IN WASHINGTON — To be clear, no one in the White House of Joe Biden would ever support Trump. To a person, they see him as a dire threat to the country. But as they saw Trump win Iowa and start the race for the Republican presidential ticket, they saw something else: a way to get a second term.
They think that a runoff against Trump is Biden’s best chance of getting re-elected in the fall. The past president is so divisive and harmful that Biden’s advisors think that having him on the November ballot would be the best way to get Democrats and independents who are unhappy with the president to support him again.
Because of this, some Democrats were torn this week as the Republican race began. They wouldn’t be upset if someone like Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, beat Trump. Haley has one chance to make it a race next week in New Hampshire. Democrats think Haley has many flaws, but they don’t think she would be as dangerous to democracy as Trump will be.
But she might be a bigger threat to Biden if she got the Republican nomination.The paradox reminds me of 2016, when many Democrats were not upset when Trump won the Republican nomination. They thought that the country would never elect a shady reality TV star who used racist arguments and insults in politics. Democrats are betting that the country won’t vote for a president who was defeated but has been charged with more crimes than Al Capone and led a violent mob to help him stay in power. People who were burned before aren’t so sure this time.
“I was not one of those Democrats who thought Trump would be easier to beat in 2016,” said Jennifer Palmieri, who was Hillary Clinton’s communications director when she lost to Trump. “Some Democrats support Trump. “I believe it would be better for the nation for him to lose the Republican Party and not keep getting stronger,” she said. She also said that she thought Biden could beat Haley or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis if Trump did lose.
It might not be so easy, though. Democrats could attack Haley for working with Trump as his ambassador to the UN and even as a Republican running for president who mostly avoided criticizing the former president and wouldn’t say no to voting for him if she won the vote.
But she might not be as dangerous to voters who haven’t chosen yet. Polls show that even most Democratic voters think Biden, 81, is too old for another term. Unlike Trump, who is 77, Haley, who is 51, would have an easier time making a case based on generational differences against Biden.
A poll from CBS News that came out on Sunday showed that at this point in the race, Haley was a better possible opponent to Biden than Trump. In a made-up race, she was 8 points ahead of the president (53% to 45%), while DeSantis was 3 points ahead of Biden and Trump was 2 points ahead.For the most part, Democrats stick to the “we’ll beat anyone, they’re all tainted by Trump” line. Since the 2022 midterm elections, the Democratic National Committee has been laying the stage by regularly attacking her and other GOP candidates running against Trump.
“We’ll be ready for Donald Trump or whatever MAGA extremist stumbles out of this process,” a Biden campaign spokesman said Tuesday.
Some Democrats think that Haley would be harder to beat, but they are much less worried about her winning than Trump, who has said that he would be a dictator for 24 hours and use his power to punish his enemies.
Lis Smith, who worked as a senior adviser for Pete Buttigieg in the 2020 Democratic primary, said, “Most Democrats I know are honestly terrified at the thought of another Trump presidency. That’s why you’ve seen President Biden and his team stress how dangerous a second Trump term would be.” “Haley may be doing better in the polls right now, but her numbers will drop when people learn more about her views and how she backs the GOP’s worst policies.”
In the past, Democrats have played games to see which Republican candidates would be easier to beat in the fall. This was an example of putting practicality against principle. Some Democrats backed far-right Trump supporters in the 2022 GOP primaries because they thought it would be easier to beat them in the general election. This was despite the fact that Democrats had been calling these kinds of candidates dangerous to democracy.
Democrats aren’t going to do anything like that again this year when it comes to the presidential election. Someone who works for Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), the democratic socialist who ran for president in 2016 and 2020, said, “If anyone is rooting for Trump, that’s crazy.” “Be careful what you wish for.” He definitely gets people excited about voting, which is why worries about Biden’s numbers are so important.
A former Republican adviser named Tim Miller is now one of the loudest Trump critics in his party. He told Democrats not to fool themselves into thinking they won’t have to deal with him again. “Dem strategists and reporters can think about the GOP process all they want, but the only important question for the Democrats is how to run a campaign against the dangerous candidate their opponents are planning to put forward,” he said.
Democrats can’t really say they didn’t see Trump coming like they couldn’t in 2016. Donna Brazile, who was in charge of the Democratic National Committee that year, said, “Team Clinton missed the chance to understand that a populist movement from the left or the right based on false facts, grievances, and white nationalism would not be fixed just by voting.” “But this is different,” she said. It’s “turned into a big cultural war with only two sides: you’re for Trump or you’re against him.” There’s no middle ground.
Biden has behaved as if he fully expects to run against Trump again, and he has made it clear that he only wants to beat his 2020 opponent. Someone just recently told him that he might not have run for a second term if Trump wasn’t trying to get back into office.
But Biden has also made fun of Haley. For example, he made fun of her last week during a speech in her home state of South Carolina for not saying that slavery started the Civil War when she was asked about it at one of her campaign town hall meetings.
Mo Elleithee, who used to work as a Democratic strategist and is now the executive head of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service, said it was pointless to try to guess which Republican would be better for Democrats. “The way our politics are split up means it will be close no matter what,” he said. “Quit planning who you’re going to run against and start focusing on the person you’re running for.” No matter what, the stakes will be high.