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Biden's Pre-Election Jitters

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Photo: Joe Biden is not only holding strong economic cards, but he is also striving to add geopolitical achievements here and now. Source: POTUS
Photo: Joe Biden is not only holding strong economic cards, but he is also striving to add geopolitical achievements here and now. Source: POTUS

Every move of the US President is currently observed through the lens of the upcoming elections, just six months away. Both the incumbent president and the previous one, who has again thrown his hat into the ring, are under scrutiny. The key points of contention, as always, are prices and unemployment levels. However, foreign policy is also on the table. The war in Ukraine, another flare-up of tensions in the Middle East, and tough disputes with Beijing are the main sharp angles. How is Joe Biden handling the pressure?


It's impossible to answer conclusively right now how capable Joe Biden is of handling a bouquet of challenges all at once. However, the scales of fortune seem to be tipping in his favour. Firstly, the minimum level of unemployment now and the steady slowdown of inflation add weight to his candidacy for the Democratic Party. But that's not all.


A significant signal was sent in the night from 8 to 9 May European time. The US House of Representatives gave a decisive majority of votes to protect Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from being removed from his position. Congress, through bipartisan voting, thwarted an attempt by House member Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to oust the Republican Party leader from a top position. Greene sought to punish Johnson for supporting a deal with Democrats on passing a security package - supporting Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, restricting TikTok, and targeting Russian assets in the US.


The vote was resounding: the House voted 359-43-7 in favour of a decision that prevented the consideration of a proposal to remove Johnson from the speaker's chair.


In addition to the overwhelming majority of Republicans, preservation of Johnson's chair was supported by over three-quarters of the Democratic Party's faction. Therefore, the radical conservative Greene, who belongs to the Republicans, suffered a significant defeat.


This signal suggests that in the last six months of Biden's current term, he hardly deserves the status of a "lame duck," as incumbents are usually labelled a few months before the next elections.


The saving of Johnson and the successful persuasion of Republicans in April regarding the security package would finally paint the future months of pre-election races in blue party colours. But it's not that simple.


Biden's Eastern Express


In particular, regarding support for Ukraine, the situation is more or less predictable, and it's further reinforced by powerful attempts by European governments to compete for leadership in this support. However, the resurgence of tensions in the Middle East since October 2023 has blurred the outlined direction of US foreign policy.


Biden's statement on halting arms supplies to Israel after Israeli forces began clearing Rafah changes many things in the pre-election balance. The president is under tremendous pressure to limit arms supplies to Israel under the somewhat cynical pretext that weakening resistance to terrorists by Israelis can bring peace amid various terrorist attacks. But the photo reports of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza work perfectly. So, pressure on Biden is even coming from members of his own party.


Until recently, Joe Biden resisted these calls and steadfastly supported Israel's efforts to pursue Hamas. But his acquiescence here and now exposes him to serious danger, as the Democratic Party and its candidates have relied on the support of the US Jewish community for decades, not only in terms of votes but also in contributions to election funds.


What Trump May Not Be Forgiven For


But it's not just Biden risking the support of traditional sympathisers. Donald Trump campaigned on slogans calling for cheap gasoline. Odd, isn't it? After all, Republicans have always relied on the support of oil companies. Did oilmen only become confident in their sympathies a couple of years ago, when the Biden administration actively promoted a "green" agenda? That is, reducing drilling for new wells and reducing fossil fuel consumption.


And now, Trump calls out "drill, baby, drill" from every lectern. But what about the ideas of cheap gasoline? Against the backdrop of the insane profits that the US oil industry has become accustomed to in the current market events?


No, the oil community is unlikely to allow Trump such playacting with voters at their own expense.



Uncertainty Benefits the Democrats

At this moment, we are witnessing seismic shifts around the support bases of key candidates. This uncertainty appears to broaden the scope for manoeuvre for the sitting president. So far, current ratings do not entirely favour either of the two main candidates across the country.


Even the problems in the Middle East could be used by Biden in disputes with Trump. Indeed, accusations are already circulating about Trump’s Iranian legacy, specifically, his decision to withdraw the US from the nuclear deal with Iran. Former Secretary of State John Kerry criticized the former president on May 8 for this decision made six years ago, stating that it had made the situation less safe for Americans.


Further statements suggest that Trump’s initiative to withdraw from the deal has emboldened Iran, while conversely weakening the US position. In light of Iran’s recent first full-scale and overt attack on Israel, these accusations are particularly damaging from a pre-election standpoint. The Jewish community faces the difficult task of weighing up which candidate does less harm.


As for the situation concerning Ukraine, the pre-election scenario seems almost unequivocally favourable for Biden. It appears he is aiming for shifts that do not favour Moscow. Realists do not expect an unlimited flow of arms and money, but even the provided amounts may be sufficient to break the dominance of Russian artillery, missiles, and aircraft on the battlefield.


Joe Biden needs a success story in this area here and now. Achieving this purely through military confrontation is unlikely and armed escalation is not deemed an acceptable approach. Perhaps for this reason, a document allowing the US president to seize Russian assets was included in the security package. The pace of applying economic sanctions against Russian banks and corporations, including non-state ones, as they are integral to Russia’s military machine, has notably accelerated.


What can Trump offer on this track? Until February 24, 2022, he could comfortably speak of his negotiating talent and ability to persuade Putin. But after Russia’s extensive missile strikes on Ukrainian civilian targets, any suggestions of looking Putin in the eye have become fatally toxic. Even for staunch proponents of "business as usual."

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