Jason Palmer, the guy who beat Biden in American Samoa, explained

A businessman and lesser-known candidate, Palmer wants to focus on “pass[ing] the torch.”

Jason Palmer, the guy who beat Biden in American Samoa, explained0

Jason Palmer, a businessperson, won the Democratic American Samoa primary. Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden experienced his only primary loss in the cycle thus far.

In the US territory of American Samoa, Biden lost narrowly to a relative unknown: businessman Jason Palmer. It’s a surprising defeat, but not one that will have a major effect on the broader election outcome, given Biden’s overwhelming lead in the Democratic field.

It’s also not some massive referendum: Just 91 votes — total — were cast in American Samoa’s Democratic caucuses. Palmer beat Biden, winning 51 of the ballots cast to the president’s 40. Each will pick up three delegates from Tuesday’s race.

Although Palmer’s win isn’t poised to have much impact on the eventual Democratic nomination, he’s used the victory as an opportunity to emphasize the need for generational change as Biden’s age has come under growing scrutiny.

“This is the message that Joe Biden needs to hear, that the American people want to pass the torch to the next generation,” Palmer, 52, told ABC News.

According to a February New York Times/Siena College poll, 61 percent of voters who supported Biden, 81, in 2020 say he’s now “just too old” to do an effective job as president. Palmer has argued that he could be a younger alternative and offer an “outsider” perspective, having spent most of his career in business and not government.

“I know I’m a longshot candidate with very little chance of winning,” Palmer conceded on his campaign website. “As a result, our campaign is less focused on winning, and more focused on ideas, solutions and changing the conversation.”

What we know about Jason Palmer

Palmer, who is based in Baltimore, has a long list of business credentials that he touts on his LinkedIn. He was previously a partner at New Market Venture Partners, an impact investing firm (or one dedicated to funding businesses that consider social benefits), a senior vice president at the test prep company Kaplan, and a deputy director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Palmer has stressed this expertise as a key aspect of his candidacy and lists “conscious capitalism” as a key pillar of his policy priorities. In addition to calling for the need for more innovation in government, he’s also emphasized how the party needs to energize younger voters, independents, and moderates.

Palmer says he likely won American Samoa because of the time he dedicated to four virtual town halls and targeted policy ideas, though he never campaigned there in person. “I was really attentive and listening to their needs for more resources for health care on the island, more resources for education and climate change,” Palmer told ABC News.

Palmer ultimately invested a significant amount of his own money — roughly half a million dollars — into his campaign, including outreach in American Samoa. According to Tanalei, a regional news website, “Palmer was the only one of the three presidential candidates who had actively campaigned prior to [the] caucus. … [And] those attending were impressed when he appeared via [Z]oom and introduced himself in Samoan.”

Previously, former New York Gov. Mike Bloomberg also won American Samoa in the 2020 Democratic primary after he dedicated significant resources to campaigning in the primary there, including hiring seven staffers.

Because of the size of the electorate in American Samoa, candidates can try to make inroads if they focus heavily on connecting with and mobilizing voters. Home to roughly 50,000 people, it comprises seven islands located south of Hawaii. As a territory, it does not vote for the president in the general election, but it is able to vote in party primaries. Since fewer than 100 people wound up participating in the Democratic caucuses this year, investments in turnout and outreach had an especially notable impact. Previously, just over 350 people participated in the Democratic caucuses in 2020.

Palmer’s team has said they are investing in outreach efforts in the Northern Marianas Islands as well, which is set to hold its primary mid-month.

Palmer’s used the win to focus on age

Palmer’s stated campaign goals are to use his candidacy to elevate a conversation about Biden’s age and the need to consider younger leaders.

His win takes place as attention on Biden’s age — and Trump’s — has ramped up during the campaign. A Special Counsel report examining Biden’s treatment of sensitive documents only fueled speculation on the subject when it described aspects of his memory and demeanor earlier this year. And poll after poll has shown that voters remain concerned about both candidates’ ages as they gear up for a general election rematch.

Palmer’s on the ballot in 16 other states and territories and is aware his candidacy isn’t set to gain serious traction. He’s said, instead, he’d like it to draw attention to these broader questions.

“I think a larger percentage of Americans, based on the polls I’ve seen, want Joe Biden to do the right thing and step back,” Palmer said in the ABC News interview. “And you know, that could be me, but that could equally be people like Gretchen Whitmer, Jared Polis, Gavin Newsom.”

Sourse: vox.com

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