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Home Economic Trends 2:00PM Water Cooler 6/28/2024: Biden v. Trump Post-Match Analysis and Commentary

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/28/2024: Biden v. Trump Post-Match Analysis and Commentary

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Biden Debate.png

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, today’s Water Cooler is a post, but I included the bird song and the plant, because I knew you’d ding me if I didn’t! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

Eastern Meadowlark, Brazoria NWR–Auto Tour Loop and Discovery Center, Brazoria, Texas, United States.

* * *

The chaos in the Democrats party is perhaps best understood as a succession crisis, not merely personally, but generationally (Biden’s replacement, if any, is unlikely to be 81, and even less likely to be a member of the Senate class of 1973).

Moreover, it’s a crisis that needs to be solved by deadline: The physical Chicago convention is August 19-22, but the Democrat National Committee (DNC) has decided to hold a virtual nomination on Zoom, because Republican Ohio required an August 7 filing date to get the Democrat nominee on their ballot. (Ohio has since moved the filing date to September 1, but Democrats don’t trust them.) The date of the Zoom nomination is, however, as yet unrevealed. Let’s say the date is August 6. This is June 28, making the deadline 39 days away. If the date turns out to be August 19 after all, the crisis must be resolved in 52 days. That’s not a lot of time.

Whether the Democrat succession crisis is of historical significance is as yet unknown (asked the same question of the French Revolution, Chou En-Lai is said to have said “It’s too early to say”). Certainly it’s significant in the history of the party, though it’s hard to think of a precedent: When Democrats split in 1860, it was over an important principle — slavery — and not over the party’s aging star and weak bench. Certainly the debate is significant, though whether on the order of Bush v. Gore 2000 (which Gore was thought to have won for a news cycle or so, until the press decided the debate was really about Gore sighing obnoxiously) or Kennedy v. Nixon 1960 (a poor analogy with no Camelot in the offing) is also unknown.

I spent a few hours after the debate trawling the Twitter, and a few hours after that reading up on the bigfootery and hot-take-ish-ness, and in what follows I’m going to empty out my haul into the following buckets, which correspond roughly to opinion-havers in the Democrat Party structure (ignoring the spooks, press assets, and NGOs):

1) Tragedians

2) The Wizard of Kalorama™

3) Party Grandees

4) Bedwetters

5) Non-Bedwetters

6) Party Members and Activists

7) Outsiders

8) Fanciful Scenarists

My object is not to predict the future — though I do recall asserting that “volatility” was to be this year’s theme — but to try to reduce the mass of material to some sort of order. (Readers will observe that there’s one further category I’ve left out: Funders. That’s because squillionaires and even local gentry are few in number, have ideological crotchets, must be serviced, and cover their tracks, which is why Ferguson and his associates need to take time to figure out — in granular and not class terms — who the string-pullers really are (I say “string-pullers” rather than “puppet masters” because the members of every bucket have their own relative autonomy)).

I’m going to structure the buckets rather like the club sandwich I had for lunch: The bacon, lettuce, and so forth will be the Tweets I collected; the slices of bread will be links to the opinion-havers. Because this is Water Cooler, the sandwich will be large at first, and assume Dagwoodian proportions once orts and scraps are added.

But before I start filling up buckets, let me have some fun and do a Wordle for each canidate. I’m using the CNN transcript.



Make of them what you will. (These are simple frequency-based Wordles. I’m frankly surprised “horrible” doesn’t assume greater salience in Trump’s Wordle; the way he pronounced it really sticks in the mind. Notice, however, that “country” is central to Trump’s appeal, but not Biden’s.)


But still evoking pity and terror:

Time to take the car keys away (1):

Trump, amazingly, stays controlled, gives a slight shrug, then does what he has to do.

Time to take the car keys away (2):

Time to take the car keys away (3):

Time to take the car keys away (4):

The Democrats have form on elder abuse:

Carefully uncommitted:

The after-party, poor Jill (1):

Poor Jill (2):

The Wizard of Kalorama™

UPDATE The Wizard™ speaks:

The framing is deceptive. The issue isn’t one bad debate. The issue is a failing debater.

Obama’s speechwriter (coined “The Blob”) takes a view:

From Obama’s campaign manager:

But from Obama’s former chief strategist–

“Axelrod: Biden Is The Nominee Of The Democratic Party, “This Isn’t The 60s” [RealClearPolitics]. “[AXELROD:] The point is now he is the nominee of the Democratic Party. This isn’t the 60s, okay. Voters choose the nominee. He is the nominee only he can decide whether he’s going to continue, and as you point out, this is a guy with a lot of pride who believes in himself. The idea that he’s going to say, ‘You know, I had a bad debate, I think I’m going to walk away from this.’ I find it hard to believe.”

“A halting Biden tries to confront Trump at debate but sparks Democratic anxiety about his candidacy” [Associated Press]. “‘I think the panic had set in,’ said David Axelrod, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama on CNN, immediately after the debate about Biden’s performance. ‘And I think you’re going to hear discussions that, I don’t know will lead to anything, but there are going to be discussions about whether he should continue.’”

Party Grandees

“A Fumbling Performance, and a Panicking Party” [Peter Baker, New York Times]. “Democrats on Thursday night were imagining scenarios that would require party elders like Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina to intervene with the president, although there was no indication that any of them would agree to do so.” • See this lightly sourced story from the Daily Mail on June 17, which presents a similar scenario: “‘The only people who could force him out would be Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer,’ one Democratic strategist told ‘It would have to be the four of them collectively.’” Baker, apparently, substituted Clyburn for Obama.

“Playbook: Democrats wake up to a nightmare” [Politico]. “The key names we kept hearing last night were listed in three concentric rings of influence around the president, starting with (1) his family, particularly wife JILL and sister VALERIE BIDEN, (2) his closest advisers (TED KAUFMAN, TOM DONILON, RON KLAIN, STEVE RICCHETTI and ANITA DUNN), and then (3) the bold-faced electeds and former electeds whose opinions he couldn’t ignore (Bill and HILLARY CLINTON, Obama, Pelosi, Schumer, Clyburn, Delaware Sen. CHRIS COONS).” • Regarding ring (1), and why on earth haven’t Jill and Hunter taken Joe aside and said “Honey, let’s spend our last months together”? That family is not the ideal it is made out to be (as the dogs as vicious as their master show).

“In The Room Where It Happens” [Atrios, Eschaton]. “Most of us don’t get to be there, but there are always people with access to lawmakers and the administration who are constantly putting pressure on them. The people trying to make noise on the outside – furious blog posts, angry tweets, public protest – are the ones who don’t ever get that access. Some of that pressure comes from big donors, some from their weirdo rich friends in the group chat, some from the numerous lobbying groups who have armies of people who are paid to lie for their cause (and who also have all your favorite journalists in their contact lists). And, of course, those who dangle lifetime friends and family jobs. It’s the ‘quiet’ pressure people should be more worried about. It is constant and relentless and much more effective than anything outsiders can do.” • So….


That escalated quickly:

“Very aggressive panic”:

“Multiple lists” (flex nets):

“Zero constituency”?

Wasserman is a sober and independent observer:

“McCaskill says Biden stumbles raise question of Harris or Newsom at top of Democratic ticket” [The Hill]. McCaskill: “‘[Harris and Newsom] are signaling to a whole lot of Americans who are paying attention, ‘How come they are not at the top of the ticket?” McCaskill said in an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC after the debate. ‘How come the Democratic party does not have them at the top of the ticket, instead of using them to shore up some pretty glaring weaknesses in our president?’” • First Democrat regular I’ve seen to openly throw Harris under the bus (by proposing Newsom as an alternative).


“Biden speaks at Georgia Waffle House following debate performance: ‘I think we did well’” [FOX]. “‘I think we did well,’ Biden told reporters at an Atlanta area Waffle House when asked how he performed. When asked if he had any concerns about his performance, the president said, ‘No it’s hard to debate a liar, New York Times pointed how he lied 26 times. Big lies.’ Biden was then asked if he was suffering from a cold, which the campaign revealed following the debate performance where many expressed concerns about the sound of Biden’s voice. ‘I am sick,’ Biden said.” • But not with a cold?

Saying what she has to say:

Newsom selling hard (1):

Newsom selling hard (2):

Hillary Clinton’s press secretary coping:

(She could be right, of course.)

Former Biden Press Secretary coping:

Fetterman has a point, kind of:

Fetterman had a bad debate post-stroke and still won. But stroke was something Fetterman could recover from, and did. Whatever is happening to Biden doesn’t look like a reversible process.

Admirably committed to the bit, but still cope:

Elias is the Democrat go-to on election law, and a conduit for Steele Dossier money (and to be fair, an expert on election law is needed; perhaps not the fatally compromised Elias, though.)

More cope, decoped:

“Is There a Good Reason Not to Panic? Well, No, Not Really” [The New Republic]. “The final option, therefore, is to throw the thing open and try to get the nomination to one of the governors, or someone else. This has always had a lot of theoretical appeal, because several of these people look like they’d be good candidates But the two perceived problems with this scenario are these. First, how much bad blood would start boiling within the party if Harris were pushed aside? The assumed answer has always been: a lot. If Biden were to step aside, pollsters would start asking questions about Harris, and if those polls showed that Black women will basically bolt, going around Harris could be a nonstarter. And second, is there really any proof that Gretchen Whitmer or Gavin Newsom or Josh Shapiro or Jay Pritzker or anyone else would be a better candidate? Governors sometimes just don’t have it when it comes to running for president. Look at Ron DeSantis. Those are real problems. But in this break-glass moment, they start to look like smaller problems than staying with Biden or just handing it to Harris. We’ll see what the post-debate polls say. They’ll start coming out early to mid-next week. My guess is that Biden will lose four points on average, maybe five. It might be a little less. But the coverage of this fiasco over the next two days will only amplify how bad it was.”l

“Joe Biden’s debate gamble backfires” [Mark Penn, FOX]. “About the best thing the campaign can hope for is that a well-staged convention can undo this damage and that they can get their candidate another look. There will be chatter about a new nominee but, as David Axelrod observed, the delegates have been chosen and the votes cast in a democratic process and the only person who can change that is Joe Biden himself. The party will continue to close ranks behind Biden. ”

Party Members and Activists

Refusual to cope:

Replacing the votes of those who voted for Biden, too:

“Our democracy”….


Thanks, Obama!

Silicon Valley, but not a tech bro, scam artist, or libertarian (sorry for the redundancy):

Fanciful Scenarists

I believe Biden could also release his delegates:

Of the Trillbillies:

Memory hole? What memory hole?

Twenty Fifth Amendment:

Too many moving parts in Twenty Fifth Amendment, I think.

A faithless elector:

To Tim Mellon, $10M is a gratuity!

“It was a set-up” (1):

As I’ve said before, I think all parties thought an early debate would bring clarity.

“It was a set-up (2):

* * *

And about Biden’s hoarseness:

What nobody’s saying:


If the Democrats are to replace Biden, they have 52 days at the outside to choose his successor, introduce them to the public, and turn the tanker of the campaign (besides replacing all of Biden’s staff). That’s a heavy lift.

So who might Biden’s successor be? We have two virtually useless data points as of this writing. First, prediction markets:

Quite the price swing. Second, this poll at Drudge:

Who the heck is “Other”? Oprah? Arnold? Michelle? Taylor Swift?

Then of course there are larger crises that the Biden Administration has on its plate:

(Note that one may regard the Israel Lobby as a proxy for the military-industrial complex while still accepting Mearsheimer’s bottom line.) Busy, busy, busy!


The focus groups begin to speak:

“Undecided voter focus group leans toward Trump after debate” [Axios]. “All undecided voters in a U.S. swing states focus group hosted by pollster Frank Luntz said President Biden should be replaced as the Democratic nominee after watching his first presidential debate against former President Trump. Why it matters: The 2024 presidential election will be decided by roughly 6% of voters in key swing states. Luntz, who has conducted presidential focus groups since 1996, said he never witnessed one reach a ‘conclusion this overwhelming.’ Of 14 voters from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina, 12 said the debate made them lean toward electing Trump, one toward Biden and one remained undecided. Nine of the participants said they voted for Biden in 2020. Most voters expressed concern over Biden’s mental state and his ability to lead, following some rambling answers from the president.”

* * *

Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi, lichen, and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From EM:

EM write: “How we doing? I can’t wait to inject this into my arm.” You and me both.

* * *

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