The media’s new anti-Biden twist: Democrats are jockeying to challenge him

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The media campaign against President Biden – a concerted effort to knock him out of contention for 2024 by declaring he can’t win – has reached a new phase.

Now the argument is morphing into a claim that if Biden continues to insist on a reelection bid, he’ll be challenged by one or more dissident Democrats.

There is a parallel media crusade to depict Donald Trump as hemorrhaging support in his party – far less surprising but no less real – but it is clearly failing. The former president told New York Magazine he’s made up his mind – not hard to figure out his decision – and the only question is timing. The Washington Post cites unnamed advisers as saying Trump will probably announce in September.

If anything, the media attacks made it more likely that Trump will mount a third White House bid, using his longtime antagonists as a foil. 

President Joe Biden speaks to members of the press prior to a Marine One departure from the White House. The media campaign against President Biden – a concerted effort to knock him out of contention for 2024 by declaring he can’t win – has reached a new phase.
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)


But for the press to turn on Biden – the man they hailed in 2020 as he ousted the guy they hated – is a remarkable turn of events. (Keep in mind, though, that the press wrote off Biden after his early losses as too old, too uninspiring and too moderate until he started winning one big state after another.) 

The New York Times has played a pivotal role here, first by declaring that the age of a candidate who’d be 82 at the inauguration is up for fair debate, and again with a poll showing most Democrats don’t want Biden to run again. That figure was 64 percent.

“President Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt … as voters nationwide have soured on his leadership,” the story says, pointing to a 33 percent overall approval rating. The piece, and another one on Biden’s age and mental fitness a day earlier, fueled the media’s he-can’t-win narrative and spawned a barrage of cable news segments.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump claps as the crowd cheers him on during a rally in Washington Township, Michigan. There is a parallel media crusade to depict Trump as hemorrhaging support in his party – far less surprising but no less real – but it is clearly failing. 
(REUTERS/Emily Elconin)

Biden conflated two different things in telling ABC’s Ben Gittleson that “people want me to run.” He then pointed to a poll finding that is true: “Read the polls, Jack. You guys are all the same. That poll showed that 92 percent of Democrats, if I ran, would vote for me.” But Ben (not Jack) had read the Times poll correctly. There’s a difference between Democrats rallying around their nominee, presumably against Trump, and not wanting him to run in the first place.

A talking point for the Dems is that Biden would beat Trump in 2024 – but at a time when the Jan. 6 hearings are taking their toll, that’s only by 3 points, which is essentially a statistical tie. Also, did I mention that such polls are ridiculously early?


Now comes The Hill with a lead story declaring: “Day by day, Democrats are considering a possible new scenario: challenging the sitting president for the 2024 nomination.”

Norman Solomon, a progressive activist with RootsAction, told the paper:  

“Unless Biden comes to his senses and announces that he won’t run again, a contentious battle for the nomination seems very likely.” Of course, progressives are unhappy with Biden for not enacting all their sweeping left-wing plans, which would probably be a poison pill for any Democratic nominee.

Naturally, we’re hearing nothing about this from any future Biden challenger – because they have to pledge allegiance to their incumbent president.

As Jack Shafer aptly puts it in Politico, many Democrats are”not running while really running” – meaning they have to “raise campaign funds; tickle the media eye; stump for other candidates and put them in your political debt; prospect potential campaign staffers; and travel and give speeches. There’s also a list of things such an aspirant can’t do, and those reside in a politically negative space. He can’t criticize the president and must go out of his way to demonstrate his support. He can’t make multiple trips to Iowa or New Hampshire. He can’t be blatant about building a campaign staff, even a shadow one. And he must vociferously and repeatedly deny that he’s running.”

Because few believe Kamala Harris can win the nomination, Shafer tosses out such names as Pete Buttigieg and Gavin Newsom (who told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I have sub-zero interest”). The Washington Post gives top ranking to Buttigieg, who won the Iowa caucuses, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Newsom, with AOC No. 10).

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference after meeting with students at James Denman Middle School. Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I have sub-zero interest”.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)


History shows that incumbents who are challenged in the primaries tend to, well, lose in November. That includes Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

It isn’t that the Times didn’t use its poll to undermine Trump’s prospects as well, saying he is “weakened” among Republicans, especially because of the Jan. 6 hearings, “with nearly half the party’s primary voters seeking someone different for president in 2024 and a significant number vowing to abandon him if he wins the nomination.” The figure was 49 percent.


The difference is that Trump doesn’t care what the New York Times thinks. If he wasn’t already running, he would run just to stick it to the paper. That would immediately make the midterms about him and his stolen-election crusade, but also might clear the field and make it more difficult for Ron DeSantis, who drew 25 percent in the poll, to challenge him.


No one knows how Biden, a Beltway institutionalist, would react to a Democratic delegation telling him it’s time to go – if the press and the polls don’t convince him of that first. 

Howard Kurtz is the host of By News Channel’s MediaBuzz (Sundays 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET). Based in Washington, D.C., he joined the network in July 2013 and regularly appears on Special Report with Bret Baier and other programs.

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