Democrats start to plan Biden’s retirement

The calls are coming from inside the house. That’s the main takeaway from a painfully careful new piece about the president’s age by Mark Leibovich for the Atlantic. Leibovich, a well-connected Washington journalist, spoke to “ten official and unofficial advisers to the administration who have spent time around the president,” asking them questions like, “How is he holding up?” For the most part, fine, they say. But one senior administration official was less positive when he spoke to Leibovich recently: “He just seems old.”

Leibovich marshals this DC chatter to make the case that Biden is too old to run in 2024. More interesting than the (self-evident) merits of the argument itself is the timing of the piece: the latest in a cluster of chatter about whether Biden should seek four more years in the White House. This was the week that Biden’s suitability for a second term went from being the subject of furtive gossip among Democrats to an acceptable area of discussion.

AOC was strikingly non-committal when asked about backing Biden in 2024 on television on Sunday. The New York Times has now run a story on doubts over Biden’s second term based on “interviews with nearly fifty Democratic officials, from county leaders to members of Congress, as well as with disappointed voters who backed Mr. Biden in 2020, reveal a party alarmed about Republicans’ rising strength and extraordinarily pessimistic about an immediate path forward.”

A debate over the advisability of a second Biden term was inevitable. A seventy-nine-year-old president planning another six years in office is not something many people, whether Democratic official or American citizen, are likely to unquestioningly accept. Plus, Biden helped grasp the 2020 nomination with vague words about being no more than a “bridge” to the next generation. The noteworthy thing, then, is the timing of the debate: those Democrats keen to see the back of Biden in 2024 weren’t polite enough to wait until after the midterms to start the conversation. A sign, surely, of just how gloomy the future looks for the president’s party.

But starting the conversation sooner rather than later is also an acknowledgment of the lack of an appealing alternative. Were a competent and popular vice president waiting in the wings, a tidy 2024 switcheroo would be easy enough. But Harris has bombed and so there is no time to waste in the hunt for an alternative. In a recent Spectator piece, Billy McMorris speculated that the thin Democratic bench will ultimately be what saves Biden. As his presidency goes south, his ratings continue to plummet and the concerns are raised more frequently, I’m not sure the Democrats will see Biden as anything more than a placeholder: a warm body in the Oval Office while they scramble for a better option.

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Marco Rubio follows up on The Spectator’s Fauci reporting

In his investigation for the June issue of The Spectator, Ashley Rindsberg unearthed some alarming emails from the early days of the pandemic. The communications between Harvard faculty, Anthony Fauci and the CCP-adjacent, heavily indebted Chinese property firm Evergrande coincided with an abrupt about-turn in the medical establishment’s view of the idea that Covid-19 might have originated in a laboratory. Rindberg’s reporting raised all sorts of important questions, including over whether Chinese money has undermined the objectivity of the US medical establishment. One reader to have raised his eyebrows while reading The Spectator instigation was Senator Marco Rubio. Rubio has written to Harvard president Lawrence Bacow for more information. We look forward to his response.

Trump is worried

Prediction markets may or may not be the best way of forecasting the political future, but it is nonetheless noteworthy that this week saw Florida Governor Ron DeSantis overtake Donald Trump and top the list in the Predictit market for who will win the 2024 election. It is a minor data point, but of a piece with other signs that the former president’s power and political appeal is ebbing. Add to that list the news that, according to CNN’s Gabby Orr, Trump is weighing whether to announce his 2024 plans before the midterms.

Orr writes: “The prospect of Trump launching a third bid for the White House as an end-of-summer or October surprise has worried many of these allies, who think the timing is premature. More than ten Trump confidants, advisers and aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they have personally advised the 45th President to hold off on a formal campaign launch until next year.” Whatever the merits of Trump announcing early, it is hardly a sign of strength that he feels he might need to do so.

What you should be reading today

Lewis M. Andrews: The post-Covid mental health crisis
Stephen L. Miller: We are governed by Twitter
Cockburn: Nancy Pelosi on drag
Michael Kimmelman, New York Times: How Houston moved 25,000 people from the streets into homes of their own
John Authers, Bloomberg: So now we have clarity. The world has changed
Elise Labott, Politico: How Biden came around to MBS’ plan for a new US-Saudi partnership

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.6 percent
Disapprove: 54.4 percent
Net approval: -14.8 (RCP Average) 

Pennsylvania Senate race
Mehmet Oz (R): 37 percent
John Fetterman (D): 46 percent (USA Today/Suffolk)

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