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Tipsheet

WATCH: Pennsylvania Democrats' Savage Responses to Joe Biden's 2024 Announcement

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ABC News' Sunday show aired a package yesterday that might cause some heartburn at Biden headquarters.  It featured Martha Raddatz asking Democrat-leaning Pennsylvania voters about the president's job performance over the past two-and-a-half years, and gauging their enthusiasm over his just-announced re-election campaign.  Aside from some black senior citizens interviewed at a retirement center in Philadelphia, the lack of excitement over Biden is palpable throughout the report, with the only other adamantly pro-Biden voice being an elected Democratic official and an official Biden campaign surrogate.  Over and over, age came up as an issue.  And over and over, one of the few positive things people could muster about Biden -- from young progressives to swing voters in a bellwether county -- was that he's not Donald Trump.  

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That dynamic was basically sufficient for Biden to win in 2020, and to keep Democrats competitive in 2022.  Maybe if Republicans nominate Trump again next year, the motivation to defeat him will overwhelm any Biden-related misgivings or apathy among those who held their nose last time, too.  But overall, this is pretty bleak stuff for an incumbent who's just told the country he'd like four more years in office:


Quite a few 'oof' soundbytes in that segment.  What's interesting is that it seems as though Team Biden basically agrees that perhaps the only the way this unpopular president wins is if (a) he's up against someone even less popular, and (b) runs what might be described as the 2024 equivalent of a basement campaign.  That's why his pre-recorded, highly-produced announcement video was heavy on anti-'MAGA' rhetoric, and very light (basically nonexistent) on a positive, accomplishments-based message.  They have their talking points about achievements, of course, but the public isn't buying them, which is why Biden's approval rating is strikingly poor -- and even worse on individual issues, including the economy.  Biden's campaign wants 2024 to be a choice election, not a referendum on the incumbent.  Even better, from their perspective, would be a referendum on the other guy.  That's pretty clearly going to be the plan.  

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As I argued on television over the weekend, questions about the president's age are entirely legitimate.  It's less about age, per se, and more about performance.  If Biden were reading as sharp and spry, he could be 90 and it wouldn't draw as much concern.  He's fond of saying "watch me" to critics, and that's the problem.  We have been watching.  So has his team, which gives him step-by-step cheat sheets for basic functions, and limits his press interaction so dramatically that it's become a punch line.  Watching him does not inspire confidence, which is why the fact that he's already the oldest president in US history is a major point of discussion.  If he won a second term and served the full eight years, he'd be 86 upon leaving office.  In light of his stamina and cogency now, what might he look like half-a-decade from now?  The presidency is an intensive, full-time job.  It does not, or at least should not, involve bankers' hours:

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If he's not able to complete two full terms for whatever reason, the acceptability of his running mate as a plausible president is also a matter of great significance for voters to consider.  Team Biden is stuck with the Vice President for a number of reasons, identity politics being a major one of them.  But they know they've got a problem on their hands:

Top White House officials are rushing to the aid of Vice President Kamala Harris to try to shore up her underwhelming poll numbers heading into 2024. Harris' numbers are even worse than President Biden's (approval in the high 30%s versus low 40%s). Officials believe that could make her a drag on the ticket as Biden begins a reelection campaign that likely will boil down to a few tight states.  There's zero chance Biden will replace her on the ticket — doing so would be an admission that he botched the most important decision he made as a candidate. So the White House and campaign team are working to give Harris a boost — which her allies feel is long overdue...Harris' allies point out she has faced sexism and racism, and argue that the White House has not helped her enough. But detractors say her approval ratings are self-inflicted, and include some missteps in high-profile interviews...Biden will turn 82 before his second term would begin, and Republicans plan to argue that reelecting him could mean a Harris presidency.

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I'm not sure any sort of image rehabilitation project will work with this particular subject because the common denominator in all the issues and drama and dysfunction that have cluttered her career seems to be...well, her.  This is the conspicuously flawed ticket with which Democrats are evidently resigned to enter the next electoral battle.  It's certainly a choice.  We'll see if Republican voters will oblige the opposition by handing them the matchup they want -- and if so, we'll also see if Democrats' strategy of helping to select their preferred opponent works for them again.  I'll leave you with this:

House GOP candidates won the national 'popular' vote by roughly three points last year, exactly as the polling average predicted.  But that only translated into a thin majority, due to the distribution of those votes across the country.

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