%. To my knowledge, no President has been re-elected with numbers like that.

So what should the Republicans adopt as their 2024 strategy? That’s easy: Make the election what elections usually are when an incumbent administration is seeking a second term, to wit, a referendum on that administration.

And what should the Democrats adopt as their strategy? That’s also easy: Talk about something else. And what are they going to talk about? That’s easy too, since they tell us every day. Just watch CNN or read the Washington Post or the New York Times.

What the Democrats talk about, with some asides about how it will be impossible for a raped 10 year-old to get an abortion anywhere this side of Mars, is January 6, and in particular how Donald Trump nearly pulled a coup. Indeed, with the record Biden is compiling, that’s already the main thing they’re talking about, and they’ve talked about it and talked about it for months.

So what’s the smart move for Republicans to counteract that strategy? Easy again: Nominate someone other than Donald Trump. And note that this is the right answer even if you believe, as I do, that Trump did good and important things for the country, particularly in re-shaping the Supreme Court — a step forward for American law and governance likely to have benefits for a long, long time. Or lowering taxes. Or supporting our soldiers rather than putting them in classes about which cisgender pronoun they need to be using.

The basics here are clear. The Republicans have candidates who will carry forward most if not all of Trump’s substantive policies while leaving behind his unfortunately serious failings in character and personality — failings that crystalized on January 6 and that are, to be clear, the Democrats’ only hope of victory.

Let me take the most prominent policy example, the Supreme Court. Yes, Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were fine choices, but also choices any Republican President would have made or, at the minimum, looked at very carefully. And any Republican will want to rein in taxes, cut back on the antic regulations of the administrative state, deal more soberly with immigration, and build a military more geared toward killing the enemy than gushing sensitivity about all 37 (or whatever) genders.

And there’s one other ingredient in the mix — age. Trump will be 78 in 2024. That’s the same age Biden was when he took office. Most of Biden’s failures can be laid to the fact that he’s little more than a conduit for the increasingly radical Democratic mainstream, and that he was never all that bright to start with. But age is a factor, as even his allies are starting to acknowledge. I worked in the White House for a time, and I can tell you that the presidency requires an enormous amount of energy, breadth, focus, and mental agility. Trump at 78 will have more than Biden, yes — but he won’t have enough. Aging does sometimes play favorites, but not to that extent. Apart from everything else, Trump will be too old to be President, just as Biden is too old now.

The good news is that we have a tremendous choice of candidates — combat veteran and Harvard Law graduate Sen. Tom Cotton (age 45), the remarkably successful Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (age 43), Mike Pompeo, Mike Pence and others.

If the Republicans nominate Donald Trump, they take a big risk that the Democrats will succeed in making the election a referendum on him. Given the woeful state of the country, that might not work anyway. But why take the chance? If the Republicans nominate virtually any of the other credible candidates, all solid conservatives, they keep the election a referendum on Biden’s administration (and this will be true even if Biden himself is not the candidate). On the present evidence, that’s an election they are all but sure to win.

UPDATE: There will be those who think that Trump “deserves” the nomination, because he was defrauded out of winning last time, and/or because he’s earned it in gratitude for the good things he did in office and/or for helping re-shape the Republican Party to broaden its appeal to working class voters and those who had become disaffected with standard-issue, Establishment-type candidates.

Along with Bill Barr, Andy McCarthy and almost every other astute observer, I do not think Trump was cheated out of winning. There was cheating to be sure, as there always is, but the case has not been made that it deprived him of enough votes to make the difference. But my conclusion that he should not be the nominee next time would be the same in any event.

Elections are not about getting mad or getting even. They are not about getting Cosmic Justice. They are about getting power. The only question serious people can ask themselves for the primary or on election day is which person and which party should wield the enormous power of the executive branch. Bill Buckley gave us the answer years ago: The reliably conservative candidate with the best chance of winning.

That is not Donald Trump. Putting to one side the question whether he is reliably conservative (his record on criminal justice was mixed, for example), Trump is the only candidate who would hand the Democrats a chance — indeed their only chance — of prevailing. As noted above, that would be to make the election something other than a referendum on their own performance. If that is the dominant issue, as it almost always is when the incumbent party is seeking four more years, the answer is going to be a big, fat “no.”

Let’s keep it right there. There is just too much chance a Trump candidacy would make the election a referendum about him, or at least would do so in the minds of a potentially decisive margin of voters. With a bevy of highly credentialed, young and fresh conservative candidates we can put forward, there is no sound reason to take that risk.

… and then added:

Today, I’m happy to report, the New York Times seems to have jumped on my bandwagon.

The Times’ story is here. For once, the Times isn’t hiding the ball in the fiftieth paragraph, and instead starts right off with the big news (emphasis added):

President Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party, with 64 percent of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll, as voters nationwide have soured on his leadership, giving him a meager 33 percent job-approval rating.

Question: When is the last time an incumbent administration has been returned to power with an approval rating of 33%?

Very good, class! The correct answer is never.

Widespread concerns about the economy and inflation have helped turn the national mood decidedly dark, both on Mr. Biden and the trajectory of the nation. More than three-quarters of registered voters see the United States moving in the wrong direction, a pervasive sense of pessimism that spans every corner of the country, every age range and racial group, cities, suburbs and rural areas, as well as both political parties.

My previous view was that if the Republicans nominate any reasonably formidable and credentialed candidate, they will very likely win. I may now need to amend that. With Biden so far underwater with so many segments of the electorate, the Republicans would very likely win with you, me or the man behind the tree.

For Mr. Biden, that bleak national outlook has pushed his job approval rating to a perilously low point. Republican opposition is predictably overwhelming, but more than two-thirds of independents also now disapprove of the president’s performance, and nearly half disapprove strongly.

The overwhelming disapproval among independents is probably terminal per se in a closely divided nation.

From the President’s point of view, the news doesn’t get any better:

Mr. Biden has said repeatedly that he intends to run for re-election in 2024. At 79, he is already the oldest president in American history, and concerns about his age ranked at the top of the list for Democratic voters who want the party to find an alternative.

The backlash against Mr. Biden and desire to move in a new direction were particularly acute among younger voters. In the survey, 94 percent of Democrats under the age of 30 said they would prefer a different presidential nominee.

So much for the idea that younger voters’ enthusiasm and energy would drag the Democrats over the finish line. Such dragging as will get done would appear to be in a different direction.

Jobs and the economy were the most important problem facing the country according to 20 percent of voters, with inflation and the cost of living (15 percent) close behind as prices are rising at the fastest rate in a generation. One in 10 voters named the state of American democracy and political division as the most pressing issue, about the same share who named gun policies…

More than 75 percent of voters in the poll said the economy was “extremely important” to them. And yet only 1 percent rated economic conditions as excellent.

We now know that 1 percent of Americans are on LSD.

Still, the Times is the Times, so it added this:

One glimmer of good news for Mr. Biden is that the survey showed him with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Donald J. Trump: 44 percent to 41 percent.

What it neglected to add is that incumbents polling less than 50% are generally considered by experts to be in big trouble. And what it added way down at the end of the story was that the margin of error in its poll is 4.1% — meaning that Trump and Biden are statistically tied.

I also thought this was revealing:

The Times/Siena survey of 849 registered voters nationwide was conducted from July 5 to 7, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion, which had been protected for half a century. The ruling sent Democrats into the streets and unleashed an outpouring of political contributions.

The Court’s decision in Dobbs was handed down on June 24, eleven days before the Times’ polling started — enough time fully to capture public reaction to the ruling. So it would appear, at least on this admittedly fragmentary evidence, that the supposed groundswell against Republicans on account of the Dobbs case is going to count for very little.

One other musing. Many of us have thought for some time that the NYT is less what we used to think of as journalism than it is the leading trumpet of the Ruling Class of the Democratic Party. So the question presents itself: Why is the Times running a story like this? I don’t know for sure, but I have a strong hunch that the honchos in the Party have concluded they’re going to lose if Biden is the candidate, and might lose big, so they are paving the way for his exit.

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