In poll after poll, the majority of Democratic voters say they do not want Joe Biden to run for reelection next year. And his age, the data shows, is by far the biggest snag. At 80, Biden is already the oldest president in US history and would be 86 by the end of a second term.
And yet, despite such polling, those close to Biden have contrived an entirely different explanation for why his candidacy might fail. Whether it’s left-wing academic Cornel West, a presidential candidate running for the Green Party nomination, or a pending moderate candidate, third-party challengers have become the main source of worry in Bidenworld, according to an NBC News report Monday. “It’s pretty fucking concerning,” a person familiar with White House discussions about the matter told the outlet.
According to two sources, the president even discussed the matter during a recent White House visit from Hillary Clinton. As NBC notes, many of Clinton’s allies have spent the past six years blaming the Green Party’s Jill Stein for her loss to Donald Trump in 2016. Of course, Clinton’s defeat was likely caused by numerous factors, including her high disapproval marks among voters and a wildly dysfunctional campaign that failed to contend with the changing political wind in Rust Belt states that had previously voted for Barack Obama.??
No matter. Clinton, per NBC, spent her conference with Biden this month urging him to prioritize third-party threats and combat them. She shared the same warning ahead of the 2020 race, accusing Republicans of “grooming” an unnamed candidate favored by the Kremlin––likely an allusion to former Democratic congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard––to run as a third-party choice, thereby hurting Democratic odds in the general election.
A recent poll from NBC News does suggest that third-party options could hamper Biden’s reelection efforts. When the outlet asked respondents to choose between Biden and Trump, the result was a 46-46 tie. And when presented with additional options for three notable alternative parties––the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the moderate No Labels group––a plurality of respondents, 39%, backed Trump, giving him a three-point lead over the president.
Other recent head-to-head polls have put Trump and Biden at a deadlock; a CBS News poll last week even had Trump leading Biden by one point. If that data is borne out in a handful of key states, the minuscule percentage of voters who back third-party candidates could be enough to tilt the election. “With a tight election, every vote counts,” a Biden ally told NBC News. “Is it in the back of many people’s brains? Absolutely. Do we have to be careful as we move out? Yes, we do.”
Compounding these pressures is the candidacy of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is currently running for the Democratic nomination but has not ruled out a third-party bid. Over the summer, Kennedy, an anti-vaxxer and all-around crackpot conspiracist, even began courting the Libertarian Party, according to The New York Times. “He emphasized that he was committed to running as a Democrat but said that he considered himself very libertarian,” Angela McArdle, Libertarian Party chair, told the Times when asked about her July meeting with Kennedy.
Biden, meanwhile, could also face a primary challenger from within his own party. For example: Congressman Dean Phillips, a Minnesota Democrat, revealed recently that he is weighing a presidential bid. “I’m concerned that there is no alternative,” Phillips told political strategist and pundit Steve Schmidt. Possibly alluding to Biden’s unprecedented age, the lawmaker added that “something could happen between now and next November that would make the Democratic Convention in Chicago an unmitigated disaster.”?