Joe Biden’s Democratic rivals are hoping he tumbles. Many are confident that he will.
No one needs Biden to fade more than the other white, male, moderate candidates who believe they’d be able to step in and take his place. To anyone who complains how hard it’s become for a white man with middle-of-the-road politics to find space within the Democratic Party, many would recommend the tiniest violin, strings removed. Theoretically, it’s both the most crowded and most dismissed lane, full of people currently competing to be the most memorable also-ran: Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, Representative Eric Swalwell of California, Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, and, to a certain extent, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
They’re getting punchy—in part because they believe they’re starting to sense Biden’s weakness, and in part because they believe there’s an opening for moderates, with so many other candidates largely following the lead of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on progressive issues such as Medicare for All. For all the ways the 2020 Democratic primary race is like no election before, these candidates are still convinced it will still be like every other modern election, in that a white man from the middle will make it into the final round. And they think that there’s a way to energize voters around calls for compromise—though that’s not how modern American presidential politics works. When announcing that he wasn’t running for president in March, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that he didn’t think he could break through as a moderate—and he was ready to spend millions of dollars on a 2020 campaign. But the moderates who are running insist that this is their moment, despite what you hear on Twitter and in echo chambers on the left.