According to the White House, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 case is mild and the 79-year-old Democrat is working diligently. “I’m fine, doing a lot of work,” Biden said in a short video posted Thursday. “Thank you for your concern and keep the faith. You will be fine.
To take any White House at its word is risky – especially one that still uses the phrase “Putin’s price hike” – but even if true, the political prognosis is not “OK”. Biden’s diagnosis is problematic for Democrats in general and US Democrats in particular.
First, it’s a reminder of the one inescapable truth of 2022: Joe Biden is old. Very old. And it gets older every day.
The White House went to extreme lengths to keep Biden from getting infected (Operation Fist Bump?), and the reason was obvious. At his age — he will be 80 out of four — the risks of COVID-19 are high. Plus, as Americans repeatedly reminded on Thursday, Biden also has high cholesterol and heart disease.
Not to mention his “windshield wiper cancer” and Corn Pop-era asthma. No wonder voters are telling pollsters they don’t want to see Joe Biden run in 2024. They don’t want to see that poor old guy run… ever. Or ride a bike. Or walk up the walkway to Air Force One.
Please, Joe, sit down.
Second, the COVID diagnosis puts even more emphasis on the mid-term president. Just as Republican U.S. Senate candidates for elected office have been peppered with questions about Donald Trump’s tweets, Democrats are going to be asked about Joe Biden’s health. Do you really think he’s up to it? Are you really going to support him in 2024?
The US elections have been largely dominated by “team voting”. Ticket sharing is becoming increasingly rare. According an analysis of the liberal media DailyKosthere have been an average of 70 split districts in Congress in each election cycle since 1992. This means districts that a presidential candidate from one party has won while electing a member of Congress from the opposing party.
Since 2012, this average has fallen to 29 districts. In 2020, there were only 16. That’s why Cook Political Report now classifies New Hampshire’s two congressional districts as draws.
It’s a team game in American politics. And now the captain of this team is an 80-year-old man with a ticker who has trouble reading the teleprompter and just caught COVID.
And then there’s the impact of Biden’s diagnosis on Vice President Kamala Harris.
With Biden setting new lousy poll records, it’s easy to forget that he always votes better than his veep. The sheer panic in the voices on cable news over the prospect of a President Harris was palpable Thursday. Republicans may have joked about getting on their knees and praying to the Lord to spare Joe Biden, but it was only funny because it’s true.
What’s Harris’ problem? Biden was nominated by Democrats in order to prevent the Sanders/AOC wing of the party from taking over. The Democratic electorate thought Biden was liberal enough and could deliver the White House from Trump and the extremes of their own party.
Harris represents this extreme progressive – fairly or unfairly. Every conversation about Biden’s health leads to one about a Harris presidency. For Republican challengers, it’s a “twofer.” Two reasons to fire incumbent Democrats and send a GOP majority to DC, to keep the White House in check.
While Biden’s polling numbers are now lower than Trump’s, one difference is that there is no unrelenting media push to get Biden out of office. During the Trump years, cable news and the New York Times were full of fantasies that Robert Mueller or Michael Avenatti would walk out of a courtroom waving a document shouting “He has to go!” and Trump would be kicked out of the Oval Office.
No one today, with the glaring exception of Donald Trump, is even trying to get Biden removed from office early. Whatever Republican voters think happened, they’re not trying to overturn the last election. They are fired up to vote for the next one.
November will be all about Biden. There is no booster shot to prevent this.