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Biden's Running a Pretty Good Campaign...

When it comes to running for president, there is a very sizable number of cheap seats, and they all seem to be occupied. And so, there has been much criticism of Biden '24, despite the fact that the presidential election is still 463 days away.

The editors of The Washington Post thought it would be interesting to see what the paper's left-leaning columnists think, since they are (ideally) a bit more likely to see the big picture than many voters, activists, talking heads, etc. And they have a broad consensus that Biden is doing well, and is certainly the most electable Democrat in 2024.

You can read their remarks for yourself, if you have a WaPo subscription or if you clear your cookies and re-set the soft paywall. But here are the main themes of the remarks from Dana Milbank, Jennifer Rubin, Paul Waldman, Perry Bacon Jr., Ruth Marcus, Eugene Robinson, Greg Sargent and E.J. Dionne Jr.: (and note that we live in a very odd world when Rubin is now considered "left-leaning"):

You might notice that while the columnists were specifically asked about Biden's campaign, they spent virtually all of their words talking about Biden as a candidate. Fortunately, we are happy to fill in the gap. There are at least four things that Biden '24 is doing right now that appear very shrewd to us:

  1. Saving Money: Whereas the burn rates for both Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) are enormous, at least in part because they're both dealing with a bunch of lawsuits, Biden is largely banking his cash, which means keeping his staff lean and mean, and not spending on things like advertising. After all, he can have all the free PR he needs right now by virtue of the bully pulpit.

  2. Decentralization: In contrast to Barack Obama, Biden does not want all operations to be centralized, and controlled by his inner circle. He's happy to allow various organs of the Democratic Party, and various outside groups, to do some of the heavy lifting. Consistent with the previous item on this list, this saves money for the campaign. It also, perhaps paradoxically, allows more money overall to be spent, since PACs and party organs don't face the same contribution limits that individuals do. An actual presidential campaign blows through something like $1.2 billion these days, but Team Biden expects the total spend on his reelection, between the campaign and the outside groups, to be more like $2 billion. On top of all this, there are many situations where a group other than the official campaign is ultimately going to have the greater credibility. For example, those much-desired Latino voters are more receptive to overtures from, say, Voto Latino than from Biden '24.

  3. Running the Reagan Playbook: The only president of the last 150 years to run a campaign where age was a serious problem was Ronald Reagan (if we extend it to 200 years, then William Henry Harrison makes the list, too). Reagan turned this weakness into an advantage by joking about his age during the 1984 race, most famously his remark during the first debate with Walter Mondale: "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

    Biden was already a three-term senator by the time that exchange took place, and he undoubtedly remembers it well. So, it's not too surprising that the President has begun trying out various age-related jokes. For example, at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Biden quipped: "I believe in the First Amendment—not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it." Perhaps apropos to the President's habit of "borrowing" from other politicians, that is actually a reworking of a Reagan joke: "Thomas Jefferson once said, 'We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.' And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying." In any event, if Biden treats his age as an unserious problem worthy of a little gentle ribbing, that is almost certainly the best way to confront what is his biggest liability.

  4. Holding Back: In general, despite Democratic anxiety, Biden is avoiding much in the way of actual campaigning, except to the extent that presidential events, like appearing at the opening of a new microchip plant or giving a speech to a labor union, are also campaign events. Biden certainly knows that you cannot possibly win the presidency 450+ days out. But, if you make a misstep, particularly if you're someone prone to verbal gaffes, you could really shoot yourself in the foot.

What it amounts to is that Biden has been a politician for 50 years, and is about to become only the fourth person to wage a fourth campaign on a major-party ticket (joining Franklin D. Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush; the former pair actually both did it five times between presidential and VP runs). The President is behaving exactly like the veteran politico that he is. (Z)

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