'Biden is doing it all wrong': Dem pollster, former Clinton advisor weighs in on Biden's 2024 strategy

Penn writes that Biden is "leaving behind centrist swing voters who shift between parties from election to election."

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY
Mark Penn, chairman of the Harris Poll and former advisor to the Clintons, warns that President Joe Biden is running his campaign too far to the left and leaving centrist voters behind. In The New York Times op ed, Penn says that while Biden trails in swing states, the incumbent is spending too much time pandering to his left flank, which demands policies that are unpalatable to most American voters.

With his "new shift on Israel, a $7 trillion budget, massive tax increases and failing to connect on the basic issues of inflation, immigration and energy," Penn writes that Biden is "leaving behind centrist swing voters who shift between parties from election to election." These are the voters, Penn believes, who will be the key deciders in the 2024 election.

The presidential campaign mantra has long been that a candidate should play to the base of their own party in the primaries and then run center during the general election, but the 2024 election season launched early, the primaries were negligible on the right and absent on the left, and the general was upon us by the time many primary voters cast their ballots.

In polling, former President Donald Trump leads Biden in key swing states as Americans seek his reassuring positions on illegal immigration (stop it), energy (bring back US independence), and inflation (everyone remembers better financial times under Trump). Meanwhile, Biden looks weak as he capitulates to the demands of his far left flank by moving away from his stance on supporting Israel to one in which he has withheld congressionally approved arms shipments, not to mention his attempt to climb stairs, shake hands with ghosts, or get through a teleprompter speech without reading the stage directions.

"If Mr. Biden wants to serve another four years," Penn writes, "he has to stop being dragged to the left and chart a different course close to the center that appeals to those voters who favor bipartisan compromises to our core issues, fiscal discipline and a strong America."

"The reality," Penn writes, "is that swing voters in battleground states who are upset about immigration, inflation, what they see as extreme climate policies, and weakness in foreign affairs are likely to put Mr. Trump back in office if they are not blunted."

Penn's answer is that Biden should lean in to Nikki Haley voters, something Biden said after Haley dropped out of the race. Haley, however, is a war hawk, she is tough on Israel policy, and would never back withholding congressionally approved aid to a staunch ally such as Israel, the only true American ally in the Middle East. These voters, Penn posits, are in the moderate center, and many of them could be persuaded to vote for Mr. Biden if he fine-tuned his message to bring them in. This is not something Biden is doing. Instead, he's playing to his far left flank, members of which recently took a victory lap after he halted aid to Israel to appease college Gaza camp activists.

Israel, even more than Ukraine, has become a key issue for Americans, who have extremely strong feelings on both sides of the conflict. Palestinian terror group Hamas is still holding American hostages, as well as Israelis. They are still launching rockets at Israel, and while the ethnic and religious group does not vote as a monolith, America has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel.

Penn writes that Biden has been lax on nearly all key issues for American voters, from soft-on-crime district attorneys to immigration to the economy to the financial impact of climate change policy on average Americans. Trump has come out strong on all of these areas, and he has a proven track record to back him up. Only one former president has ever made a return to the White House and served two, non-consecutive terms, and that was Grover Cleveland in 1892.

Penn's hope for Biden is that the president can begin "pushing back against the base rather than pandering to it" and to go after the swing voters. He surmises that the far left will vote for Biden because they have nowhere else to go, that these voters can be taken for granted, that the Michiganders who voted "uncommitted" in the primary will vote blue because they have to, but that the slim number of actual undecides oppose the extremist policies being pushed by that faction. 

If those voters aren't able to be convinced that Biden has their best interests at heart, Penn posits, after he played to his far left base both in the last election and for the ensuing four years, Trump will be much harder for Biden to beat in 2024.
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