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Thursday, September 29, 2022

OPINION:

No matter how the midterm elections fare, the looming 2024 presidential election forces thorny difficulties for the Democratic Party. The thought of running an unpopular and declining octogenarian against either Donald Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2024 takes elder abuse to an extreme — but like it or not, that campaign starts the day after the midterms (if not before).

President Biden‘s recent interview with “60 Minutes” made it painfully clear why his 2020 campaign emanated from the basement — and reminded everyone of his need to be handled with kid gloves by the media. One could hardly call it a fair fight between Mr. Biden and anyone, much less the GOP front-runners.


Yet Mr. Biden‘s option to tag out and allow a strong partner into the ring is hampered. His vice president, picked for gender and race rather than strength, brings abysmal poll numbers, a lengthy history of verbal linguine and a cackle that makes ears bleed — all of which cause extensive heartburn among insiders. Vice President Kamala Harris‘ turn as the border czar, along with the face palms she fosters at the microphone, provides little assurance that Ms. Harris brings strong acumen to the stage.

Furthermore, while Mr. Biden ran as a “basement candidate,” it remains unlikely that Mrs. Harris can repeat that strategy.

Without a strong presumptive nominee, the expected post-midterm announcement that Mr. Biden will not seek reelection will result in an open primary and prove extremely expensive for the Democrats. Replacing Ms. Harris with a strong candidate who can run as a presumptive nominee for the White House creates a Democratic conundrum. Ousting Ms. Harris will be tricky — and although many trot out Gavin Newsom for the role, he cannot be that replacement.

A white man replacing a woman of color? One hardly requires a biologist to see that train wreck.

As the election draws near, the winds favor a GOP victory in the House — and possibly the Senate. If the Republicans gain control of Congress, approving a new vice president may prove difficult if the Democrats wish to replace Ms. Harris. Should the country awaken on Nov. 9 with a GOP win, the Democrats must move quickly. Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would have to promptly lead the confirmation of a new vice president who not only checks identity boxes but could also be a formidable candidate against GOP challengers for the White House in 2024.

A GOP midterm victory sets the table for someone to replace Ms. Harris before the new Congress convenes in January. Failure to do so all but ensures that she will insert herself in the battle for the White House.

Should the GOP fail to win, the Democrats bought themselves a few months to install their candidate in time for the presidential election. By March, however, that new vice president will need to be firmly ensconced if there’s a chance of running that individual as a presumptive nominee with all the trappings of office. Otherwise, the Democrats remain saddled with Ms. Harris — or scrambling to explain why the vice president stays on the sidelines.

While replacing Ms. Harris seems preferable to an open primary or running her against any of the GOP frontrunners, the Democrats face a secondary problem. Only two potential candidates bring 100% name recognition and a formidable presence that could energize the party while also checking the identity boxes: Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Mrs. Obama remains unlikely. She has an uphill battle to prove her ability to win and govern outside her husband’s shadow. Furthermore, she faces intimidating GOP challengers as an unproven (and untested) candidate. Despite her husband’s (and her popularity), going onstage to single-handedly meet battle-tested candidates may prove daunting.

Despite already declaring she will not run in 2024, running as an incumbent vice president (or president in the event of Mr. Biden‘s declining health) is a game changer. Retracting her statement of not running would be simple for a woman who fabricated that Mr. Trump and the Russians stole the 2016 election.

Either way, the Democrats’ decision points are fast approaching. Hatred of Mr. Trump drove Mr. Biden‘s placement in the White House — to win, but not necessarily govern. Mr. Biden‘s usefulness now draws to a close, and the remaining choices reflect the Democrats’ failure to create a deep bench of talent.

As the clock ticks, the problem of Kamala appears to see the Democrats’ hopes (however reluctantly) resting on the pantsuits currently getting pressed at the cleaners.

• Author/columnist Peter Rosenberger hosts the nationally syndicated radio program “Hope for the Caregiver.” www.hopeforthecaregiver.com


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