Opinion: Disastrous Poll Results Prove Democrats Must Have a Backup Plan for 2024

It has become increasingly evident President Joe Biden should not be the Democrat nominee for president in 2024. 

Most recent public polling shows Biden is losing to former President Donald Trump in a potential general election matchup. According to the latest CNBC poll, the president trails the former president by six points, 48% to 42%. This should be very unnerving for Dems, especially since Biden led Trump by around 10 points in December 2019, just 11 months before he narrowly won the 2020 election.

There are several similarities between former President Jimmy Carter and President Biden. Carter is the last Democratic president to lose re-election. One similarity is Biden’s year-end approval rating of 39%, almost identical to what Carter’s was at 37% in December 1979, before he lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

Likewise, Biden’s first term — similar to Carter’s — has been defined by pessimism about the economy, unrest overseas, and a migrant crisis: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, withdrawal from Afghanistan, and now the Israel-Hamas war.

Biden trails Trump substantially on these significant issues by 21 points on the economy, 11 points on the Israel-Hamas war, 23 points on border security, and 21 points on the economy, according to a recent poll by Marquette University.

Notably, the president is losing ground with its core Democratic base — non-White voters and liberal, young voters — in a way that is a reminder of the challenge faced by Carter during his re-election campaign. A recent Siena College/New York Times poll in swing states shows a significant erosion in support for President Biden among Latino, African American, and younger voters.

According to the most recent AP-NORC poll, only 50% of African Americans approve of President Biden, down substantially since July 2021, when it was 86%.

Opposition to the president’s handling of the Hamas-Israel conflict has been a flashpoint. Three-quarters of voters aged 18-29 disapprove of how President Biden has handled the dispute, according to the Siena College/New York Times poll.

It is critical to note that Biden is dealing with several personal issues that even President Carter did not. The legal problems the president is facing along with his son continue to increase, with Republicans in the House inching toward an impeachment inquiry.

Arguably, the most significant personal challenge facing the president is his age. According to ABC News-Washington Post polling, Biden is 81 years old, and American voters have severe doubts about his abilities and mental acuity, with three-quarters (74%) saying he is too old to run for another term.

Several Democrats have privately or sometimes publicly expressed anxiety that the president’s age and possible lack of viability could cost the Democrat party the White House.

One of the most prominent Dems to challenge whether Biden is too old to run for a second term publicly is David Axelrod, former Obama chief strategist, leading the president to allegedly call Axelrod “a p—-” to tamp down additional questioning.

Axelrod told The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd, “He thinks he can cheat nature here, and it’s really risky.”

Dennis DeConcini, a former Democratic Senator, has also echoed Axelrod’s concerns, telling NBC Biden is “too old” to run. Additionally, Minnesota Democrat Representative Dean Phillips is pursuing an extreme long-shot presidential campaign against Biden based on this premise.

Behind the scenes, prominent Biden-Harris allies and donors are reportedly expressing similar concerns. 

The wariness toward President Biden’s re-election prospects isn’t new among Democrats. According to a New York Times report, dozens of officials with the party and Congressional members expressed doubts about the viability of the president in the summer of 2022.

Given how powerful the president and White House are, it is unsurprising that most doubters, with a few exceptions, have not been willing to go on the record or be vocal about their doubts.

The once-unlikely possibility that Biden won’t seek re-election for several reasons is notably becoming a more severe or more desirable prospect. But then, who would be the Dem’s nominee?

Vice President Kamala Harris remains the most obvious choice, at least legally and logistically, and the president’s leading Black supporters — led by South Carolina Democrat Representative Jim Clyburn — would push for Harris to be nominated.

However, Harris is problematic. Despite efforts by the White House to improve her standing in public, she polls even worse than the president. A November NBC News poll found Harris with a pathetic 29% favorability rating compared to Biden’s 36%. But worse, she trails former President Trump in a possible general election matchup (52% to 40%).

With her longstanding deep unpopularity, having VP Harris at the top of the ticket wouldn’t only cost Dems the White House and imperil down-ballot candidates, squander the possibility of winning the House, and jeopardize control of the Senate.

There would be many legal obstacles for Democrats to overcome if the nominating process was opened back up this late in the campaign season. Still, the possibility of a wide-reaching defeat is almost sure to lead the party and do whatever is necessary to find another nominee who isn’t the sitting vice president.

There is no doubt that the Dems believe the strongest — although unlikely— possible candidate is former First Lady Michelle Obama, who had a 72% favorability rating and wide popularity among Democrats and Black voters.

Mrs. Obama doesn’t only defeat Biden handily in a hypothetical two-way Democrat primary matchup (48% to 36%), she also holds a slight lead over Trump in a general election matchup (46% to 45%), according to The Center Square polling.

Michelle Obama’s popularity, influence, and ability to inspire core Dem Party voters would make her a force to be reckoned with, although her challenges in seeking office are low.

Another possibility is Hillary Clinton. The former secretary of state and former senator has a robust political machine, has remained outspoken in her support of Israel, is not afraid to attack former President Trump, and has backed more moderate policies than most other Dems. With that being said, polling indicates she might struggle in a primary, plus have to face Trump, whom she lost to in 2016, again.

There is another Democrat who has emerged as a possibly more liable candidate recently — Democrat California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Newsom recently faced GOP Governor Ron DeSantis in a debate moderated by Sean Hannity of Fox News. During the discussion, the governor of the formerly Golden State defended Democratic policies in a politically unfavorable environment for an hour while sticking to the centrist line.

Newsom was exceptionally articulate when speaking about the economy. Newsom defended his state’s progressive tax system in the debate against DeSantis, whose state has no income tax. He also articulated President Biden’s central case on the economy in a way that the president has failed to do, underlining slowing inflation and a solid job market due to Democratic policies.

Newsom critically pushed back on controversial GOP social policies — i.e., book bans, guns, and abortion — while sticking with the centrist line on issues that continue to plague Democrats, for example, parental involvement in schools.

During another exchange, Newsom acknowledged the necessity for stricter border control policies while continuing to make it clear Republicans are attempting to “play politics” by holding up Biden’s $14 billion request for funding for the border. 

Newsom presented himself as more challenging than both Harris and Biden on foreign policy, in particular concerning the Hamas-Israel war. Biden has softened his support for Israel, while the vice president just urged over the weekend for Israel to show restraint.

While polling about Newsom is minimal, data indicates he would be a formidable candidate. A poll conducted by Fox News before the debate shows him only four points behind Trump, the same as Biden’s margin, and within the margin of error. It’s telling that Newsom polls well despite having spent minimal time on the national stage and having never served as vice president or president.

It is too soon to rule out the possibility of Biden seeking a second term. However, if the president decides to bow out of the race — or the decision is made for him — two old faces and one new face will surge to the top of the potential nominee list.