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The Biggest Loser

A Biden-Trump rematch in 2024 would get ugly.

Former President Donald Trump shakes hands with President Joe Biden at the former's inauguration on January 20, 2017. (Photo by Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The argument against Donald Trump from many of his rivals in the Republican nominating contest is that the former president will lose in the general election and drag his party down with him.

But the most effective argument in favor of renominating President Joe Biden on the Democratic side is that no one other than Biden can be relied upon to beat Trump.

The two arguments are in direct tension and will need to be resolved in the minds of the two electorates in the coming months. 

If Biden is so weak that among the GOP candidates, only Trump could lose to him, Republican voters will feel freer to take a chance on a lesser-known candidate. This is how Trump’s emphasis on corruption and his martyrdom serves his own electability argument. The system is so rigged that only I can survive it … 

But what if Biden keeps on as he has of late?

This week, Biden went out to Chicago to give a “major” speech touting his economic agenda. Even by Biden’s standards, it was a mess: mumbled incoherence punctuated by shouting. It was a marked decline from his State of the Union speech in February and he managed to twice confuse Iraq and Ukraine in the 24 hours before the speech. And the big media takeaway seemed to be that Biden uses a machine to treat his sleep apnea. Or, how about bolting up and padding off stage as he wrapped up a bit of nuzzling styled as an interview on daytime MSNBC. 

After weeks of hearing about how Biden doesn’t do interviews and is hiding from the public, the campaign got the man himself back out there. All of those things would be fine as one-offs. Certainly there are plenty of interviews that I would have loved to have walked out on … But taken together? Woof.

Neither is Biden willing to listen to his advisers’ advice about how to mitigate the damage being done by having his scandal-plagued son, Hunter, around. 

Here’s the report from NBC News’ Carol E. Lee

“For Biden, keeping his son—a recovering drug addict—close means keeping him safe, people close to the president say. Behind the Hunter Biden photo-ops and the state dinner invitations, they say, is an existential concern that weighs on the president daily: If he loosens his grip on his son, who or what will replace it—and to what end? ‘It’s consumed him,’ a person close to the president said.”

Biden had recently ticked back up in his job approval ratings from the truly dire numbers of the spring, but 42 percent is still the pits. As a loving father, he undoubtedly wants to encourage and show pride in  his son. As an accomplished man, he certainly resents hearing constantly about how he’s hiding from the press and the public. But when he acts on these feelings, it makes matters worse.

We’re two months into Biden’s official re-election campaign and the idea that he can “finish the job” seems less probable now than it did before. Picturing the Biden we heard this week on a debate stage with Trump, cruel, dishonest, and quick, is a ghastly thought.

The wisdom of Biden’s decision to run for re-election seems more dubious now than it did in the spring. More dubious still is the campaign’s decision to try to keep putting Biden out front, which reinforces rather than reduces concerns about his fitness. 

As the Republican contest heats up at the end of this summer, Trump will face even more painful challenges about his fitness for office and viability as a candidate. Standing with Trump the defendant and picking Trump the defendant for a nominee are two different things. 

But for now, the probable rematch between the two looks at least competitive. A new Pennsylvania poll that shows 57 percent approval for the commonwealth’s Democratic governor shows Trump 1 point ahead of Biden in a hypothetical matchup with a relatively modest 7 percent undecided. There’s lots of evidence to support the idea of a Biden blowout against Trump, like this 9-point banger out of Wisconsin.

Indeed, you can find a poll at this early date to tell whatever story you’d like about a 2020 rematch. But there’s enough time between now and then to render any hypothesis inoperable. What matters for now is what primary voters think will happen.


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT

Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 42.4%
Average disapproval: 53.2%
Net score: -10.8 points 

Change from one week ago: no change                        
Change from one month ago: ↑ 2.8 points

[Average includes: Emerson: 41% approve-51% disapprove; NPR/PBS/Marist: 47% approve-49% disapprove; Quinnipiac: 42% approve-54% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 40% approve-54% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve-58% disapprove]

Polling Roulette



TIME OUT: CLOSE TO THE BONE

New York Magazine: “‘We were a bunch of idiots from the city,’ says John McFadden Jr., pointing to a time-faded photograph mounted on the back wall at Staubitz Market, the city’s oldest butcher shop. It opened in 1917. The photograph was taken in 1987. … There are other photos in the shop. Behind the counter, various large pictures of the butchers—from 1920, 1980, 1990, and 2007—testify to the longevity of the institution. A wooden booth in the back corner is as old as the store itself. Once, a cashier sat inside, ringing up a steady stream of customers. Now, it’s mostly used by one of the shop’s six employees as a place to eat lunch in solitude. Although its history is long, the butcher shop’s future might be short.  …   Not that its many customers would have noticed: The butcher case is as full of tenderloins and rib eyes, homemade sausages, and Canadian chickens as always. Hunks of parmesan cheese — cut to order — still sit on the counter.”



DESANTIS ON THE ROCKS IN GRANITE STATE
Politico: “For several months this year, Ron DeSantis seemed poised for a breakthrough in New Hampshire. … But in the month since DeSantis formally entered the presidential race, he’s stumbled in the first-in-the-nation primary state. … There are signs that even inside DeSantis’s orbit, they see New Hampshire as a challenge. The super PAC that’s effectively running his operation has been off the air in New Hampshire since May—temporarily, its founder told POLITICO—while running a new ad in Iowa and South Carolina this week. … And DeSantis’ visit to the state Tuesday is being met with backlash from a major Republican women’s group. … Out of the four early voting states, libertarian-leaning New Hampshire was never the most logical fit for the conservative, culture-war wielding Florida governor. … But as the leading contender against Trump nationally, expectations for DeSantis remain sky-high—even in New Hampshire.” 

New Hampshire Poll: Cristie, Scott Gain Ground: Yahoo: “Former President Trump holds a 28-point lead over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in New Hampshire, according to a new Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll. … DeSantis … saw his support fall by 10 points, bringing it down to 19 percent overall in the new poll. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) trailed in third place at six percent support, while former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley garnered five percent support. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott (R) clocked in at four percent support…”

With massive warchest, Scott builds Iowa momentum: Inside Elections: “While Trump and DeSantis have both ceded their paid media efforts to friendly super PACs, Scott is spending directly from his campaign account. That gives him access to significantly lower advertising rates than super PACs. For instance, in the Des Moines media market, both Scott and the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down spent roughly $390,000 on broadcast TV ads between May 22 and June 27. But when measured by gross ratings points—the industry standard for advertising impact—Scott’s purchase was four times larger than the DeSantis super PAC’s: 3,913 points to 968 points. Each of Scott’s dollars had quadruple the value of the super PAC. … In first-in-the-nation Iowa, Scott has been the top advertiser on broadcast TV over the last month, and recent polling suggests he is on the rise.”

Super PAC pseudo-campaigns bigger than ever: Politico: “Super PACs have been growing in strength for more than a decade, but this cycle are swimming in more money than ever. They have started earlier, with more than $14 million in independent expenditures in the primary already, according to federal data, compared with around $950,000 at this time in 2015. … Some of the new strategies could test the legal limits on coordination between campaigns and super PACs … No campaign appears to have benefited as much from a super PAC so far as DeSantis’. [Never Back Down’s] embrace of his candidacy is underwritten by more than $110 million in funding … Never Back Down staffers regularly work DeSantis’ events in early voting states …” 

Trump diverts fundraising to personal legal fees: New York Times: “When Mr. Trump kicked off his 2024 campaign in November, for every dollar raised online, 99 cents went to his campaign, and a penny went to Save America. … Now his campaign’s share has been reduced to 90 percent of donations, and 10 percent goes to Save America. The effect of that change is potentially substantial: Based on fund-raising figures announced by his campaign, the fine-print maneuver may already have diverted at least $1.5 million to Save America. And the existence of the group has allowed Mr. Trump to have his small donors pay for his legal expenses, rather than paying for them himself.

Pence trip to Ukraine sharpens contrast with GOP candidates: ABC: “In a dramatic move to differentiate himself on a key foreign policy issue, former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday made a surprise trip to Ukraine, projecting solidarity against Russia in a way, so far, unmatched by his Republican competitors. His message in Ukraine was clear: ‘We are with you.’… The purpose of the trip, it appears, was for Pence to position himself as the most experienced and best prepared for dealing with critical affairs on the world stage … Pence has repeatedly criticized Biden for being ‘slow’ in providing military aid to Ukraine as well as the Republican front-runners in the race for president for resisting support to the Eastern European democracy. … While solid majorities of Americans still support providing weapons to Ukraine, the share who say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine has steadily increased since the war began, driven by a shift among Republicans.”

DEMS START TREATING RFK JR. AS A SERIOUS PROBLEM

Atlantic: “Most people are just now discovering the breadth and depth of Kennedy’s belief system. He has promoted a theory that Wi-Fi radiation causes cancer and ‘leaky brain,’ saying it ‘opens your blood-brain barrier.’ He has suggested that antidepressants might have contributed to the rise in mass shootings. … On the campaign trail, he paints a conspiratorial picture of collusion among state, corporate, media, and pharmaceutical powers. … Kennedy is spinning up a more diverse web of supporters: anti-vaxxers, anti-government individuals, Silicon Valley magnates, “freethinking” celebrities, libertarians, Trump-weary Republicans, and Democrats who believe Biden is too old and feeble for a second term. … Even though Kennedy remains a long-shot candidate, his presence in the 2024 race cannot be ignored.” 

‘Soft’ Latino support threatens Biden in battlegrounds: Axios: “Progressives are warning that what they see as poor messaging on the country’s economic gains is weakening Latino support for Democrats, including President Biden, in Nevada and Arizona — two key battleground states. … [Focus groups find] Latino voters in both of those states expressed only ‘soft’ support for Biden, adding that he did not do anything to help them or their families … Democrats aren’t reaching out often enough to Latino communities to tout their accomplishments, says Tory Gavito, president of Way to Win. Gavito adds that Democrats and the Biden administration need to be more proactive instead of just attacking Republicans on other issues.”

Hollywood tries to recast Biden as a leading man despite his age: Wall Street Journal: “[Jeffrey Katzenberg] has joined with other advisers in counseling President Biden to ‘own’ his age and turn it into an asset… If Harrison Ford, 80 years old, can star in a new Indiana Jones movie and the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who turns 80 next month, can strut around a stadium stage, Katzenberg says, then Biden should lean into his longevity as a sign of wisdom and experience while offering a sense of humor about it. … There is little doubt Katzenberg can get big donors and celebrity surrogates on the phone. The bigger question for Katzenberg—and for Biden’s political fate—is whether [he] can help solve the president’s deeper challenges, including…a lack of enthusiasm among both young and working-class voters.”

MAGA VS. NRSC IN CRUCIAL MONTANA PRIMARY

Wall Street Journal: “Steve Daines (R., Mont.), the head of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, threw his support behind military veteran and businessman Tim Sheehy, who announced Tuesday that he would run for Senate in the state. His entrance could put the party on course for a contentious primary fight. … Sheehy’s entrance into the Montana race could pit him against Rep. Matt Rosendale (R., Mont.), who has privately been testing the waters for a race. … ‘Congratulations to Mitch McConnell and the party bosses on getting their chosen candidate,’ Rosendale said on Twitter… Daines’s position could thrust into the open rifts inside Montana, where Rosendale has his own base of support but where other establishment Republicans support Sheehy. … National Republicans have also been turned off because Rosendale lost his 2018 race against Tester, and they worry that a rematch would end in another Republican defeat.” 

Obama-Trump voters propelled Fetterman to victory: Ruy Teixeira and Nate Moore: “The Fetterman campaign did better in counties with larger increases in GOP voter registration—and by extension, counties with many Obama–Trump voters. … Many national Democrats have written off these voters, but the 2022 Senate race proves a chunk of rural white working-class voters will indeed support a Democratic with the right aesthetic and messaging. … Despite his extremely limited campaigning, Fetterman generated a more enthusiastic response from his respective base. Oz’s struggles with the base included 126,000 fewer rural votes than Trump, half of which could have erased his margin of defeat. Just as Democrats must work to earn back the votes of the rural working class, Republicans must not take their growing success among the group for granted.”

BRIEFLY

Abortion grows in importance among religiously unaffiliated—FiveThirtyEight

Kentucky GOP gubernatorial nominee faces donation scandal—AP

SCOTUS rejects novel elections theory—NPR

Louisiana on track for a second majority-black district—Politico

Manchin, Tester break with Biden as election approaches—FiveThirtyEight

WITHIN EARSHOT: WOBBLY 

“I’ll look at what, what was it, what did you call it, a weeble?”—Miami Mayor and GOP presidential candidate Francis Suarez expresses ignorance about China’s Uyghur population in a radio interview. 


MAILBAG

“In all honesty, I’m inclined to gravitate toward [Jonah Goldberg] and [Kevin Williamson], but your summary of our broken primary system was concise, erudite and intuitively accurate. It was, as a result, depressing. Integrity and honesty haven’t been co-opted by  the left or right, so they mean what they have always meant, but it doesn’t matter because so few of us care. Thanks for your insights. (I’m paying attention now).”—Bill Montei, Madison, Wisconsin

I’ll take it! Welcome aboard, Mr. Montei. I hope you enjoy your stay, depressive analysis notwithstanding. 

“I would not be surprised if Will Hurd is getting into the race to get some early exposure in anticipation of challenging Cruz in the 2024 Texas Senate primary, or maybe even before switching parties or running as an independent or third party candidate in the general election for Cruz’s Senate seat. Can he win?  I don’t know.  Beto O’Rourke only lost by 1 percent, and Texas is an increasingly urban and suburban state.  Who knows if pandemic/remote-work migrants to Texas would prefer Hurd to Cruz. Keep at it and you may just make me a convert to Stirewaltism after all.”—Doug Berman, West Jordan, Utah

Pretty, pretty, pretty good, Mr. Berman … I try to take people at face value until they prove otherwise, so I will grant the former congressman the benefit of the doubt and say that he is sincerely running a quixotic presidential bid to help his party and the republic. Whether he achieves that or becomes another bystander at a 2024 weenie roast is up to him and the voters. Buuuttttt … that doesn’t mean people do not have multiple reasons for doing things. And I can certainly see how a presidential run could set him up for higher visibility in his home state. But the corner he’d have to turn looks pretty tight to me. He’d have to get some traction and then be out of the presidential election in five months or so. The primary filing deadline for Senate is Dec. 11. Doable, maybe, but very tight. As for an independent Senate bid, it seems like Democratic Rep. Colin Allred is building his candidacy around appealing to independents and Cruz-disaffected Republicans. If Dems were running a wing-nut, maybe a third way would appeal. But if Allred goes the distance on the blue team, Hurd would have a hard time rationalizing a reason for a run. Lastly, O’Rourke’s Senate bid was promising, but his presidential run was a disaster for his home-state chances. His subsequent gubernatorial run was dragged down by his radical posturing to try to gain traction on the left in 2020. But I like the way you’re thinking!


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the dutiful Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


CUTLINE CONTEST: MAKE IT MILEY, BUT FOR MAGA 

Supporters celebrate as they find out that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump  won the New Hampshire primary during on February 9, 2016. (Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
Supporters celebrate as they find out that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump won the New Hampshire primary during on February 9, 2016. (Photo by Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

I am probably unfairly hard on rhyming and song-style entries because of my own personal shame at having been the kind of young reporter who once wrote the lede of a story about a postal handling center and the holiday rush in the style of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. But sometimes, they’re so good, even my self-conscious snobbery can’t keep them from the top. And our winner in this final week of the June contest full of strong entries *ahem* came in like a wrecking ball with his caption for a photo of a MAGA beer bust.

“So we put our hands up

Winnin’ elections, all the mules run away

We’re wavin’ our flags like, ‘Yeah’

Fomentin’ riots like, ‘Yeah’

Got our hands up, winnin’ elections

I know Trump’s gonna be okay

Yeah, MAGA party in the USA

Yeah, MAGA party in the USA”

Jonathan Mahlum, Orting, Washington

Winner, Crispy Boys Division:

“Oh dang!?! I actually like Bud Light.”—Richard Oliver, Panama City, Florida

Winner, ‘Who’s Gary?’ Division:

Ethel, tell me again who this young man is and why we’re here.”—Tom Walk, Greensboro, North Carolina

Winner, Ask Me Who Invented Irony Division:

“What could possibly go wrong …”—Dave Burke, New York, New York

Winner, Arthur Treacher Division: 

“Trump just announced unlimited tartar sauce for Fish Stick Fridays.”—Mitch Reed, Ballston Lake, New York

Winner, Moar Power Division:

“Make America Great Again Again AGAAAAAAAAAIN!”—Daniel Summers, Knoxville, Tennessee

Winner, Please MAGA Responsibly Division

“I won!  I had indictments over 1.5 on FanDuel!”—Paul Williams, Shaker Heights, Ohio

Which brings us to the final results of our June contest, and it’s not just recency bias, but pure performance in a very challenging month. Jonathan Mahlum wins it all with his entry this week. And by all, I mean a commemorative beer stein from the Trump Marina Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey (1997-2011). Please send in your address so you can toast your good humor as soon as possible! 

Now it’s on to July!

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


KNIGHTS WHO SAY ‘NENE’

BBC: “The third annual croquet match between Northampton and Peterborough is not your average regional derby. At stake is the right to pronounce the name of a river the way they want to – for the next 12 months at least. … Because in Northamptonshire, the 90-mile River Nene is known as the ‘Nen’. Over the border in Cambridgeshire, they call it the ‘Neen.’ … The Northampton croquet team won the inaugural match in 2021 – with Peterborough drawing level with a win in 2022. … ‘This year has been another incredibly tight match – there’s only a couple of hoops in it.’ … This year, Peterborough successfully defended their 2022 win, so – for the next 12 months at least – the UK’s 10th longest river will informally be known as the ‘Neen.’”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics. Nate Moore and Jae Grace contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.