Biden Faces Brinkmanship that could Ensue a GOP Takeover

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The outcome of the midterm elections will have a significant impact on Biden’s future. The result might dictate whether the president faces wide-ranging probes and calls to step down in 2024.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally for Ohio Republicans at the Dayton International Airport on November 7, 2022 in Vandalia, Ohio. Trump is campaigning for Republican candidates, including U.S. Senate candidate JD Vance, who faces U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in Tuesday’s general election. [Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Biden’s future inextricably tied to midterm outcome

President Biden has spent the final stretch of the campaign warning of the immense risks the nation faces if Republicans gain complete control of Congress in the midterm elections, warning of government shutdowns, Social Security cuts, and a potential breakdown of democracy.

However, while the president has called the race as a “inflection point” for the country, he has generally avoided discussing the enormous stakes for himself, despite the possibility that a Republican rout would upend the course of his presidency.

The election of Tuesday is a watershed moment for Biden, both personally and politically. The outcome could determine whether the rest of his term is defined by more measures on his priorities — or by the standoffs, investigations, and brinkmanship that could accompany a GOP takeover. It might also determine if the president, who turns 80 this month, can compel his increasingly nervous party that he is the best person to lead the ticket in 2024.

Most observers believe Republicans will win control of the House, which alone could envelop the White House in investigations by ardent allies of former President Donald Trump. But much more devastating is the possibility of losing the Senate, which would make it difficult for Biden to continue promoting federal justices at the same rate and could rule out any Supreme Court confirmation if a vacancy emerges.

According to Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University, if Biden can keep a Democratic Senate, he will be in the catbird seat to run for reelection. But if the Republicans capture the House and Senate in a red wave, there will be a chorus of voices calling for Biden to be the party’s nominee.

However, the impact on Biden might be far faster.

A picture of U.S. Sen. Rand Paul is surrounded by U.S. flags on an unofficial poll of the “political climate of CPAC” at the exhibition booth of Young Americans for Liberty during the last day of the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 28, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. [Alex Wong/Getty Images]

The president’s advisers stress that Tuesday’s election results will have no bearing on his choice to run for reelection, but a Republican tsunami may instantly call into question Biden’s capacity to govern. Many Republican candidates have declined to say if they will accept a loss in the election, creating the risk of a nationwide surge of challenges fueled by spurious fraud claims. And Trump has hinted that he may announce his reelection plans within days, adding to the chaos just as Biden prepares to leave for a week-long trip to Asia on Thursday.

“There are more than 300 Republican candidates for state, local, and federal office who are election deniers, who say he did not win the election even though hundreds of attempts to challenge that have all failed, even in Republican courts,” the president said Monday at a rally for New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

While Biden is away, the culture of election denialism that Trump has fanned might cause new problems, since many Republican contenders have already suggested that any outcome that is not favorable to them must be tainted by fraud. Some Republican officials have begun disputing thousands of ballots in battleground states, alleging voting fraud or using technicalities to ask for the exclusion of mail-in votes, possibly weakening Biden’s hand as he travels to three major summits.

Biden delivered a prime-time speech last week to condemn political violence and voter intimidation. He also urged Americans to be patient during the vote-counting process, even if it takes several days to determine the winners, as is probable in numerous states.

This is also the first election since the events of January 6, when an armed, angry mob stormed the United States Capitol,” President stated. “I wish I could say the assault on our democracy ended that day, but I can’t.”

Biden mulls a less favorable outcome.

Trump has repeatedly pushed candidates to declare victory if they are ahead while ballots are still being counted, which may produce turmoil while Biden is abroad. White House officials have downplayed questions over Biden’s choice to leave the country so soon after the election, claiming that he can be president from anywhere in the globe.

They pointed out that Biden’s attendance at the climate, Asian, and Group of 20 summits had been planned for quite some time.

One adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said Biden’s pivot to the world stage could even provide a politically advantageous image of “the president of the United States leading the free world in a way only he can,” regardless of what happens at home politically.

While the president and his friends have expressed public optimism that they would beat predictions on Tuesday, they have also begun to prepare the public for a less favorable outcome. “It’s going to be a terrible two years if we lose the House and Senate,” Biden warned at a fundraiser in Chicago on Friday. “The good news is that I’ll have a veto pen.”

According to White House spokesman Andrew Bates, Biden has spent most of the past year setting out the “enormous stakes for the middle class” if Republican plans of “worsening inflation through tax cuts for the wealthiest and reducing Medicare and Social Security” prevail.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the Senate Chambers to give his first remarks of the day at the U.S. Capitol Building on September 06, 2022 in Washington, DC. [Anna Moneymaker/Getty]

Republican leaders say that GOP majorities are required to prevent the president’s free spending, which they claim has fueled inflation, and to rein in his chaotic policies, and they reject his characterization of their anti-democratic sentiments. “The President is desperate to change the subject from inflation, crime, and open borders,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) recently tweeted. “Now he’s asserting that democracy only works if his party wins. What rubbish.”

The president’s party might defy expectations on both sides by retaining control of the House and increasing its Senate majority, an outcome that the president has stated he is “optimistic” will occur.

The president has laid out his plans for another Democratic Congress, proposing to codify the recently overturned Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling and expand the right to abortion. He has advocated repealing the 60-vote filibuster rule that has stalled most of his agenda in the Senate over the last two years, stating that on matters like as women’s rights and voting rights, he will push senators to approve legislation with a simple majority.

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