HomePoliticsThe campaign shake-up Biden needed

The campaign shake-up Biden needed

Whatever happens in the first presidential debate Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump, it’s guaranteed to be one of the most meaningful moments of this campaign. And depending on either performance, holding that early debate in June could be the most consequential decision of this campaign.

To say that we are in uncharted waters or uncharted territory is an understatement. But make no mistake: the trajectory of this race for Biden — combined with the outside events now all working against the incumbent, namely inflation and the Israeli military operation in Gaza — was not sustainable, so the Biden campaign had to do something do to change it.

It’s possible Biden could have waited until the pre-scheduled debates in September or October hoping for a game-changing moment. But that would have been too close.

Waiting until the fall to create a better contrast with Trump would have limited the options for calling audibles if Plan A didn’t work. Biden needed to shake up this race before the summer convention season and the Olympics.

Ultimately, Biden’s goal is to change the perception of him, not just the race. Last week I wrote the following about voters’ perceptions of Biden’s weakness and Trump’s strength:

“Can the Biden campaign solve this image problem? Given our short attention span information ecosystem, you can always assume there is time to change perception, but it will be difficult.

“The most obvious way to improve Biden’s perception of weakness is to place Biden more often and in more places that are not as monitored. And while he has been out of the closet more often, he is still limited in his unscripted public appearances.

When I thought about different ways Biden could make a breakthrough, I wasn’t thinking about a June debate. But talking to the entire country before the fall is probably one of the best options you can think of.

Thanks to media fragmentation, we don’t have many shared experiences as a country, aside from major sporting events – think the Super Bowls and the Olympics – or rare historical anomalies like this year’s solar eclipse.

Arguably the presidential election and presidential debates are about the only other events outside the non-sports world that capture the attention of most Americans in a single setting.

And while school will let out at the end of June and some people will focus on their summer plans, the entire country will see at least part of this clash between Trump and Biden. It’s so important, and our politics are so divisive. Everyone will want to know how this turns out.

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There have been plenty of excellent speculative analyzes on the potential consequences of this decision to discuss early. Some believe the Biden campaign did this to try to soften the importance and impact of the debates, agreeing to an early debate in exchange for shrinking the debate lineup from three to two.

Some believe the Trump campaign agreed to Biden’s requests a little too quickly. After all, how often do you see a sitting president playing the role of ‘debate challenger’? Usually this only happens when the incumbent is behind. Does Trump really think debates help him? Of course he does, but the data suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the reason that both Biden and Trump wanted to have this early debate is that they both feared that the Commission on Presidential Debates would ultimately kill Robert F. Kennedy Jr. would qualify to compete in the fall events. By going this early, both candidates are trying to get a one-on-one shot at each other before having to consider Kennedy, assuming he can get enough votes by the fall and qualify at the polls with a sustained support level of 15%. .

An early debate also gives the Biden and Trump campaigns more time to realign with their own conventions, reducing the possibility of one debate ending their campaign. A poor debate performance in the fall could be more politically catastrophic than, say, a week before the Fourth of July.

And of course an early start does not rule out more debates taking place in the autumn. If Biden suddenly thinks he needs more debates, perhaps the Commission will get a call and the pre-scheduled debates in September and October can go ahead.

And here’s another technicality about scheduling an early debate: if the debate is a complete debacle for either of them, each party technically has time and a process to change nominees. After all, this first debate will take place before either candidate is the official candidate of his party.

But the scenario I’m most wondering about is one that I’m not sure either campaign has fully taken into account. It’s the possibility that the country will simply hate what it sees, period. If the debate consists of two old guys calling each other names – what almost What happened during the debates four years ago – voters could become even more depressed about their choices for the fall. And it’s impossible to say how the butterfly effect would play out afterward.

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Would there be a cry for anyone else? It is undoubtedly the Democrats who seem less loyal to their presumptive nominee than the Republicans at this point. Would disappointment in the major parties’ pairing lead to more interest in Kennedy? What if he rose to the low 20s in the polls over the summer? It would essentially guarantee that the second debate would be a three-way match – unless the threat of involving Kennedy kills the remaining debate.

In short: this debate is going to matter a lot. And it is more likely than previous debates that there will be unintended consequences that neither campaign currently foresees. So brace yourselves, because what we thought was going to be a potentially nauseating rollercoaster of a 60-or-so-day campaign in the fall is now starting about three months earlier. That’s why I’m carrying more Tums than ever.

Perhaps the most overlooked development of this new debate calendar is the prospect of an incredibly early vice presidential debate, although the Biden and Trump campaigns have accepted rival network invites for now. The proposed dates are already late July, meaning the Republican Party’s final choice for a vice president could take less than two weeks between selection and the debate with Vice President Kamala Harris.

I do wonder if Trump will now be forced to choose a running mate closer to early July, simply so that his choice gets the right amount of time to prepare (and also to get an introduction to the country). If Trump waits until, say, the eve of the convention, he’s really putting a lot of pressure on his vice presidential nominee to be ready on day one.

A poor debate performance (or a deer-in-the-headlights performance) in the first ten days after being introduced as the Republican Party’s running mate would be difficult to recover from if the choice has not yet built his own connection with the public. If the debate is the introduction, it really raises the stakes for said nominee.

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The smart thing for Team Trump is to let him announce his choice before July 1. That obviously goes against Trump’s penchant for drama, and if there is no doubt about the choice at the start of the convention, it could lead to less interest in that event. And Trump cares more about those things than most candidates for office.

Sometimes an idea seems so simple and clever that you wonder why you haven’t heard it before.

I recently attended a fascinating discussion in which female CEOs shared what they’ve learned and their experiences creating greater gender equality in the business world. One of the CEOs mentioned, in passing, giving her employees a benefit she called a “healthcare wallet.” That wallet would hold money and benefits that they controlled and that could focus on needs that may be unique to them. It can be used for self-care (think mental health care), childcare or elderly care. (Hello, fellow members of the sandwich generation!)

As soon as I heard it, it was like a light bulb went off in my political brain. This is a great way to build broad consensus on addressing real challenges facing today’s families in all three areas mentioned above. This is an idea that should and could quickly become mainstream.

I’ve seen a handful of politicians talk about different versions of all these benefits, and there are certainly millions of Americans who could use help in all three areas. But I thought this was a smarter and more accessible way to argue that all Americans should have access to benefits (through work or a government plan) that allow them this kind of flexibility.

Not everyone needs child care, not everyone needs elder care, and not everyone has mental health needs that require a professional. But I bet we all have that anyway An of these three needs.

Slogans can make complicated things seem simple, and I know the ‘healthcare wallet’ can smell like that. But I am convinced that this is an idea that deserves attention and attention in the American political debate.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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