Biden Lacks the Best Weapon Other Incumbents Have Had

“What can Biden tell the electorate about Trump that they do not already know? That he’s a serial liar? That he stands indicted in a series of criminal cases? That he commits business fraud the way others inhale and exhale? That he has spent a lifetime stiffing employees, contractors, lawyers? That he paid off a porn actress? That he recklessly mishandled sensitive government documents? All of this is a matter of public record, let alone the pesky detail of his desperate efforts to retain power by essentially overthrowing his own government.

Again, if The New York Times polling is correct, a plurality of American voters have absorbed all this and prefer him to the president. They have, as the financial world says, “priced” Trump’s behavior into their choice and as of now, have not considered the behavior disqualifying.

In some sense, this has been true for eight years, certainly in the Republican Party. The fact that four of the previous five GOP presidential nominees refused to endorse him in 2016 did not make a difference — Trump received a bigger share of Republican votes than Romney did. The fact that so many of Trump’s own key appointees — secretary of Defense, secretary of State, attorney general, national security adviser — all regard him as a threat to our political system has made no difference to Trump’s commanding lead for the GOP nomination.

So when a separate New York Times poll shows that a criminal conviction would significantly damage Trump, take that with a grain or a handful of salt. For eight years, he has survived conduct that would have swept a politician into oblivion.

It is true that the public’s judgment may turn as the prospect of a second Trump administration draws closer; it may be that the stories of what Trump plans for a second term — retribution against his political opponents, the obliteration of the guardrails that restrained his worst impulses, the staffing of a government with toadies who when asked to jump, will ask, “How high, sir?” — will change enough minds to give Biden (assuming he’s on the ballot) a second term.

It’s also true, however, that the task this unpopular president faces is a whole lot tougher than what the last successful incumbent presidents faced. And if a troubled incumbent can’t define an opponent effectively? Well, just ask Jimmy Carter or Gerald Ford or George H.W. Bush what happened.”

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