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Biden Can Either Reach Out to Never Trumpers or Lose

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty Images

The 2024 presidential race is “the most important election of our lives.” (Again.) Countless polls indicate an extremely close race. Making matters worse, Donald Trump legitimately poses an existential threat to liberal democracy.

So why isn’t Joe Biden’s campaign acting like it?

Take, as a representative example, reporting by Jonathan Martin in Politico, that says Biden hasn’t done much to woo prominent Never Trump conservatives, aside from his tepid overtures to Nikki Haley voters when she dropped out of the GOP primary.

Trump Needs His MAGA Followers to Believe America Is Screwed

According to Martin—who calls Biden’s radio silence “political malpractice”—the president hasn’t lifted a finger to court prominent anti-Trump Republicans, including Chris Christie, George W. Bush, Mike Pence, and Paul Ryan.

The same goes for members of Congress. “I reached out to every current Republican lawmaker who has refused to commit to Trump in the general election,” Martin writes. “Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) Mitt Romney (Utah), Todd Young (Indiana), Bill Cassidy (Louisiana), and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) all said the same: they’ve not heard from Biden.”

To be sure, Biden campaign officials seem to understand the value in targeting their messaging—including releasing a new digital ad on Friday—to Haley voters. After all, every vote counts and even if you can merely scrape a few thousand Never Trump registered Republicans across the few remaining purple states, it’s well worth the effort.

With stakes this high, Biden should be pulling out all the stops to build a majority coalition that incorporates a wide swath of Americans. This outreach should include a broad range of Never Trump leaders and voters.

Christie, for example, has said he’s willing to do “whatever I can to try to make sure that the country doesn’t go through what I think will be the misery of a second Trump term.”

So why hasn’t Biden picked up the phone? Yes, the president is very busy. And though he’s well-known as both personable and a politics savant, he might not want to humble himself by openly seeking favor from people he disagrees with on countless issues.

But if he were truly playing to win, he’d recall that politics necessitates asking people for help. You have to ask donors for money. You have to ask voters for votes. And sometimes you even have to ask your adversaries for help. Biden has a long history of working across the aisle. In the past, he has boasted about doing just that (and with more unseemly people than Christie, I might add).

The Utter Ridiculousness of ‘Trump Bibles’

If any sitting president could successfully pull off this kind of outreach to big names in the other party—it’s Biden. And if any challenger could inspire the kind of disgust among past leaders of his own party that they’d consider backing the incumbent—it’s Trump.

Now, it’s possible that Team Biden has concluded that most endorsements don’t matter because most so-called political “leaders” don’t actually control many votes. And that assumption is mostly true nowadays.

However, if enough prominent Republicans came out for Biden (or simply came out against Trump) at the right place and time, the bandwagon effect could kick in and create a permission structure for some Mitt Romney-Nikki Haley voters to actually pull the lever for Biden.

Which brings us to the last and most likely reason Biden doesn’t want to make a show of bringing Republicans into his campaign coalition: He’s terrified of alienating progressives.

“The president’s staff, who some Republicans grumble are not letting Biden (truly) be Biden, have been particularly consumed with trying to mollify progressives. Biden, too, has come to recognize the grave political risk posed by speaking of that war in Gaza,” Martin writes.

To be sure, bringing in Never Trump conservatives will seem distasteful to many liberals (and outright criminal to those on the far-left), but they ought to suck it up and accept that—if this really is an existential election—there is no other way to win.

Once upon a time, the FDR-JFK coalition was large enough to include southern Democrats, San Francisco beatniks, and rust belt union workers. The joke was a fistfight would break out if they ever all met in one location. Today, both Democrats and Republicans seem uninterested in the politics of addition.

Trump’s Doing Nothing to Win Over Anti-Trump GOP Voters

Back in 2021, I lamented that “We have two political parties in America that seem utterly committed to being in the minority. Among other defects, neither appears to be interested in wooing what is arguably the most influential swing vote in America right now: Never Trump conservatives.”

Nothing much has changed since. Indeed, while Biden may be leaving some gettable voters on the table, Trump appears to be even less concerned about wooing them.

We Never Trump conservatives are essentially the Rodney Dangerfields of modern electoral politics: Voters who can’t get no respect, despite living during a time when the high stakes make this year’s presidential election no laughing matter.

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