This week, President Joe Biden formally launched his 2024 reelection campaign. He did so with a three-minute video in which he did not appear on camera speaking for more than two seconds at a time; the highly produced video instead utilizes audio of Biden over fast cuts of Normal Americans (TM) doing Normal Things (TM). Biden's message is simple: "Finish the Job."
But what, precisely, is the job? Biden's first term record is abysmal: a 40-year inflation high, now baked into the price structure; systemic weakness in the banking system, brought about by the necessity of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates; an out-of-control debt problem that will only appreciate over time; a collapsing Middle East in which a serious war is now the most likely outcome; an emboldened China casting its eyes upon Taiwan; a Europe unsure about American leadership despite the war in Ukraine; an Afghanistan turned over to eighth-century barbarians, with hundreds of Americans still behind enemy lines and 13 American service members murdered; and a social fabric frayed beyond recognition by the insistence on racial "equity" and the false malleability of sex itself, especially for children.
Biden's record is one of the worst for any first-term president. His "Finish the Job" slogan sounds more like a threat by a movie villain than a guarantee of future prosperity.
Joe Biden has nothing to run on.
Nothing except former President Donald Trump.
His announcement contains zero actual accomplishments of his first term. Instead, his entire campaign will be rooted in the same message as his first campaign, and the Democrats' 2022 campaign: Vote against Republicans -- and by Republicans, they mean Trump -- or democracy will be imperiled. "That's been the work of our first term," Biden intones. "To fight for our democracy ... But, you know, around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on these bedrock freedoms." By MAGA extremists, of course, Biden doesn't just mean people who attempted to prevent certification of the 2020 election. He means anyone who opposes his agenda. "When I ran for president four years ago," Biden mumbles, "I said we were in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are."
This campaign strategy rests almost entirely on Republicans nominating Trump. In 2022, this message resonated only in areas that nominated Trump-lite candidates, from Georgia to Pennsylvania to New Hampshire. In New York and Florida, where Republicans ran more traditional Republican candidates, Democrats lost seats. Gov. Brian Kemp, who did not bow to Trump's pressure in Georgia, won reelection handily; so did Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida, who ran on his record of accomplishment and freedom in the state. Democrats' "Democracy Dies in Darkness" sloganeering only carries weight when Republicans allow it to do so.
Will Republicans hand the 2024 election to Biden? They very well could. Right now, Trump leads in the Republican primaries, despite attacking his nearest rival, DeSantis, almost entirely from the Left: bashing DeSantis' record on COVID-19, slamming entitlement reform, criticizing DeSantis' battle against Disney's corporate social engineering. Trump has been unfairly targeted by political opponents to be sure -- Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg's case against Trump over a 2016 payoff to former porn star Stormy Daniels is a legal joke. But that doesn't mean that Republicans are likely to benefit from a campaign revolving around Trump's legal troubles and his persistent focus on the supposedly "stolen" 2020 election. In fact, Trump has yet to answer the most basic question he himself has raised about his electability: If, as he states, the 2020 election was stolen through voter fraud and falsification, how does he plan to overcome that problem in the 2024 election?
The polls show a consistent pattern: If Trump is the Republican candidate, Biden is more likely to win. It is difficult to imagine millions of Americans switching their 2020 votes in precisely the opposite direction. Indeed, polls currently show Biden beating Trump by an average of 3.1%, while losing to DeSantis by a slim margin. Trump currently trails Biden -- a president with an approval rating in the low 40s -- in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Joe Biden wants Trump. His entire campaign is built around Trump. Perhaps, like Hillary Clinton, he'll get more than he bargained for. But Republicans don't need to take that gamble. And they're clearly running a higher risk of a Biden second term if they do.