Nervous Democrats are sweating the small stuff

Nervous Democrats are sweating the small stuff
© Greg Nash

Democrats are worrying about Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump Cruz urges Supreme Court to take up Pennsylvania election challenge MORE under wraps, unable to campaign, while Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump MORE dominates the airwaves.

This shouldn’t be a worry; it's a gift.

Trump's five o'clock follies — the White House Covid-19 press briefings during which the medical experts are subordinated to the president's crazy assertions while he picks fights with reporters — are backfiring politically. The White House said over the weekend he'd cut back on these for a while. That couldn’t last — Trump was back on Monday: The former reality television performer can’t resist the cameras.


A restrained Biden isn't such a bad thing. An unleashed Joe can be problematic.

The former Vice President, in his basement or unleashed, is in a commanding position for November. Yeah, I know this is what we “anti-Trumpers” said four years ago about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump has discussed possible pardons for three eldest children, Kushner: report McCaskill: 'Hypocrisy' for GOP to target Biden nominee's tweets after Trump Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate MORE. It's more basic today. Even more than polls, which show Biden consistently ahead in battleground states, the majority of Americans see Trump as a deeply flawed leader and are exhausted by his antics.

Biden is not a perfect replacement; voters won't let that be the enemy of the good or better.

Yet a look at the Biden campaign creates legitimate worries if Democrats want not just a win but a convincing sweep.

It's the petty stuff, emanating from two distinctly different forces: the irrational left and the Washington insiders running the campaign.

There was a very public spat over designating one Super PAC as the venue of choice, annoying South Carolina Congressman Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnJuan Williams: Clyburn is my choice as politician of the year Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts In the final chapter of 2020, we must recommit to repairing our democracy MORE, whose daughter is involved with another Super PAC.


I think Super PACs, which can take unlimited contributions to independently support a candidate, are all about money and influence and should be banned. But that's not to be, and Jim Clyburn, whose February endorsement turned the tide for Biden, is in the top five of politicians who can't be brushed aside so some consultants can make more money.

The other public spat is over a digital presence, an area where the Democrats are light years behind Trump. The issue is whether to use a platform from Michael Bloomberg, whom some Democrats still resent, or divide up the spoils or maybe start their own.

I know next to nothing about this digital world, but it's a pretty good bet the Bloomberg-affiliated outfit is close to the gold standard. Go with it. (Full disclosure: I worked for Bloomberg News for 14 years.)

Then there's the left wing who can't get over the fact that Democratic voters in the 2018 congressional races and in this year's presidential contest preferred mainstream progressives.

Last week, left wing groups demanded that the Biden campaign no longer listen to former Treasury Secretary and top Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama chief economist responds to McConnell quoting him on Senate floor: He missed 'a critical part' Amazon reports .8B in weekend sales from independent businesses on its platform Ossoff features Obama in TV ad ahead of in Georgia run-off MORE economic adviser Larry Summers.

Any Democratic presidential candidate — in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the depression — who doesn't turn to Larry Summers is essentially playing a basketball championship with Michael Jordan on the bench.

The left also is demanding that Biden move more their way on health care. He already is espousing lowering Medicare eligibility from 65 to 60 and needn't go much further.

The issue of the vice presidential choice is highlighting Democrats' identity politics. Biden has said he will pick a woman, a good decision politically and socially.

Now prominent African American Democrats like longtime operative Donna BrazileDonna Lease BrazileHarris selects Tina Flournoy as chief of staff: report Biden takes steps toward creating diverse Cabinet Donna Brazile emotional about Harris vice presidency: 'Grateful this moment has come' MORE and former Georgia state house minority leader Stacey Abrams — who's lobbying for the position — have said that if he doesn't pick an African American woman it would be an insult to all black women.

There are two Latino women under consideration; would it be an insult to all Hispanic women if one isn't chosen? There are two middle-aged Midwestern white women under consideration; would be it be an insult to all in that demographic group if one is not chosen?

I have written that Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate GOP's campaign arm rakes in M as Georgia runoffs heat up Biden, Harris to sit with CNN's Tapper in first post-election joint interview The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Capital One — Giuliani denies discussing preemptive pardon with Trump MORE, an African American, would be Biden's best choice. That selection, however, should be based on providing an electoral and governing boost, not race or age or region.

These all are distractions.

What this requires is someone at the helm of the Biden campaign like Barack Obama's David Plouffe or Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBookExpo organizers 'retiring' event Harris selects Tina Flournoy as chief of staff: report One-termers: What Trump can learn from Carter and Bush's re-election losses MORE's James Carville. (Full disclosure: I co-host a Politics 2020 War Room podcast with Carville.) Jen O'Malley Dillon, recently tapped as campaign manager, is an experienced and talented operative. It's a question whether the candidate gives her sufficient authority over all the fiefdoms in Bidenland.

This isn't going to change the likely outcome; barring something unforeseeable, the Democrats hold the winning hand. But if this is an existential election, as most Democrats believe, they need to win big and not be distracted by petty bickering.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then the International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts 2020 Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.