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Biden to Make Case for Legacy in Speech07/24 06:05

   Even though President Joe Biden won't be on the ballot this November, voters 
still will be weighing his legacy.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Even though President Joe Biden won't be on the ballot 
this November, voters still will be weighing his legacy.

   As Vice President Kamala Harris moves to take his place as the Democratic 
standard-bearer, Biden's accomplishments remain very much at risk should 
Republican Donald Trump prevail.

   How Biden's single term -- and his decision to step aside -- are remembered 
will be intertwined with Harris' electoral success in November, particularly as 
the vice president runs tightly on the achievements of the Biden administration.

   Biden will have an opportunity to make a case for his legacy -- sweeping 
domestic legislation, renewal of alliances abroad, defense of democracy -- on 
Wednesday night when he delivers an Oval Office address about his decision to 
bow out of the race and "what lies ahead."

   And no matter how frustrated Biden is at being pushed aside by his party -- 
and he's plenty upset -- he has too much at stake simply to wash his hands of 
this election.

   Biden endorsed Harris shortly after he announced Sunday that he would end 
his candidacy, effectively giving her a head start over would-be challengers 
and helping to jumpstart a candidacy focused largely on continuing his own 
agenda.

   "If she wins, then it will be confirmation that he did the right thing to 
fight against the threat that is Trump, and he will be seen as a legend on 
behalf of democracy," said presidential historian Lindsay Chervinsky, executive 
director of the George Washington Presidential Library at Mount Vernon. "If she 
loses, I think there will be questions about, did he step down too late? Would 
the Democratic Party have been more effective if he had said he was not going 
to run?"

   Similar what-ifs play out at the end of every presidency. But Biden's 
defiance in the face of questions about his fitness for office and then his 
late submission to his party's crisis of confidence heighten the stakes.

   The last vice president to run for the top job was Democrat Al Gore, who 
sought to distance himself from President Bill Clinton during the 2000 campaign 
after the president's affair with a White House intern and subsequent 
impeachment.

   Harris, in contrast, has spent the better part of the last three years 
praising Biden's doings -- meaning any attempt to now distance herself would be 
difficult to explain. And she has to rely on the Biden political operation she 
inherited to win the election with just over 100 days to go before polls close.

   Speaking to campaign staff on Monday, Harris said Biden's legacy of 
accomplishment "just over the last three and a half years is unmatched in 
modern history."

   Trump and his allies, for their part, were eager to tie Harris to Biden's 
record even before the president left the race -- and not in a good way.

   One campaign email to supporters declared "KAMALA HARRIS IS BIDEN 2.0 -- 
Kamala Harris owns Joe Biden's terrible record because it is her record as 
well," calling out high inflation and border policies, among other things.

   Biden this week promised the staffers of his former campaign that he was 
still "going to be on the road" as he handed off the reins of the organization 
to Harris, adding, "I'm not going anywhere."

   His advisers say he intends to hold campaign events and fundraisers 
benefiting Harris, albeit at a far slower pace than had he remained on the 
ballot himself.

   Harris advisers will ultimately have to decide how to deploy the president, 
whose popularity sagged as voters on both sides of the aisle questioned his 
fitness for office.

   The president's allies insist that no matter what, Biden's place in the 
history books is intact.

   Biden's win in 2020 "was that election that protected us from a Donald Trump 
presidency," said Rep. Steven Horsford, chairman of the Congressional Black 
Caucus. "Yes, we have to do it again this November. But had Donald Trump been 
in office another four years, the damage, the destruction, the decay of our 
democracy would've gone even further."

   Matt Bennett, co-founder of the center-left think tank Third Way, predicted 
there will be a difference between short-term recollections of Biden and his 
legacy if Democrats lose in November.

   "It is true that if we lose, that will cloud things for him in the 
near-term" because Democrats will have to confront Trump, Bennett said. "In the 
long term, when history judges Biden, they'll look at him on his own terms. 
They will judge him for what he did or did not do as president, and they will 
judge him very favorably."

   Biden's decision to end his candidacy buoyed the spirits of congressional 
Democrats who had been fretting that the incumbent president would drag down 
their prospects of retaining the Senate and retaking the House. An 
all-Republican Washington would threaten to do even more damage to Biden's 
legacy.

   Already, congressional Republicans have tried to unravel pieces of the 
so-called Inflation Reduction Act, a central Biden achievement that was passed 
on party lines in 2022. And they could succeed next year, with a President 
Trump waiting to sign a repeal into law.

   GOP lawmakers could also vote to reverse key federal regulations that had 
arrived later in the Biden administration.

   "If the Republicans get dual majorities, they're going to claw back as much 
as they can, they're going to undo as much as they can and not only will that 
be a disaster for America and the world, it'll be really bad for the Biden 
legacy," Bennett said.

   Biden aides point to the thus-far seamless nature of Harris' takeover of his 
political apparatus as evidenced that the president has set up his vice 
president to successfully run on their shared record. But the ultimate test of 
that organization will come in November.

   No one will be cheering her on more than the president.

   As Biden said to Harris: "I'm watching you, kid."

 
 
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