David Axelrod: Joe Biden Has Two Weeks to Build a Blue Wall

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The way David Axelrod sees it, Joe Biden has a two-week runway to turn things around.

Biden is in the middle of the most brutal stretch of his political career. But if he can weather the storm, he might be in the clear, the architect of President Barack Obama’s victory tells The Daily Beast.

“If he gets past the next two weeks without the congressional leaders trying to get him to step aside, I suspect he will be the nominee,” Axelrod said.

Axelrod has been an unstinting critic of Biden, calling him “out-of-touch” for insisting on staying in the presidential race during an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. Never a fan of the Obama brain trust to begin with, Biden has been especially annoyed by Axelrod’s months-long expressions of doubt about the president’s re-election campaign.

“Only he can decide to step aside,” Axelrod told the Beast on Monday afternoon, as congressional Democrats sought for ways to replace the top of their ticket–or face down-ballot woes come November. If that isn’t an endorsement of Biden’s strategy, it is an acknowledgement that one seems to be at work.

“If he is dug in and stays, we go on to November,” Axelrod predicted.

Even on Capitol Hill there was evidence that for all the speculation about who might replace Biden in the end he will survive.

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“Enough influential House Dems will stick it out with him,” one leading Democrat told The Daily Beast, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “He has strong support among senior CBC members and key folks in battleground states,” he added, referring to the Congressional Black Caucus.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), however, issued a statement on Monday suggesting Biden isn’t the candidate who is best suited to defeat Trump in November. “With so much as stake in the upcoming election, now is the time for conversations about the strongest path forward, “ Warner said.

He said it is “incumbent upon the president to more aggressively make his case to the American people,” and that it is time for Biden to “hear directly from a broader group of voices about how to best prevent” Donald Trump from returning to the White House. Warner issued the statement a day after cancelling a planned meeting to try to recruit sufficient Senate Democratic support to convince Biden to stand down from his re-election bid.

Biden himself was increasingly striking a defiant tone Monday. By lashing out at the media, challenging members of his own party and insisting that he knows best, he risks coming across like the man whose name he could barely stand to mention during the first two years of his presidency: Donald Trump.

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“I’m getting so frustrated by the elites,” the president told MSNBC’s Morning Joe during an unexpected, but clearly pre-planned, Monday call-in. Biden, insiders say, is used to getting doubted by the smart set, the Ivy Leaguers who scoff at his credentials and folksy demeanor. Nothing fuels him like the desire to prove them wrong. But many think that, this time, he is acting on ego more than instinct.

Of course, that charge is not new, either. “Biden’s Problem Is His Ego,” a Politico headline sniffed in 2019 when nobody thought he would prevail in the following year’s Democratic primary.

“All the drama has folks rattled,” a Democrat who is working with the Biden campaign in Florida told The Daily Beast on Monday, “but the vibe is they just want to focus on Trump and move on.”

But getting through July will not be easy, as all eyes will be on the president, watching for signs of cognitive decline. Later this week, Biden will conduct what White House senior spokesperson John Kirby called a “big-boy press conference” after several days of meetings with NATO leaders in Washington. He is expect to continue campaigning, as he has been since the debate, holding rallies and conducting interviews.

On Monday he appeared to have calmed few of his critics, who see Trump’s widening lead as evidence of a potential cataclysm. But if he is determined, it may not make a difference.

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