A Tense Week Ahead

[ Posted Monday, July 8th, 2024 – 15:59 UTC ]

Will President Joe Biden's re-election candidacy survive the week? That is the question on every Democrat's mind right now, as the forces line up both pro and con. Whatever happens, it pretty much has to happen soon. If Biden does somehow survive this week, then his chances of riding out the entire "Pass the torch, Joe" storm will have increased, that much seems somewhat certain. But with Congress back in session, all the elected national Democrats will be in one place again, and in both the House and Senate they are planning on holding very tense caucus meetings tomorrow.

It's probably going to come down to the weight of the numbers. So far, to date, nine House members have pretty much declared themselves on the "pass the torch" side. Five of them have done so with public statements, and the other four did so in a virtual meeting with the ranking committee members that Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries held yesterday. But there have also been a growing number of House Democrats who are (so far, at any rate) forcefully pushing back on the notion and swearing their continued wholehearted support for Biden. The line has been drawn, and we'll just have to see how many of them wind up on which side of it.

The Senate is likely going to be even weightier. Biden comes from the Senate after all, and he served with some Democrats who are still there. So the assumption is that he'll listen to them more than any other group within the party. A meeting to discuss calling on Biden to step down that Senator Mark Warner called today was cancelled (due to the story being leaked immediately to the press), so the showdown will instead come at their caucus meeting tomorrow. Warner is pretty obviously on the "pass the torch" team (he wouldn't have proposed the meeting otherwise), but most of the other Democratic senators have been publicly noncommittal so far.

There are 51 Democrats in the Senate (47 if you don't count Independents). If three or four of them call for Biden to step down, that's probably not going to be convincing enough. If, however, 10 or 20 do, that's going to be a pretty solid vote of "no confidence." If over half do, the message might be too strong for Biden to dismiss.

So tomorrow might be a question of numbers. There will likely be two letters circulated for signatures (or perhaps just one in both houses), and the number of sitting members of Congress who sign them will be critical. A large part of this is self-preservation, of course, because things have gotten to the point where Democrats in Congress are now worried not just that Biden might lose to Donald Trump but also that by doing so he will be a drag on them down-ballot as well -- which could easily lead to Republicans retaining control of the House and flipping the Senate. This would be an utter disaster, since then Trump would then have little stopping him from enacting his agenda in full.

So far, throughout all of this, Biden himself has been defiant. Which is to be expected, really. If he shows weakness or a lack of resolve, that will just feed into the "pass the torch" side of things. He is basing his argument on a few factors: that the voters chose him in the primaries (and they should not be ignored), that he is still confident that he is the best person to take on Trump, that he still thinks he can win, and (a new one, just this morning) that it is the "party elites" that are lining up against him. The other argument being made (mostly by his supporters) is that the entire exercise is only helping Trump and the Republicans, by showing Democratic disarray.

What could change this calculus could be a dramatic shift in the polling. Many Democrats are waiting to see how much damage has already been done. Polling on a holiday weekend is never a good idea, so it could be the end of the week before this becomes clearer. New polls may ask people head-to-head questions ("Kamala Harris v. Trump," or "Gretchen Whitmer v. Trump," etc.) about other Democrats who might run, and if one or more of them shows dramatically better numbers than Biden, this could change the equation as well.

A different sort of test for Biden will come this week, as the late-night shows resume taping after a two-week break. Late-night comedians haven't made a Biden joke since before the debate happened, to put this another way. So they're going to have to catch up. Will this be brutal or "more in sadness than in anger"? This isn't as big a deal politically as it used to be (it wasn't that long ago that surveys showed that most Americans actually got their political news from late-night television), but it still will have at least some impact.

Another thing which could shift opinions is the NATO meeting Biden will be hosting this week. He is scheduled to give a solo news conference on Thursday, and it will be another make-or-break moment for him. It would not surprise me at this point if Biden doesn't get a single question about NATO from American journalists, but rather is ceaselessly asked about the wisdom of staying in the race. This might annoy him no end, but he really should be prepared for that in advance. The media are in full-on feeding-frenzy mode, so to expect anything different would be overly optimistic.

What will the other world leaders say, after meeting with Biden? This could be a curveball in the midst of reading all these tea leaves (to totally mix metaphors, there). Will some of them either go on the record or anonymously tell the world: "Biden has slowed down" (or even worse)? Will any of them express concerns for the future if Biden wins a second term? Or publicly state that they think Biden is going to lose? Again, world leaders' opinions don't carry a whole lot of weight with the American electorate, but it could be another straw on the camel's back.

Joe Biden took over a week to even attempt directly addressing the concerns which arose from his disastrous debate performance. His Friday ABC interview did not exactly put everyone's fears to rest, either. He did OK -- but that probably wasn't enough. He certainly didn't knock it out of the park. He showed the tendencies that everyone is worried about, in fact -- slurring his words, incoherent answers to questions, misstating facts, and generally exhibiting signs of aging. It wasn't anywhere near as bad as the debate, but then that's a pretty low bar to cross.

All around, this is going to be a very tense week for Joe Biden. He seems resolute about continuing his campaign, but if more and more Democrats express exactly the opposite opinion -- perhaps directly, right to Biden's face -- it could break through the bubble surrounding Biden right now. For better or worse, if Biden is still the presumed Democratic Party nominee in a week's time then he will probably stick it out to the very end. But if the chorus of voices asking him to reconsider and step down becomes a multitude, he's going to have a very hard time doing that. If enough people tell him: "If you continue, your legacy will be Donald Trump winning a second term," perhaps it might get through to him.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


24 Comments on “A Tense Week Ahead”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Dude! You alright?

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Chris, this is why Conservatives consider Democrats to be pussies. It was one debate five months before the election and Donald Trump is still Donald Trump. Americans have the attention span of gnats and no one will remember the debate. Joe beat Trump once and will lead the blue tsunami come November.


  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    In further good news, I think our Supreme Court — as presently constituted — has finally signed its own death warrant.

    From halting the vote count to install Dubya in 2000 to Citizens United to Dobbs to Snyder (legalizing after the fact bribery) to Chevron (emasculating Federal regulatory powers) to Trump’s immunity ruling it’s clear that SCOTUS has gone rogue and is no longer serving America adequately.

    Yeah, I know Joe is old school and would prefer to not pack the court. But unless Thomas and Alito are impeached or convinced to retire adding Justices appears to be the only solution that doesn’t involve Seal Team Six.

  4. [4] 
    andygaus wrote:

    Kavanagh could also be impeached for obvious perjury during his confirmation hearings.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Yeah, and let’s take a look at the myriad women’s complaints against Fratboy — they were swept under the rug at the time.

    Alito and especially Thomas should be impeached for corruption so that’s two out of the six Conservative Justices right there

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I almost hope that the effort to replace Biden succeeds and that, consequently, Trump is elected. Almost.

    Because, that scenario is just what Democrats, as a party, deserve, not to mention the voters, themselves.

    And, because the media will be giving itself a gigantic pat on the back once the president steps aside and their pathetic show of self-congratulation will last only until election night.

    I hope you're right about one thing ... that this will be the defining (and last?) week of the Dems' self-destructive behavior at the behest of their media co-conspirators.

    And, how is this for an anecdote ... I spent the day yesterday down at the pool in the back of my building, splashing around and conversing with neighbours. Of course, we got around to politics and one of them stated in an oh so matter of fact-ly way that all things will improve once Trump is elected.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    If enough people tell him: "If you continue, your legacy will be Donald Trump winning a second term," perhaps it might get through to him.

    What if Biden is forced out and Trump wins? Or, is that not worthy of consideration?

    It seems to me that the only way to beat Trump now is through a united Democratic front that makes this election about the two things that should matter most and that will be hugely impacted by the outcome of this presidential election: women's reproductive rights and the economy. Both of which the Democrats SHOULD own but don't. Because they have not thus far made consistently strong arguments to support why Democrats should control both houses of Congress and the WH in order to protect and promote economic growth and reproductive rights.

    Issues that Democrats should avoid talking about for the next 100+ days: the environment and geopolitics, for reasons that are just too sad to enumerate.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I hope you set your neighbor straight by explaining about forced birth and the maga cult of economic failure.

  9. [9] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You know I tried! He didn't seem to believe me on either of those subjects and I didn't want to push it at the time, but I will keep at it with him because if I can persuade him, then others of his cohort will surely follow.

    I don't use the 'maga' prefix on my favourite phrase because the economic failure goes back at least to the Reagan and Stockton era.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In other words, economic failure is a Republican thing and maga effectively limits it to just Trump.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    What would be the minimum number of SCOTUS seats that Biden would have to add in order for the highest court in the land to serve America adequately?

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Four, if Alito and Thomas are NOT impeached or (more likely) persuaded to retire. If this can be accomplished then Joe appointing two replacements would make it a 5-4 Liberal majority.

    Polls have shown little movement outside of the margin of error. Besides, polls have been awful yet the Dems have performed well in the only poll that matters, votes.

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Election after election since 2017 the electorate has rejected Reaganomics/MAGA. Bailing on Biden is the only way the Dems can fuck up November.

    Death to the bed wetters!

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    But, if the electorate had rejected Reaganomics, then one would have thought that Democrats in control of the House and Senate and WH for four consecutive years wouldn't be such a rarity, no?

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So, back to the court ... if Biden appoints four and assuming Alito and Thomas don't go anywhere, then that means a 7-6 'liberal' majority??

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Also, please be assured that campaign-wise Joe has been keeping his powder dry. It’s still waaay too soon for Joe to play his multiple strong cards against Trump before the majority of voters are paying attention.

    Recall Joe’s political skill in passing transformative legislation in the face of Republican and Manchinema obstructionism — the guy knows what he’s doing!

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    And…seven states, both red and blue, have enshrined reproductive health care since Dobbs and they’re trying to gather enough signatures to put it on November’s ballot in eight other states. This will obviously help with turnout which is nothing but good news.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    So far, Caddy, no one here is asking what you're smoking so I call that a very good sign! :)

    As for Joe keeping his powder dry ... that may be wise in normal times but he needs to get going on the use of his strong cards ... now and often, especially as Trump is gearing up again with his schtick.

  19. [19] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    States with reproductive (abortion) rights initiatives CONFIRMED for November are:

    South Dakota
    New York

    States that have SUBMITTED signatures to get on the ballot in November are:


    That’s ELEVEN states. Add the seven states that have already done this and that’s 36% off the states whose citizens have/are rising up against the Christofacists.

    It may not matter in some of the ruby red states but turnout drivers are nothing but good news for the Dems.

  20. [20] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    I would agree if only the electorate could remember stuff for months rather than days. No point in saying things now that will be long forgotten come November. Right after Labor Day is when folks start paying attention — we politics junkies make up, what, maybe a couple percent of the electorate.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That is precisely why Biden has to start NOW with his forceful arguments and keep repeating them over and over and over again until early voting begins.

    How can they forget when that's all they're gonna hear for the next four months!?

    But, Biden probably agrees with you ... I remember him saying all the time that voters don't pay attention until after Labour Day. But, just to be on the safe side, he really should start yesterday.

  22. [22] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    No, using up ammunition when no one but us politics junkies are paying attention is a waste of ammunition! Joe has been doing politics for half a century — have faith in him. He’s going to cream Trump, you watch.

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You don't think more people are paying attention this time around than usual??

  24. [24] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


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