Obama’s Ex-Campaign Manager to Dems Worried About Biden: ‘Don’t Panic’

  • Jim Messina, who ran former President Obama’s 2012 campaign, says it’s too early for Democratic jitters.
  • “Swing voters aren’t tuned in yet and may not decide who to back until very late,” he wrote in a Politico article.
  • Messina wrote that Obama faced similar political headwinds in 2011, a year before he was reelected.

In recent months, many Democrats have become increasingly worried about President Joe Biden’s reelection chances, expressing concern that he’s losing ground to former President Donald Trump in states that are key to his electoral coalition in 2024.

For much of the year, both Biden and Trump have either been tied, or one candidate has had a nominal lead. But when Trump posted leads in states including Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia in a New York Times/Siena poll earlier this month, many in the party fretted, wondering what Biden could do to counter the former president.

And some Democrats have suggested that Biden, a longtime institution in Washington who’ll turn 81 years old next week, should step aside for a younger generation of leaders.

But Jim Messina — who in 2012 managed then-President Barack Obama’s successful reelection bid — has a message for Democrats worried about Biden’s current standing: “Don’t panic.”

In a Politico Magazine article published on Monday, Messina, who also served as a White House deputy chief of staff for operations under Obama, wrote that his onetime boss dealt with similar political headwinds in 2011 — a year before the then-president was set to face voters again after his historic 2008 victory.

“A year before a presidential election, it is just too early to get an accurate read on how the people will actually vote,” Messina wrote.

Messina argued that at this stage of the race, voters who are already deeply attuned to politics are the ones who are mostly reflected in early polling.

“They are either die-hard partisans or trying to make a point,” he wrote. “But swing voters aren’t tuned in yet and may not decide who to back until very late, and they are the ones who will decide this election.”

In 2011, Obama faced a new GOP House majority, a Democratic Senate majority that had been sharply reduced in the previous year’s midterm elections, and an economy that was slowly recovering from the Great Recession. And the Tea Party movement was in full force, with many observers assuming they’d carry over their energy into the fast-approaching presidential race.

But Obama went on to defeat Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, capturing virtually every major swing state in the country.

Messina argued that Democrats would be wise to lay out a clear and solid economic message for voters, pointing out that Obama earned low marks on the economy from voters in 2011 but significantly improved his standing on the issue the next year.

The veteran political advisor also said that Biden should work to ensure that he emerges victorious in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the trio of states that are the cornerstone of modern Democratic presidential victories.

“The Biden campaign knows that there are just seven battleground states this time, with a few paths to victory,” he wrote.

“Biden can win if he holds onto the Blue Wall states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; he can hold onto his gains from 2020 in the Sunbelt; and he can try to expand the map by winning North Carolina,” he added.

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