In public, just about all senior Democrats in Congress praise Joe Biden and say they want him to run for reelection. In private, it is completely different. They think he is too old to run but are scared witless that if he declines to run, Kamala Harris will get the nomination and lose to Donald Trump. Of course, if Biden says he is not running, instantly at least a dozen Democrats will jump in, so Harris' nomination is no sure thing, but it is certainly a possibility. That is a risk no senior Democrat wants to take. But none of them are willing to say this in public for fear of offending both Biden and Harris and showing the voters that Democrats are divided.
The situation on the other side isn't much better. Many Republican senators not only don't want Trump to be their nominee, they actively loathe him. At least with the Democrats, none of the senators hate Biden. They just think he is past his prime. We don't know when that is though. Don Lemon has thoughtfully informed us that for women it is in their 20s, 30, and 40s, but unfortunately hasn't told us when men are in their prime. Our best guess is it is when they are 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, or 97. Biden is none of these now.
Politico reporter Jonathan Martin talked to senior Democrats recently and got an earful. One senator said the Democrats had to get Biden off the "narcotic" of office. A governor said Biden wouldn't be able to do much campaigning. A House member demanded to know who else was out there and said that Harris isn't an option. Another member of Congress said he had spoken with Jill Biden about getting her husband to say that he had succeeded in saving democracy, so he could retire now. When the reporter asked if he could quote the lawmaker, the response was "absolutely not." Jim Hodges, a former governor of South Carolina, said: "Politics has become not about what you want but what you don't want." And no one wants Trump and no one thinks Harris could beat him. If the veep were Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), who was of course Hillary Clinton's 2016 running mate, the conversation would be totally different, but it is what it is.
Martin asked a dozen Democratic governors who their choice would be if Biden hung up his hat. None of them wanted to go there. In fact, if Biden were to do that, some of those governors would jump in themselves almost immediately. Howard Wolfson, a longtime Democratic strategist, said that if Biden called it quits, "The field would be really large and really unruly and really divisive around racial and gender lines." Or: "After Biden, the deluge."
The only topic the Democrats were less happy to discuss than actuarial tables is his choice of running mate in 2024. Bringing up any criticism of a woman of Jamaican and Indian descent instantly results in attacks on social media of being insufficiently sensitive to racial and gender issues. Woe to anyone foolish enough to point out that Harris was a weak candidate in her 2020 run for the presidency and withdrew in early December, months before the Iowa caucuses, because she was not getting any traction at all. We're sure not going to point that out, that's for sure. But every Democrat in Congress knows that very well but is never going to say it in public. One white Democrat said that if Biden declines to run, the Congressional Black Caucus is going to have to tell Harris to forget about it, because no white Democrat could do that and have their career survive. (V)