An unexpected good night for Biden

If there was one message that summed up how President Biden felt after Tuesday’s election, it came in the form of a tweet.

“I’m not dead and I’m not going to die,” Biden he said in an old video from 2020 that was re-shared by White House digital director Rob Flaherty on Wednesday afternoon.

It was a sentiment echoed among Democrats, who felt hopeful about the results: President Biden had a good night. In fact, it was much better than expected.

“I honestly thought we were all going to write an obituary about President Biden and our party today,” admitted one top party strategist. “And while we’re still a long way from the finish line, I think we all feel good about Biden and where things stand.”

Asked if Biden had a good night, Democratic strategist Eddie Vale put it this way: “It’s like riding in a corvette with airmen while they eat good ice cream.”

Biden will have a chance to take a victory lap of sorts when he speaks and answers questions from reporters on Wednesday afternoon, continuing the presidential tradition of a post-midterm news conference.

It was a much different scenario 24 hours earlier. Privately, hours before the polls closed on Tuesday, the finger-pointing had already begun with Biden taking most of the hits. Strategists and donors have accused the White House of not having a solid economic message to sell to voters and of focusing too much — or not enough — on issues like abortion. They worried that voters would take out their frustration with inflation and high gas prices on Biden.

And they predicted that Biden, with an approval rating hovering around 40 percent, would suffer losses like former President Obama did in 2010. At the time, Democrats were experiencing what Obama called a “shelling” after losing 63 seats , ceding the House to Republicans. Former President Trump also saw the House of Representatives swing to Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

But Democrats were feeling energized Wednesday.

“Biden should be encouraged last night,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “The state is with him. They decisively rejected the naysayers who ran for statewide office and voted to keep the Democrats in power.

Just as important, Donald Trump had a terrible night, Setzer added. “There should be no doubt at this point that Biden is the 2024 candidate and the person who is likely to be president in 2025.”

Republicans entered Election Day optimistic that they could win 25 or more House seats, but they were far from that. With the results still coming in and control of the Senate uncertain, Democrats are delighted to have exceeded expectations.

“Republicans drink coffee and drink for breakfast,” said former Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.), a Biden ally.

More than anything, the results gave Biden the energy he needed as he signaled that he would launch a reelection bid.

Buoyed by Tuesday’s early results, Biden could announce before the new year that he is running for re-election in 2024, after months of insisting from the White House that he intends to run again.

Former White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday night that Biden should make his decision in the next few months and knows he has to make it sooner rather than later, especially if former President Trump announces his plans to run again.

“I think that will definitely be a factor because Donald Trump entering the race means the president will feel like he’s the only one who has beaten him before, which is true,” she said on NBC.

The results so far on Tuesday night are seen in part as a referendum on Trump, and while many of the candidates he endorsed and those who spread his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged won seats, others also lost. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), considered the front-runner for the GOP presidency in 2024, won re-election in a landslide.

All of these factors are at play as Biden decides whether and when to officially announce his candidacy for re-election.

“I’m sure the results of the election changed Biden’s calculations about running again. In the end, he was the big winner last night — and DeSantis was a close second,” Carney said.

Others argued the opposite, that a rough night for Trump could mean Biden would reconsider his 2024 bid.

“With Trump wounded and Republicans reeling, President Biden’s argument that only he can defeat Trump is far less important. While he should certainly celebrate the role he played in the historic victory, he should seriously consider whether he is the right person to potentially run against a candidate like Ron DeSantis in the general election,” said Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins.

He also noted that Democrats like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro raised their national profiles Tuesday night for potential 2024 runs.

In an appearance on Fox News Wednesday morning, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich admitted that Biden’s move to demonize Republicans ultimately worked for him.

“I have to say, as despicable as I think it was, Biden’s strategy of demonizing Republicans … I think it has had an impact and will become the definition of the Democratic Party,” the Georgia Republican said.

Biden spent Tuesday evening fielding phone calls from the White House to Democrats as the results came in, looking cheerful in a photo shared from one of the calls.

He ended the evening by texting Pennsylvania Sen.-elect John Fetterman around 2 a.m. to congratulate him on his victory over Trump-endorsed Republican candidate Mehmet Oz. The president has been optimistic about Democrats flipping the Senate seat and has spent a lot of time in the Keystone State over the past month, most recently at a rally with Fetterman and Shapiro on Saturday.

Biden was confirmed on Tuesday night when the so-called red wave predicted by some political observers did not fully materialize.

“In an off-year election, with the odds against the White House, President Biden outperformed former Presidents Trump, Obama and Bush,” Hopkins said.

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