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Biden, possible 2024 Republican challengers already squaring off

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Republican presidential aspirants are already proving to be an irritant for President Joe Biden long before the 2024 Iowa caucuses.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz is protesting Biden administration nominees by holding up their confirmations, while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fundraising off his coronavirus response flaps with the president, 2.5 years before the first primary votes are even cast. But Biden's different reactions to the pair are revealing regarding his strategy for 2022 and 2024.

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Texas Democrat Matt Angle of the Lone Star State Project said that it is "very impressive" that Biden has managed to downplay Cruz's hijinks.

"Cruz is a festering boil on the butt of our nation, and I admire anyone with the discipline to ignore him," Angle told the Washington Examiner.

Yet, Angle differentiated DeSantis's position from Cruz's. He contended that the governor is not only "annoying" but "dangerous" as the delta variant stretches healthcare resources around the country.

"People are dying in Florida, many of them children, because of the self-serving but totally irresponsible actions of DeSantis," he said. "It is tragic that the president of the United States has to weigh in to protect the citizens of Florida from their own governor."

Joshua Scacco, a University of South Florida political communication professor, warned observers to brace themselves for an onslaught of 2024 presidential candidates looking to increase their name recognition with the conservative media ecosystem, donors, and voters.

For Scacco, DeSantis is filling the power void created by former President Donald Trump's absence, confronting Biden with his own brand of Trumpism.

"The president can contrast his approach and record on COVID to that of the governor," he said. "Many individuals know how Biden would react vis-à-vis Trump, as we had an entire presidential campaign around it. The governor is a means of contrast for the president."

Biden's engagement also provides the president with the opportunity to demonstrate "activist" leadership as he wrangles a diverse Democratic Party and energizes his base before the 2022 midterm elections, Scacco added.

Biden taking on DeSantis is notable given his pretense of being above the partisan fray. Biden describes himself as a bipartisan-inclined president, but that has not prevented him from participating in partisan fights, particularly over voter access. However, his supporters argue that Biden's partisan rhetoric falls well short of Trump's.

Cruz, who unsuccessfully contested the 2016 primary against Trump, confirmed his opposition to a raft of Biden State Department and ambassadorial nominees this week as the Senate amended the Democrats' $3.5 trillion budget resolution. He has been relying on a range of tactics in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the full chamber to delay or block the picks.

Only 10 of Biden's State Department nominees have been confirmed, with roughly 60 people tapped for ambassadorships waiting to be considered.

Cruz justified his decision this week by citing Biden's "open defiance” of legislation demanding Russian sanctions over the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline project. The president caved last month over the 90%-complete, 764-mile underwater pipeline between Russia and Germany after facing pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russia could still be slapped with sanctions if they use the pipeline as a blunt political instrument, especially against Ukraine.

But the Biden administration's patience is running thin. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been publicly and privately imploring lawmakers to confirm the nominees. And his staff are talking about teaming up with nonprofit organizations on a letter-writing campaign. The president speaking out is a last resort, according to reports.

Biden's drama with Cruz has not received the same attention as his snippy exchanges with DeSantis.

DeSantis emerged as a political foil this month as COVID-19 cases in his state surged, and he stuck with his anti-mask and vaccine mandate positions, specifically in schools before fall terms started.

Deploying a line pre-tested twice by press secretary Jen Psaki during a briefing last week, Biden called on DeSantis and other governors to "at least get out of the way of the people who are trying to do the right thing." Psaki then ripped DeSantis for fundraising off of his presidential interactions.

"Not only is Gov. DeSantis not abiding by public health decisions, he's fundraising off of this," she said. "Our view, as an administration, is that teachers, parents in Florida, parents across the country should have the ability and the knowledge that their kids are going to school and they're in safe environments. That shouldn't be too much to ask."

The administration, too, is exploring how it can support Florida schools if DeSantis pulls funding over mask or vaccine requirements.

"Our war is not on DeSantis. It's on the virus, which we're trying to kneecap. And he does not seem to want to participate in that effort to kneecap the virus, hence our concern," she said in another briefing.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Without Trump, a survey by Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio conducted last month found DeSantis winning 39% of the 2024 GOP primary vote. Former Vice President Mike Pence would capture 15% to Cruz's 7%.

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Tags: News, Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House, Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Campaigns, 2024 Elections, 2022 Elections

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Biden, possible 2024 Republican challengers already squaring off

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