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US election campaign: Candidacy on the brink: What’s next, Joe Biden?

US election campaign: Candidacy on the brink: What’s next, Joe Biden?
US election campaign: Candidacy on the brink: What’s next, Joe Biden?

Despite his 81 years, Biden feels he is still up to the task. But doubts about his candidacy are growing louder. Now it is up to him to decide what will happen next for the USA.

It was a good four years ago that Joe Biden said this sentence: “I see myself as a bridge, nothing else.” There is a whole generation of leaders coming after him. “They are the future of this country.”

At that time, Biden was still a campaigner, after all, he moved into the White House as the oldest president in US history. Today, the 81-year-old’s focus is apparently no longer quite so much on the new generation as the future of the country – but primarily on himself. The Democrat wants to be re-elected in November – to beat the Republican Donald Trump once again. He leaves no doubt about that.

The Old Man and the White House

It was never a secret that his age could be his downfall. Embarrassing mix-ups, stumbles and nervousness at Biden’s appearances have long been part of the US president’s everyday life. When he announced last year that he wanted to run for the presidency again for the Democrats and extend his term of office by four years, it was already clear: Biden’s age and the debate about his condition would be his biggest problem in the election campaign.

For a long time, Biden’s party, his political allies and, above all, his staff tried to conceal his age-related weaknesses and tout his political achievements. Above all, they emphasized Biden’s wealth of experience.

Biden’s disastrous performance in the TV debate against Trump, however, was like a turning point: because it suddenly became clear to everyone – and with painful clarity – what the situation was like for the man who was convinced that he could lead the USA for another four years.

NATO summit becomes a test

Next week, the NATO summit will take place in Washington – actually a welcome opportunity for Biden to showcase himself and his abilities as a leader of the West. It is certainly no coincidence that the big anniversary summit falls in the hot phase of the US election campaign in Washington.

But the NATO meeting and the planned final press conference now seem to be more of a test. The Democrat’s every move is being closely followed. A smooth appearance alongside foreign heads of state and government, on the other hand, could strengthen Biden’s position.

The question looming over everything is whether Biden is capable of doing his job for another four years. The Democrats need an answer – and quickly. Because the election is in just four months. What could happen now?

Scenario 1: Biden withdraws from the presidential race soon

Biden could announce his withdrawal in the coming days. This would completely overshadow the important NATO summit. If Biden waits until after the defense alliance’s meeting, the world will probably only see Biden’s appearance as a series of slip-ups and stumbles. The summit is actually supposed to be about the Ukraine war and strengthening the alliance’s own deterrence and defense capabilities.

Either way, the chance that Trump will return to the White House after the election has increased since Biden’s TV debacle. According to polls, the Republican has increased his lead over Biden. Allies must expect that the leader of the Western world will soon no longer be called Biden. Medium- or long-term commitments from the USA should be viewed with caution – and Biden could seem a bit like a lame duck in the current situation.

If Biden quits, as is foreseeable, there are still about a month and a half left until the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago. Biden is supposed to be officially chosen as his party’s candidate then – he has already collected the necessary delegate votes in the primaries. Therefore, only he can decide what happens next. If Biden were to give up his candidacy soon, there would be enough time for an internal party battle to succeed the 81-year-old.

Biden would have to aggressively support his vice president, Kamala Harris, to reduce the chances of a dirty power struggle. The fronts would then be clear and the Democrats could concentrate on their political opponent Trump. If the 59-year-old Harris were chosen, she would probably also be able to access the millions in donations raised in the name of Biden and Harris during the election campaign. In the case of another candidate, this would not be so easy.

Scenario 2: Biden drops out shortly before or during the convention

If Biden waits weeks to clarify the situation, it will be a painful time – for him and the party. The Democrats could lose further ground in the polls, and more major donors could turn away.

What Biden would certainly achieve with such an approach, however, would be time pressure on the question of succession. The party would have to reach an agreement in a few days or even hours. There would not be much time to publicly dismantle itself. However, various ballots accompanied by intense candidate lobbying would be possible. In addition to Harris as an alternative, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, or the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, are also mentioned as options. The party convention in Chicago would certainly go down in history as historic.

Scenario 3: Biden drops out after the convention

If Biden changes his mind after the party convention in Chicago, the decision would fall to a party executive committee with several hundred members. Party supporters could be upset if the decision were made in such a group alone. There would also be hardly any time left to position his successor in the election campaign.

In the states, there are also deadlines by which the parties must have confirmed their candidates in order to be on the ballot. If Biden waits until after the party convention, some of these deadlines may already have expired. It is unclear whether Harris, who is also on the ballot as vice president, would then receive the Biden votes as a possible presidential candidate. Conservative groups have already announced that they would take legal action against this.

Scenario 4: Biden stays in the race

It is quite possible that Biden will insist on staying in the race – and will not give in to the pressure. Polls also show Trump well ahead of Biden in the most contested states that are not firmly controlled by either the Republicans or the Democrats. This does not mean that Biden will lose in November. But it is a very realistic option. Trump will be happy if he can continue to work on his familiar opponent.

Biden must take the blame for the Democrats’ difficult situation. The grandfather of seven has repeatedly claimed that he is the best qualified person for the job and that only he can beat Trump. But at the moment it doesn’t look like that will happen.

Party supporters may feel offended by Biden’s persistence: what some see as a sign of strength is dangerous stubbornness for others. Biden himself repeatedly says that the election is about nothing less than democracy in the USA.

Source: Stern

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