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It’s now Joe’s to win or lose

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

There was good news and bad news for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on the same day. The good news was that Joe’s chief presidential foe, Bernie Sanders, threw in the towel. Sanders then gave a rousing denunciation of Trump and urged his supporters to do everything possible to oust him. That meant backing Joe, which Bernie promised to do.

Joe, for his part, extended the olive branch to Sanders’ die-hard backers and said he “heard” them. Presumably this meant he was on board with some parts of Bernie’s progressive agenda.

There was the other not-so-good news for Joe. This was yet another poll that showed him beating Trump in their November head-to-head presidential face-off. But, buried in the good numbers for Joe was a little tidbit that showed that Republicans were far more revved up for Trump than Democrats were for Biden. There was still another worrisome note in the poll: A number of Democrats thought that Trump would do a better job in stewarding the economy than Biden could.

These in themselves didn’t mean that Biden would trounce Trump or go down to flaming defeat in November. There are many months ahead in the race, with lots of twists and turns, intangibles, unknowns and probable surprises ahead for Biden. Having everyone’s eyes glued to the COVID threat and the media almost exclusively locked in on it further clouds the election picture — for now.

What is well-known is that many Democrats have always fervently believed that Biden is the only Democratic presidential contender who can beat Trump. Trump certainly thought that too. Back in January 2019, he called Biden his “most dangerous opponent.” He unleashed a barrage of grotesque tweets ridiculing Biden as low-IQ for his alleged garbled sentences and mental lapses. He hectored and arm-twisted a couple of heads of state to try and destroy Joe by prodding them to investigate his son’s business dealings. This cost him impeachment. But Trump didn’t care. Joe had to be destroyed.

Trump didn’t succeed in that. However, that failure won’t stop him. He’ll almost certainly go after Joe’s past. This is cause for concern. Joe’s alleged political sins — Anita Hill, his Iraq War support, his anti-busing stance, his touting of the Clinton crime bill and his alleged propensity for being too touchy-feely with women — have been repeatedly tossed up in his face. He’s been ruthlessly pounded for it.

In any other season, Joe’s past sins on these issues might not be a potential deal-breaker. What’s different this time around is that he doesn’t have a prayer of wining the Oval Office without energizing mid-income, college-educated suburban women and African American voters in the five or six must-win states. A big, enthusiastic turnout from both groups is the only thing that can, in part, neutralize the big turnout Trump will get from his base in those states: less-educated white male and female blue-collar and rural voters.

No amount of earthy, tough talk from Joe is going to crack that with them. So that brings it back to revving up blacks and middle-class, educated white women to march to the polls in big numbers. The great lesson and mistake that should have been learned from 2016 is that banking on their loathing for everything that Trump represents won’t ensure their storming the polls to oust him.

Trump will have the bully pulpit of the presidency. He will again get piles of free media for any and every silly, inane utterance that he makes. He will have a near-united, take-no-prisoners GOP behind him.

Biden’s counter is a possible united and energized Democratic party. Possible, only, because he’ll have to pick well a VP running mate who can try and help him accomplish two Houdini-like tricks. One is either to win over or at least not alienate Sanders supporters. The other is to win over or not alienate just enough rural, blue collar, less-educated whites in the five Heartland states and Florida that will decide the White House.

That’s a heavy lift for Joe in the coming battle with Trump — a battle that is Joe’s to win and lose.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.

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