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The Great Biden Recalculation

joe biden
Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
September 8, 2022

Not two months ago, the palms of Democratic insiders were dripping with midsummer mid-Atlantic marshmallow-sized beads of sweat. Joe Biden’s approval numbers had fallen to the lowest level of his presidency, 38 percent—a Trumpian danger zone—and a New York Times poll showed that a remarkable 64 percent of Democrats wanted a new party leader in 2024. His unpopularity was spilling out into congressional races, too, emboldening even fellow septuagenarian candidates like Reps. Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney to remark publicly that Biden shouldn’t run for reelection. A midterm super tsunami loomed. Gas prices were astronomical and, inside Washington, shell-shocked Democrats were quietly fuming with the White House for not having prepared a more robust response to the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe. 

Over phone calls and at private soirees held by big monied donors, Democratic operatives and insiders began to discuss various strategies for ever-so-gently and ever-so-respectfully convincing Biden to step aside and pass the torch when his term comes to an end. Many of these conversations had the part-worried, part-aggrieved, part-self-interested tone of adult children trying to convince their elderly parents to give up the condo and finally enter Green Grove.