A new year look at Biden’s numbers – and his prospects
We have now entered the 2024 presidential election year and are eight and a half months away from the opening of the first early voting. Good time to take a look at President Biden’s numbers.
Some say it is too early to make any predictions based on current polling and the status of the major issues. That may be true, but possibly less so this year for two reasons. Early voting brings us closer to the actual voting. Looking at Election Day as the target date is old thinking. By then, more than half of America is expected to have already voted. Voting starts in mid-September.
Your second reason that today’s polls may be more predictive of the outcome than in the past is more subjective. It does appear that the electorate is more locked in on their vote than in past elections. The undecideds are a smaller portion of the electorate than is usually the case at this time in the campaign season. Anecdotally, I have not come across anyone who is not firmly committed if it is a race between Biden and Trump.
Today’s numbers may be important if they do not drastically change in the next few months. As Democrat strategist James Carville has stated, if the election were today, Biden loses. Others have echoed that opinion. It is why Democrats publicly and privately are in a state of panic. It is the reason that the majority of Democrat voters do not want Biden as their standard bearer this year.
Given those caveats, what do the numbers tell us about Biden’s chances for reelection to a second term?
The overarching number is the so-called favorability – or what folks think of Biden overall. His current rating in most polls is very low – hovering in the 37 percent range. That is a historic low. Presidents with favorability ratings in that neighborhood at this point lost their election.
Even worse for Biden, his approval rating is at 35 percent in the key battleground states, according to the most recent Newsweek poll.
Biden’s low favorability rating is not a snapshot in time. He has been underwater – below 50 percent – for the past two years. It fell into negative range following his unpopular and deadly withdrawal from Afghanistan and has not gone up since. The trajectory has been a long decline to the current level. It is hard to imagine that it could go any lower, but optimism in the past proved unwarranted.
Biden does not do as well as he should even among Democrats. An Associated Press Poll shows that a whopping 69 percent of Democrat voters would rather have someone else at the head of the ticket.
Elections are decided upon what issues the voters decided to decide upon. So, where does Biden stand on the issues? Biden is underwater on virtually all the major issues except one – abortion, with a favorable rating above 50 percent.
Even in issues that Biden has at the center of his signature campaign messages, his approval ratings are below water – job creation (42%), infrastructure (42%) and climate control (38%), according to an ABC Poll.
In other key issues, Biden is rated even lower – Immigration (26%), crime (36%) and foreign affairs (38%).
If past elections are any indication, the voters will have the economy on their minds as they cast their ballots. In handling the economy, voters give Biden an anemic 39 percent favorability. Specifically in terms of inflation, Biden gets only a 28 percent favorability rating.
Perhaps the issue that is most difficult to evaluate is … age and vitality. That is because there has been no history of age and vitality being a primary concern of voters. Not even after President Eisenhower had a heart attack at the age of 64 during his first term.
A December 9 Wall Street Journal Poll put Trump ahead 47 to 43 percent. That tracks several other major polls. It is difficult to find any credible poll that puts Biden in the lead as of today. Even worse, the New York Times/Sienna College Poll shows Trump ahead in five key battleground states – more than he is likely to need to beat Biden.
One formidable problem for Biden is how and where he is hemorrhaging support. The “how” involves turnout or “enthusiasm” in the polls. Most polls tend to favor Republicans in terms of enthusiasm – or extremely likely to vote. But it is not so easy to measure the difference between voters who will stay home and those who will switch their vote. That is where the “where” comes in.
Biden is hemorrhaging with a key constituency. In terms of the younger voters (18 to 29), those likely to vote Biden has dropped from 57 percent in 2020 to 49 percent in recent polls.
According to the 2023 Emerson College Poll, Biden’s margin over Trump with Hispanic voters has narrowed to 3 percent – down from 14 percent a year earlier. The same poll showed Biden’s support among black voters dropped from 62 percent in 2022 to the current 47 percent.
Looking at the all-important swing states, the New York Times/Sienna College Poll reported that Biden’s support among “nonwhites” has fallen an astonishing 33 percent from his exit poll numbers in 2020 – with Trump gaining 22 percent from black voters over his 2020 numbers.
There are granular measures of Biden’s voter appeal that do not make it in the top media reports. For example, there are the party switchers. In the battleground state of Pennsylvania 36,000 Democrats re-registered as Republicans while only 16,000 Republicans switched to the Democratic Party.
If these numbers hold up at all, Trump could be looking at a landslide victory. But most observers do not believe they will.
Team Biden is banking a lot on their strategy of demonizing Trump as a fascist authoritarian who will bring an end to American democracy. But the voters apparently are not buying it. In recent polls over the past few years, voters say that Trump does a better job protecting democracy.
An Emerson Poll in 2021 gave Trump a 49 to 42 percent advantage over Biden on the issue of democracy. In a 2021 Morning Consult/Politico Poll, it was 44 to 41 percent Trump over Biden. And in 2022, the same poll gave the edge again to Trump at 45 to 40 percent. In a more recent NBC News Poll (December 5, 2023), Trump topped Biden by 47 to 43 percent as the best defending of democracy. According to the NBC Poll, 51 percent of voters disapproved of Biden’s handling of democracy.
What is remarkable in these numbers is how consistent they have been over recent years even as Democrats and the left-leaning media have revved up the attacks and the fearmonger narratives against Trump. Trump’s ability to retain popularity with at least half the American public is driving the progressive elite stark raving mad.
Looking at all this, one can appreciate Carville’s assessment that if the election were held today, Biden would lose. So, what are the likely things that could change in the roughly 280 days when early voting commences?
Since the economy is the number one issue on voters’ minds, a change there could make a difference. Some improvement, such as lower inflation and lower gas prices – felt by voters – could help Biden a bit, but a downturn in the economy would probably end any hope of reelection. And economists are predicting both outcomes – a rosy view and a grim view — depending on their political views.
Biden cannot change the age issue, and this is likely to loom larger as the weeks go by. It is doubtful that he can do anything to improve the situation on the border, with the crime issue or anything to do with the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. There is no political win to be had in terms of climate change. Unless he drops his support for Israel, he cannot reclaim the Arab or the youth vote. And then he loses the Jewish vote.
The wild card is Trump. If Trump gets convicted prior to the election, will that cause a shift in voter preference? Or will Trump say or do something that will cause voters leaning to him to abandon ship. So far, the villainization of Trump has not worked. And on the remote chance that Trump fails to win the GOP nomination, the entire anti-Trump strategy collapses. The Republican standard bearer – be it Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis – would coast into the Oval Office according to virtually all polling.
There is still time for things to change dramatically, but at this stage, it would not be wise to bet the ranch on a Biden victory.
So, there ‘tis.