The Democrats’ Looming Post-Mortem

THIS WILL GET UGLY: The Democrats’ likely shellacking in House elections will result in a major house-cleaning in the Biden Administration, a huge spending bill focused on aid to Ukraine and — most importantly — a heated debate on whether Joe Biden should seek a second term. Most Democratic voters say no.

WASHINGTON ALREADY IS BUZZING about this post-mortem, which is likely even if the Senate stays tied (which may not be confirmed until several days after the election). The House is looking like a landslide, which we asserted earlier this week.

ONE THEME WILL BE why the party’s messaging didn’t gain traction — why didn’t the White House react more forcefully to the inflation surge? Why didn’t Biden aggressively sell his legislative accomplishments? Why didn’t the Federal Reserve’s policy failures receive more scrutiny?

In the meantime, here are the key post-election issues:

The house-cleaning: We expect several key players to depart by Thanksgiving, as expected after a party loses an election. Most of Biden’s economic aides are vulnerable, including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who may voluntarily depart. Chief of Staff Ron Klain may leave, as could several foreign policy aides, who are burned out after months of 90-hour work weeks.

The lame duck session: A massive spending bill will come into focus in December, with a major focus on aid to Ukraine. With some Republicans opposing much more aid, Biden will try to get a huge spending bill passed before this session of Congress ends in the first week of January, before Republicans take over the House.

Joe Biden’s Very Big Decision: The prospect of endless House hearings on Hunter Biden has to weigh on the president, as will his task of taking the the blame if there’s a House blowout. Looking and sounding increasingly frail, we believe Biden will announce by early next year that he won’t seek re-election.

THIS ALREADY HAS PROMPTED SPECULATION about more than a dozen Democrats who are prepared to ramp up a campaign quickly if Biden announces that he’s not running.

THERE’S NO CLEAR FAVORITE: For most of the fall the buzz has focused on California Gov. Gavin Newsom; now the new insider favorite is Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who should win re-election on Nov. 8 and then pivot toward a presidential run. Kamala Harris also could quickly ramp up a campaign, with massive support from African Americans.

THERE’S NO CONSENSUS ON THE PARTY’S DIECTION: Bernie Sanders, itching to run again despite his age (81), would push for a progressive agenda (which has failed to gain traction), while moderates like Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar would run toward the center. And there are governors and more governors who are considering a run: J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, just to name a few.

WHILE DEMOCRATS BRAWL OVER THE PARTY’S DIRECTION, Republicans are bracing for an epic clash between Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s the early favorite in what could be a very crowded field. If Trump says he’s running, would DeSantis be willing to wait until 2028 to run? Nope, he will sound very much like a presidential candidate in his re-election celebration on the night of Nov. 8.

Related: Washington Is Whispering About the “L” Word

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