Byron York: A president nobody wants to run prepares for reelection bid
President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address was widely seen as both a traditional speech and as the informal, unstated kickoff to his 2024 reelection campaign. But the most striking thing about a Biden 2024 effort, if in fact there is one, is that it is a race few Americans want him to run.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that just 31% of Democrats want Biden to be the party’s nominee in 2024. Fifty-eight percent of Democrats want the party to find another candidate. It’s important to remember that the party breakdown of all the poll’s respondents was 26% Democrat, 25% Republican, 40% independent, 5% other and 3% with no opinion. So that means that just 31% of the 26% of respondents who were Democrats want Biden to run again. Thirty-one percent of 26% is not a lot.
The Post then asked an interesting question, of everybody, and not just Democrats: “How would you feel if Biden is reelected as president in 2024?” A tiny number — 7% — said they would feel enthusiastic. Twenty-nine percent said they would feel satisfied, but not enthusiastic — for a total of 36% who gave answers that could be characterized as positive.
On the other side, 30% said they would feel angry, and 32% said they would feel dissatisfied but not angry — for a total of 62% who gave answers that could be characterized as negative. That’s a nearly 2-to-1 ratio of people who would be unhappy with a Biden reelection.
And why wouldn’t they be? “Four in 10 Americans say they’ve gotten worse off financially since Joe Biden became president, the most in ABC News-Washington Post polls dating back 37 years,” writes ABC polling chief Gary Langer. On the flip side, just 16% say they are better off since Biden entered the White House.
So yes, the last jobs report — 517,000 jobs created in January — was very good. And yes, inflation is easing. But look at the other side. Prices are still high and still going up. A trip to the grocery store is no longer a shock but still an ordeal for millions of Americans. People have adjusted their lifestyle downward to be able to afford the basics. And inflation is still outpacing increases in Americans’ wages, meaning they are constantly falling behind in their ability to buy the things they need to live.
And then there are the more than half of Americans who save for retirement in a plan invested in the stock market. The value of their retirement savings is down a lot — 2022 was Wall Street’s worst year since the Great Recession year of 2008. And if they’re trying to buy a house, mortgage interest rates are twice what they were when Biden took office, putting out of reach many houses that would have been affordable a few years ago.
So why would voters want that to continue? Especially when so many Americans believe the 80-year-old Biden is too old to be president. A new Associated Press-NORC poll showed that 37% of Democrats want Biden to run again. That’s a little better for Biden than the Washington Post-ABC News poll, but AP noted that many of the voters who want Biden off the ticket feel that way because of his age. “Follow-up interviews with poll respondents suggest that many believe the 80-year-old’s age is a liability, with people focusing on his coughing, his gait, his gaffes and the possibility that the world’s most stressful job would be better suited for someone younger,” AP reported. That’s pretty brutal — and a pretty accurate description of how many voters feel.
Despite all that, the Democratic Party’s most faithful voters are lining up behind a Biden 2024 run. You know the old saying that “Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line”? Well, this time it’s the Democrats, or at least the party’s top operatives, who are falling in line. Last week, after the party’s winter meeting in Philadelphia, the New York Times reported that despite Biden’s weaknesses, top Democrats are behind him, mostly in hopes that Republicans will nominate former President Donald Trump, and Biden can then defeat Trump. “Democrats, Seeing a Weaker Trump, Are Falling in Line Behind Biden,” the Times reported.
Maybe that will work, and maybe it won’t. But the fact is, Democrats are led by a remarkably unpopular president who most Americans, even those in his own party, do not want to run for reelection. Don’t be fooled by Democratic elected officials’ enthusiasm for Biden at the State of the Union. In fact, the party has a serious Joe Biden problem.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.
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