The race to the White House is – as ever – fraught with obstacles to be overcome, and this particular cycle seems filled with more hindrances than is usual. While former President Donald Trump’s impediments are primarily legal in nature, President Joe Biden’s run the gamut. There are at least four significant hurdles for the current commander-in-chief to leap if he has any hope of staying in the Oval Office after 2024. Whether he has the stamina, will, and support to deal with even one such stumbling block is a question worthy of examination.
Foreign Policy Fears
Second-term presidents are often in the unenviable position of being on their way out the door. Yes, they have earned goodwill in the most recent election, but they really have only a short time in which to accomplish domestic policy. As Barack Obama’s one-time Chief of Staff William Daley said regarding the last two years of his boss’ presidency: “After 2014, nobody cares what he does.” And yet, this is a time in which to cement legacies and reputations and – if young enough – to start plotting life outside the White House.
Shortly after Ronald Reagan’s second inauguration in January 1985, longtime presidential adviser Tom Korologos drafted a memo outlining what the second term meant. He wrote:
“It seems to me that the President needs to decide what his legacy is going to be … What is he going to be the most proud of when he’s sitting at the ranch with Nancy four and five years after his Presidency? Is it going to be an arms control agreement? Is it going to be a balanced budget? Is it going to be world-wide economic recovery? Is it going to be a combination of all of this: peace and prosperity? … Every speech; every appearance; every foreign trip; every congressional phone call and every act involving the President should be made with the long-range goal in mind.”
Domestically, presidents are often in a lame-duck position soon after their second win, but in the arena of foreign policy they have the power of kings.
For today’s American voter, the idea that Biden will turn the full force of his presidency to the world stage is potentially a fear factor like no other. Under his watch was the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan that stained the nation with the humiliation of a disorganized retreat. The president failed to act when Vladimir Putin amassed forces on the Ukrainian border, and then committed the ultimate faux pas of saying that minor incursions would essentially be tolerated.
To cap this off, Biden seemingly has done all he can to nullify the work done by former President Trump on the Abraham Accords, which were perhaps the most significant step toward Middle East peace in the last 30 years.
If this is what the Biden presidency has wrought in just three years, a lot of folks might wonder if the world can survive his brand of diplomacy when his focus is turned to foreign escapades almost exclusively. As former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of Biden’s long political career, “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
A Conviction Concern
Donald Trump is beating President Joe Biden in the majority of polls, resulting in a RealClearPolitics average 2.3% lead for the likely GOP nominee. More specifically, 45 is well above 46 in the all-important swing states. Polling shows that Trump will take the prize this coming November – unless, that is, he is convicted of a felony from the 91 counts currently held against him. Should he be found guilty, these same polls suggest he would lose roughly 6% of his overall support. When one has to rely upon the criminal conviction of one’s opponent to even scrape through to the finish line, there is assuredly a level of unpopularity that belies the position as leading Democrat contender.
It is an open secret that Biden’s best shot at victory in 2024 is for Trump to become the Republican nominee and then for him to be convicted of one or more felonies. To put it bluntly: If this is your electoral strategy, your campaign has significant issues.
A sitting president should be running on his record and plans for the next term. Biden’s record is by almost every metric worse than Trump’s and therefore not something that can be publicly lauded, and his plan – even his entire platform – is not to be Trump. While that worked out well for him in 2020, combined with a dismal record in office on the economy, immigration, diplomacy, and just about every other topic of concern, it may not be enough this time around.
Biden Bails on the Economy
After adopting “Bidenomics” as the clarion call for his supporters – in both the public and press – it is notable that no top administration folks have uttered the word since early November.
Bidenomics has become tarnished as synonymous with inflation, skyrocketing costs, and fiscal irresponsibility. In fact, it now represents the very opposite of which it was coined to laud. The Big Brains in the White House who tied the commander-in-chief’s name to a term not to be uttered in polite conversation likely sat out the New Year’s celebrations on the naughty step.
Inflation has been a thorn in the administration’s side these last two years. But rather than be open and honest, Team Biden has tried to sell the entirely false notion that a drop in the inflation rate means products become cheaper (as opposed to just getting more expensive at a slightly slower rate). While large chunks of the population may not understand the intricacies of inflationary policy, they can see its impact each time they buy groceries or pay an energy bill.
The Border Is – Apparently – Secure
An immigration crisis is underway: record numbers of illegal crossings and gotaways at the southern border, while the nation’s great cities collapse under the weight of humanity being directed to their front doors.
According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 2023 report, “the non-detained docket climbed by 30.3% from 4.7 million noncitizens in FY 2022 to more than 6.2 million noncitizens in FY 2023.” Just to put this in perspective, that figure has doubled since Biden took office. Notably, this data accounts for only those who are dealt with by ICE; it does not include the potentially millions of individuals who cross the border outside ports of entry.
And yet, according to senior officials in the Biden administration, the “border is secure.”
Voters are being asked not to believe their lying eyes or the pleas of New York’s Democrat Mayor Eric Adams for someone to step in and solve the problem. No, no – everything is apparently hunky dory.
Illegal immigration has long been a dividing-line issue. Political contenders talk about border control and immigration reform, which covers a multitude of sins, from “building the wall” to effective amnesty. But under Biden, even those on the political left (including elected politicians) are calling for help as their cities and states become overwhelmed with the sheer number of new arrivals.
An Easy Fall?
The economy, immigration, world peace, and unpopularity – these four issues need to be solved by the chief executive who wants to win the White House this coming November. Any one of them could sink his campaign, but all four combined pose the possibility of a Titanic defeat.
As Reagan once quipped, “Status quo, you know, is Latin for ‘the mess we’re in.'” It is not enough for Biden to maintain the messy status quo if he wants to earn the votes of American citizens; he must first undo the damage inflicted by his own administration. And that, while politicos and the media remain in a state of blinkered ignorance, might be too big an ask.