Nervous Democrats are sweating the small stuff

Nervous Democrats are sweating the small stuff
© Greg Nash

Democrats are worrying about Joe BidenJoe BidenNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along MORE under wraps, unable to campaign, while Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district 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.

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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 ClintonNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states California Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate 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 ClyburnMaxine Waters expresses confidence Biden will pick Black woman as VP Kanye West 'not denying' his campaign seeks to damage Biden Clyburn: 'No question' Kanye West effort is attempt to take votes from Biden MORE, whose daughter is involved with another Super PAC.

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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 ObamaKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Poll: 15 percent of Democratic voters want to eliminate the filibuster Donald Trump has done more for African Americans than we think 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 BrazileTrump tweets 'we all miss' Ailes after swiping at Fox Trump complains Fox News is 'doing nothing to help' him get reelected Nervous Democrats are sweating the small stuff 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 Devi HarrisNAACP seeks to boost Black voter turnout in six states Biden touts Trump saying Harris would be 'fine choice' for VP pick Kamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along 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 ClintonThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden picks Harris as running mate Ghislaine Maxwell attorneys ask for delay to unseal court documents due to 'critical new information' Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump 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.