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Do Phillips and Tlaib Have Biden in a Pincer Attack?

Rep. Dean Phillips (DFL-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) have Joe Biden in a bind. They have real power—the power to elect Donald Trump president, who will then carry out policies that both of them despise with a passion. Such is politics. Tlaib is attacking Biden from the left, primarily on Israel, claiming that Biden is engaging in a genocide of the Palestinian people. Yesterday, we discussed at some length what genocide is and is not. Phillips is attacking Biden more from the center right. If each one convinces 1-2% of the President's supporters that he is the wrong guy for the moment and they stay home and skip voting, that could be enough to sink Biden.

In a sense, Tlaib is both the more dangerous and less dangerous of the two. She is more dangerous because she is from the key swing state of Michigan, where about 5% of the voters are Muslims. She could singlehandedly flip the state from blue to red and elect Trump, who as president would tell Israeli P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu to bomb Gaza until all the Palestinians are dead, thereby actually triggering the genocide she is accusing Biden of abetting. On the other hand, her inflammatory rhetoric is surely going to make some Jews who weren't politically active go to ActBlue and send some money Biden's way.

Phillips has entered the New Hampshire primary. If he can beat Marianne Williamson, he could win it, causing headlines the next day like: "Rep. Dean Phillips wins the New Hampshire primary." For voters who are not paying attention and don't realize Biden wasn't on the ballot, it could convince them that the Phillips candidacy is real. Biden's main hope here is getting locals in New Hampshire to run a serious write-in campaign so Biden actually wins. Winning a write-in campaign is not impossible. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) did it in 2010 in her Senate race, and "Murkowski" is a lot harder to spell correctly than "Biden." She passed out flyers like the one below. Biden wouldn't need to do that.

Flyer Lisa Murkowski used in her write-in campaign

Phillips, who is Jewish, is not coordinating attacks on Biden with Tlaib. He probably doesn't even like her very much and has complained about the lack of love from progressives.

Phillips is a wealthy businessman and wants government to operate more like a business. He wants it to outline problems, propose solutions, and then carry them out. Unfortunately for him, running a gelato company is easier than being a congressman. In his company, he could decide that pumpkin was the flavor of the month and nobody would dare challenge him. It doesn't work like that in politics.

Both Phillips and Tlaib are being pilloried by other Democrats who see them as sanctimonious egotists who don't care about the Party's future. Both are being attacked for offending important Democratic constituencies. Phillips hasn't entered the South Carolina primary, which offends Black voters, and Tlaib has hugely offended Jewish Democrats. Democrats can ignore them at their peril. They represent cracks in the Biden coalition that the president needs to address. More on this tomorrow. (V)

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