It is hard to believe Joe Biden can possibly go through with this. He is no longer capable of doing a live press conference, and couldn’t even manage a live re-election announcement. National Review reminds us that in 2019 Biden apparently told confidantes that he’d be a one-term president, that it was “inconceivable” that he’d run again in 2024.
So what’s behind this? And why so early? Reagan didn’t announce his re-election candidacy until early in 1984, though Bill Clinton announced his 1996 candidacy in April 1995. Therein likes the the beginning of an answer. In April 1995 Clinton’s poll numbers were still in the tank after the GOP landslide in the 1994 election (the Oklahoma City bombing occurred a few days after Clinton’s announcement, and he proved himself the perfect demagogue, blaming it on Rush Limbaugh as you may recall), and it was not unthinkable that Clinton might have attracted a fatal primary challenge from another Democrat (most likely Jerry Brown). If Biden waited much longer, the chance of more potential Democratic challengers would grow every day, along with speculation that Biden wasn’t going to go through with it.
Right now his only real challenger (forget Marianne Williamson) is Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and he is showing surprising strength and agility one week in. The Rasmussen poll below is from two weeks ago, but shows that half of Democrats are open to a candidate other than Biden, including RFK Jr. (I predict Democrats and the media will ferociously turn on RFK Jr shortly):
Add to this a NBC News poll released Sunday showing 70 percent of voters do not want Biden to run again (which the NBC News account buries in its own writeup).
The other rational reason for Biden to announce now is to keep from becoming a lame duck and losing his already dwindling political clout. But the final reason is sheer vanity and ego on his part: after panting after the presidency for 50 years like Gollum after the Ring, he’s not going to give it up at this point—senility or not. But don’t discount the ambitions and self-interest of his inner circle, starting with his grasping wife, who know he is their meal ticket to power, and thus are happy to prop him up Weekend at Bernie’s style to preserve their own clout.
There is still a strong likelihood that Biden will end up following the path of LBJ and withdraw from the race at some point, handing off the nomination to Kamala Harris.
Footnote: This November will be the 60th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. Normally you’d expect this will be a major media event, but if RFK Jr is still nipping at Biden, it will be interesting to see whether the coverage of this anniversary changes. Even more unpredictable is how the media will respond if RFK Jr. goes full-conspiracy about it, which he is prone to do. Not clear whether that might help him with many voters, so supreme is the public distrust of our national security apparatus these days.
Chaser-teaser: Tucker Carlson/RFK Jr 2024?