The Narratives Are Taking Hold

Former President Donald Trump gestures onstage during a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, on April 27, 2023. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

Bread Basket

Does a vice president finally matter? Jeff Greenfield has a brilliant piece in Politico that they tell me I can’t plagiarize and pass off as my own. 

For those of you who have heard me explain to Steve Hayes and others why I was so confident that Biden would run again (over and over), my theory was pretty simple: He doesn’t have a choice. If he doesn’t run, the next question he’d have to answer is whether he’s endorsing his vice president: the person he chose and said was ready to assume the duties of the presidency, but whose performance has been so abysmal that nobody thinks she’d have a real shot of winning the general election. And there was no obvious “Not Harris” choice to fall back on, either, that would justify his betrayal of Kamala Harris. With Trump running, Biden had no choice but to jump back in as well. 

But Greenfield explores a much more interesting question: Is Harris a drag on Biden’s chances to win now? To start, he points out that there’s not much evidence that opponents have ever made any headway attacking a bad veep choice. Dwight Eisenhower—after a heart attack—had Richard Nixon (remember the Checkers speech?), Nixon had Spiro Agnew (and the famous “It would be funny if it weren’t so serious” ad), Bush had Dan Quayle (Potatoe, Potato). Even the more obvious example of Sarah Palin as McCain’s running mate has mixed academic research behind it. Greenfield cites two studies—one that found she “cost the ticket more than two million votes” but another that found she had “almost no impact on the vote.”

But it’s a little different this time around. 

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