On Monday, nearly the entire field of Democratic candidates for president appeared at an Iowa Democrats Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids. Notably absent was the primary frontrunner, Joe Biden, who seems to be on cruise control as his competitors battle it out for second place in the polls. Instead, the former vice president spoke at a fundraiser in Washington D.C., where he once again made clear that his focus lies not on his fellow Democrats, but on a potential general election showdown with President Trump.
“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change,” he said. “Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing.”
“These folks” to whom Biden is referring are the Republican lawmakers who have sold out their careers to support Trump.
Biden at a fundraiser tonight, on his desire to work with the Republican Party post Trump.
“With Trump gone you’re going to begin to see things change. Because these folks know better. They know this isn’t what they’re supposed to be doing."
— Sam Stein (@samstein) June 11, 2019
This isn’t the first time Biden has tried to stress to voters that the United States will transform into a bipartisan utopia if only someone could defeat Trump in 2020. During a campaign stop in New Hampshire last month, he said that Republicans will have an “epiphany” once Trump leaves the White House. “I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House,” he said. “Not a joke. You will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.”
This all begs the question: Does Biden actually believe this?
Either way, the answer is frightening. If he does believe that his “Republican friends” will come around, he is more woefully out of touch with the current state of politics than anyone could have imagined. If this is just something he thinks sounds good at campaign events, then he’s trying to gaslight Democratic voters into thinking that if they only vote for him — the old, smiling, white, male, Obama-friendly and infinitely electable one! — everything is going to be fine, and Trumpism, GOP obstructionism and Mitch McConnell and his shameless, win-at-all-costs politicking will vanish like characters in a nightmare the nation just woke up from. It’s Biden version of Trump’s 2016 claim that “I alone can fix it.”
Biden is selling Democratic voters on a glorious return to the Obama era, when, as everyone will remember, the Senate majority leader would never have dared stonewall a presidential Supreme Court justice nominee. In fact, on Monday night Biden referenced McConnell’s unprecedented decision to block the nomination of Merrick Garland as one of the reasons why the Republicans who went along with it will swell up with bipartisan goodwill as soon as Trump, their merciless captor, is defeated.
Per pooler @alexi: “Biden backed up the claim by recalling when he called 12 of his former Republican colleagues after Merrick Garland’s SCOTUS nomination was blocked by McConnell and they all expressed external concerns.”
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) June 11, 2019
Insane as this theory may be, Biden may be onto something if he’s just trying to win the Democratic primary. Many of his views, past and present — particularly in regard to race and women’s rights — are so far afield of the rest of the party that his best course of action may be to just hammer the electability issue and hope for the best. After all, according to a recent YouGov/HuffPost poll, 52 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning voters said that a candidate’s ability to defeat Trump is the most important factor, versus 38 percent who say they prefer a candidate whose values align with theirs. The margin is almost twice as wide among older voters, who overwhelmingly favor Biden.
Whether the former vice president is actually the most electable Democratic candidate is up for debate. At least for now, however, Democratic voters appear to believe this to be the case. Most polls have Biden pulling in nearly double the support of his next-closest competitor, Bernie Sanders (in most cases). He is also polling above Trump in most states, including a few conservative strongholds Trump easily carried in 2016. As the New York Times reported on Monday, this seems to have irked the president, who has told aides to “deny” polling showing Biden leading him in several key states.
On Tuesday, both Biden and Trump will be speaking in Iowa. Biden reportedly plans to continue to ignore his Democratic opponents and paint the race as a showdown of septuagenarians by labeling the president an “existential threat” to the United States. What Trump plans to say about Biden is anyone’s guess, but if Biden’s message continues to resonate, the president could be saying it again on a similar stage in Iowa this time next year.