President Biden launched his bid for reelection last week despite most polls finding that the majority of Democrats would prefer someone else be the party’s presidential nominee in 2024. The news came on the heels of an escalation of the investigation into Hunter Biden for alleged tax improprieties, while war drags on with no end in sight in Ukraine.
But Biden’s potentially biggest obstacle with voters heading into next year is how he has positioned himself with swing-state voters since ousting Donald Trump in 2020.
Biden unilaterally punished swing state New Hampshire by removing its first-in-the-nation primary status. Iowa’s caucus was a disaster in 2019, due to technical glitches, but New Hampshire had done nothing wrong to have its status revoked.
In the former first-in-the-nation’s place, Biden awarded deep red South Carolina with the honor of going first. The DNC quickly and with little debate approved the decision at their winter meeting in Philadelphia.
While Biden claims this decision was to lift up the voices of black voters, it is widely believed that the decision was a reward to South Carolina power broker Rep. James Clyburn for endorsing Biden three days before the state’s all-important 2020 primary election, a decision that machined Biden’s small single-digit polling lead into a massive nearly-thirty-point landslide victory on election night.
“You cannot overstate the impact of Clyburn on South Carolina Democratic politics,” Isaac Wright, a Democratic strategist and partner at the Forward Solution Strategy Group, said at the time.
Before South Carolina, Biden was reeling from a fourth-place finish in Iowa, fifth place in New Hampshire and second in Nevada. He desperately needed a strong performance in South Carolina to save his 2020 chances. Because of Clyburn’s endorsement, Biden’s campaign got exactly what it needed.
After Biden’s massive South Carolina victory, rival candidates Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Beto O’Rourk all endorsed Biden. This momentum pushed Biden to a big Super Tuesday victory, ultimately sealing his overall primary victory against next-closest rival Bernie Sanders.
Now, Biden appears to be rewarding Clyburn and South Carolina, even if it’s at the expense of swing-state voters and Democratic Party resources.
Simply put, there’s little reason for a prospective primary challenger to waste money in South Carolina when they are unlikely to defeat Biden there. Plus, the resources would all be wasted, as South Carolina has zero chance of voting for a Democratic presidential candidate in the general election. Biden benefits from South Carolina being the first to vote because it insulates him from a primary challenge gaining momentum in early states where Biden has traditionally struggled. No matter who may launch a primary campaign against Biden, the current president feels invincible in South Carolina, so long as Clyburn has his back.
And so, to protect Biden, South Carolina leapfrogs states like New Hampshire, where Biden has historically performed poorly.
Meanwhile, bordering South Carolina to the southwest is Georgia, a state that has very real general election implications. But the Biden administration never considered bestowing the first-in-the-nation honor to the swing state next door with more black voters, more Democrats, and a fighting chance to go blue in 2024. Not to mention, the White House’s silence after a peaceful demonstrator was shot fifty-seven times while sitting on the ground protesting the building of “Cop City” just outside of Atlanta, speaks volumes.
It gets worse.
In early March, after the toxic train wreck in red-leaning swing state Ohio poisoned a small town’s air and water, Biden visited Ukraine instead of showing up and offering aid to the critical swing state. And, some voters will surely remember, the derailment disaster happened only a few months after Biden sided with big business against rail workers by breaking a rail union strike and forcing a contract into place that didn’t concede to the workers’ most basic demands.
Unfortunately for Biden, East Palestine, Ohio is just across the border from another swing state, Pennsylvania. Residents there too are furious.
“Not to take anything away from the folks in East Palestine — they got the worst of it — but that cloud did not stay there,” said a western Pennsylvania resident.
In swing-state Nevada, establishment Biden-aligned Democrats intentionally sabotaged progressive Judith Whitmer’s term as leader of the state party and have recently ousted her to regain control of the party. Voters there overwhelmingly supported Sanders in 2016 and 2020, but when the progressive insurgent Whitmer won the election to lead the state’s party two years ago, the establishment did what it could to render her ineffective. Staff quit en masse. Party insiders transferred $450,000 out of the state party’s coffers to help their own personal allies in the state, unencumbered by Whitmer’s more progressive vision.
Nevada activists are now being asked to support an establishment wing of the party that intentionally knee-capped them.
It’s hard to consider Florida a swing-state now, after Trump’s win in 2020 and Gov. Ron DeSantis’s domination there in 2022. Nonetheless, Biden has done little to reconcile with the former swing state turned deep red oasis and even recently opened up the gulf to further private drilling, auctioning off 73.3 million acres of water – about the equivalent geographic size of the entire country of Italy.
Why would Florida Democrats want to fight for that?
At the same time, Biden recently approved The Willow oil drilling project in Alaska. The decision by the Biden Administration is an overt backtrack on a campaign promise. While campaigning in New Hampshire in 2019, Biden said he was “Totally opposed to it. Completely, totally opposed to it… No more drilling on federal lands. Period. Period. Period. Period.”
In swing state Arizona and potential-swing-state Texas, Biden created another unique 2024 problem. President Biden appointed Kamala Harris to be in charge of the border. But Texas and Arizona haven’t seen much of her, and little has changed at the border. It seems she was put in charge of solving the border crisis in the same way Jared Kushner was put in charge of solving the crises in the Middle East. Just this Sunday night, John Oliver took Biden’s Trump-like immigration policies to task:
In swing state Wisconsin, Biden has been a staunch supporter of the Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline, despite activists and indigenous populations decrying the pipeline. According to activists, the pipeline violates the treaty rights of Anishinaabe peoples and endangers a number of watersheds in the state. The fears are not unfounded. Enbridge, the pipeline company controlling the pipeline, is responsible for the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
Unfortunately for the Democrats, Biden is likely in a worse position in a majority of swing states now than he was when he defeated Trump in 2020. As things stand now, there will be no debates, no competition, and we won’t know if Biden is up for the job until he’s standing toe to toe with Trump or DeSantis on a debate stage.
Biden could give the Democrats a much better chance of winning in 2024 by announcing he’s not running, and instead is choosing to focus on the job at hand. This would give Democrats the opportunity to sort through candidates in a competitive primary season where a better option to defeat the Republicans could emerge. Trump is unpopular and the Democrats should take advantage, not rely on a just-as-unpopular status-quo.
This first appeared on ProgressiveHub.