Longtime Clinton advisor shreds Joe’s campaign: ‘Biden is doing it all wrong’

President Biden is “failing to connect on the basic issues of inflation, immigration and energy.”

That’s not the opinion of a Trump supporter.

That comes from Mark Penn via a blistering op-ed for The New York Times.

Penn “served as chief strategist to Hillary Clinton in her Senate campaigns and 2008 Presidential campaign, devising her successful NY ‘upstate strategy’ and creating the ‘3 AM’ ad in the 2008 primaries,” according to his website. “Internationally, he helped elect more than 25 leaders in Asia, Latin America, and Europe, including Tony Blair and Menachem Begin.”

And Penn says, “Biden Is Doing It All Wrong.”

“President Biden appears behind in all the swing states and his campaign appears all-too-focused on firming up his political base on the left 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, now chairman of the Harris Poll, writes. “By pitching too much to the base, he is leaving behind the centrist swing voters who shift between parties from election to election and, I believe, will be the key factor deciding the 2024 race.”

“I’ve spent decades looking at the behavior of swing voters and how candidates appeal to them, including for Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996. If Mr. Biden wants to serve another four years, he has to stop being dragged to the left and chart a different course closer to the center that appeals to those voters who favor bipartisan compromises to our core issues, fiscal discipline and a strong America,” Penn states.

Getting his base out to vote, Penn explains, may not cut it:

People usually assume that turning out so-called base voters in an election matters most, since swing voters are fewer in number. And it’s true that in today’s polarized environment, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump each has about 40 percent of the country in their bases already and nothing will change those people’s minds. But in that remaining 20 percent of the electorate, swing voters have disproportionate power because of their potential to switch. It’s simple math: Take an electorate of 10 voters in an election tied 5 to 5. If one voter swings, the margin becomes 6 to 4. Two voters then need to be turned out just to tie it up and a third one is needed to win.

The simple power of this math — which drove the campaigns of Mr. Clinton (with his message about “building a bridge to the 21st century”), George W. Bush (“compassionate conservatism”) and Barack Obama (“hope and change”) — has been obscured, undoubtedly by base groups like unions or PACs that have a vested interest in maintaining their sway and power. Take Michigan, a battleground state where Mr. Trump has led Mr. Biden by as many as three percentage points in the last month. To overcome that gap, Mr. Biden would need to bring out nearly 250,000 additional voters (3 percent of more than eight million registered voters) just to tie it up in a state that has already achieved a record of over 70 percent turnout in a presidential year. Or Mr. Biden could switch just 125,000 swing voters and win.

“Despite this math, scared candidates are, in my experience, easily sold the idea that the Democratic base or Republican base is going to stay home in November unless they are constantly fed what they want to hear,” Penn adds.

A call from a community leader or advocacy group with demands and ultimatums can strike fear into a campaign, he writes, but Biden needs to be more worried about the American people’s concerns.

“Maybe if Mr. Biden were running against a well-liked centrist opponent, concern could be justified,” Penn writes. “But during a fall election against Mr. Trump, the final month of this campaign is going to see a frenzy of get-out-the-vote efforts, and I doubt the Democratic base is going to sit idly by at the thought of the Trump limo cruising up Pennsylvania Ave.”

“The reality 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,” he states.

Biden “is not showing clear evidence of bringing in large numbers of swing voters in the battleground states at this point,” Penn continues. “Those swing voters look for fiscal restraint without tax increases, climate policies that still give people a choice of cars and fuels, and immigration policies that are compassionate to those who are here but close the borders.”

And according to Penn, it’s still the economy, stupid.

“The balanced budget remains one of the single strongest measures that swing and other voters want,” he writes.

What’s more, “Mr. Biden’s campaign has fundamentally miscalculated on Israel.”

“The more Biden has pandered to the left by softening his support of Israel, the weaker he looks and the more his foreign policy ratings have declined,” Penn writes. “Rather than pull decisively away from Israel, Mr. Biden should instead find a plan that enables Israel to go into Rafah and that has enough precautions for Rafah’s civilians so the American president can back it.”

“The 2024 election is a rematch, but Mr. Biden should not assume that he will get the same result as he did in 2020 in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia and other battleground states by running the same playbook,” Penn concludes. “This time around, Mr. Biden is seen as older, and the assessment of the job that he has done is in negative territory.”

“While he won’t get any younger, he could still move more to the center, hoover up swing voters who desperately want to reject Mr. Trump, strengthen his image as a leader by destroying Hamas, and rally the base at the end,” Penn writes. “But that means first pushing back against the base rather than pandering to it, and remembering that when it comes to the math of elections, swing is king.”

Melissa Fine


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