Yesterday, while writing about President Biden’s late-coming conversation with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky, a thought occurred to me: Had Biden been ducking the man responsible for handing him the White House?
I suppose that the answer is technically “no” — that distinction belongs to Donald Trump — but I think we might underestimate the extent to which the Trump–Ukraine imbroglio influenced the 2020 election. That’s not to say the voters were persuaded to opt for Biden or discard Trump as a result of the substance of the scandal itself. Rather, it’s to suggest that it helped make Biden the choice of Democratic primary voters in early 2020.
The impeachment was still fresh at that point, and Trump was seemingly most worried about Biden’s becoming his opponent. That very likely primed Democrats to view Biden as the candidate most able to defeat Trump. Had the former vice president not been so obviously the candidate that the Trump campaign most feared, primary voters might have been less prone to coalesce around Biden as the “electable” candidate when the race winnowed. Biden’s margins of victory in most of the swing states that he won in the general election were razor-thin. Given those margins, it’s easy to imagine Trump walking away with a second term had Bernie Sanders emerged as the Democratic nominee.
There’s no evidence to suggest that the Ukraine scandal was what cost Trump the presidency, but it seems likely that while trying to destroy Biden in a questionable phone call, Trump helped him to become the Democratic nominee, and ultimately the victor in the election. Yet another timely reminder that character is destiny.