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Tipsheet

Crash: As Biden Hits a New Low, Are Democrats Getting Ready to Cut Him Loose in 2024?

Former President Trump had a polling floor right around 40 percent, on average.  He was underwater for his entire presidency -- by between nine and 14 points, per the RealClearPolitics annual numbers -- but even when his political fortunes declined dramatically, he never fell into the high 30's for very long.  Republicans lost 40 seats in the House under these circumstances in 2018, yet slightly improved performances in a handful of states could have secured Trump a narrow re-election victory two years later.  In our age of polarized politics, it might stand to reason that the mirror effect would also be true; even with Joe Biden's presidency getting pummeled by a brutal confluence of failures and events, won't a loyal base keep his numbers from falling off the cliff?  Perhaps not.

Most Republicans have opposed his administration and agenda from the get-go, and Biden has been hemorrhaging independents since last summer's Afghanistan disgrace.  Those trajectories have not improved, to say the least, and the president is now facing backlash and disillusionment within his own core coalition.  Result?  He keeps crashing through new floors, to new depths.  The latest hardcore 'sinking ship' vibes come courtesy of the New York Times/Sienna poll:

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Nine of the last 11 public polls have pegged Biden's approval in the 30's, with the Times' numbers being almost uniquely bad.  I say 'almost' because Civiqs, which surveys a huge swath of Americans (not included in RCP), has also marked the president in the low 30's:

President Biden’s approval rating has crashed to just 30%, its lowest mark yet, in a new national poll. The Civiqs Poll’s daily tracking survey of registered voters found less than a third of Americans giving the thumbs-up to Biden’s on-the-job performance — and a whopping 57% disapproving...The poll, released Friday, found Biden deep underwater with voters in every age bracket, every educational level, and both genders. Every one of those groups showed approval rates under 40%, with the youngest voters, age 18 to 34, among the most dissatisfied at a dismal 21%. In only two states out of 50, deep-blue Hawaii and Vermont, do Biden’s supporters outnumber his detractors.

Whether Biden is in the low 30's, mid 30's or high 30's, if things do not drastically improve over the next 120 days, a beating of historic proportions awaits the party in power.  The bottom hasn't dropped out from under the Democrats on the generic ballot at this stage, but the GOP is tied or leading in the last five national surveys on that subject.  That's another omen, as Republicans often make gains unless they are fairly decisively trailing on that particular question.  As the Kraushaar tweet above notes, nearly two-thirds of Democrats now want a new standard-bearer for 2024, suggesting that the buzz around abandoning Joe is growing nothing but louder.  As his ratings grow uglier, I've dabbled with the theory that perhaps his unpopularity, and the unrest within his own base, won't necessarily translate into huge losses for his party in November.  Maybe people are walking away from him, but Democrats will be spared the epic drubbing that would likely ensue, I've wondered.  But presidential approval rating is a key indicator of how these elections go, and the first midterm cycle of a new presidency almost always goes poorly for the incumbent party, even when voters aren't as deeply dissatisfied as they are now.  And then there is the truly abysmal right track/wrong track data:

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It's undeniably true that quite a few of the "wrong trackers" are liberals and Democrats, as are a rising number of Biden disapprovers.  These people are not going to vote Republican.  Most of them will show up and grumpily pull the lever for their party in November.  But if any significant number of them are frustrated and demoralized enough to stay home (younger voters in particular, who Biden has been bleeding away), that factor -- combined with GOP intensity and change-seeking independents flocking toward the opposition -- is how a political bloodbath takes shape.  I keep wanting to write that things can change, and there's a long way to go.  And that's true, to some extent.  Republicans could blow any number of big races by nominating unelectable people.  Some of those usual caveats certainly still apply.  But the clock is ticking, much of the environment has been baked in, and it's looking grim for Team Blue.  But here's at least one slim silver lining for Democrats in the NYT/Sienna poll, which might make their side think hard about whether they're truly that eager to toss Biden overboard:

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One glimmer of good news for Mr. Biden is that the survey showed him with a narrow edge in a hypothetical rematch in 2024 with former President Donald J. Trump: 44 percent to 41 percent. The result is a reminder of one of Mr. Biden’s favorite aphorisms: “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative.” The poll showed that Democratic misgivings about Mr. Biden seemed to mostly melt away when presented with a choice between him and Mr. Trump: 92 percent of Democrats said they would stick with Mr. Biden.

The (largely correct, in my view) conventional wisdom about 2020 was that even with the pandemic, Biden may have been the only leading Democrat capable of beating Trump.  Will the country be in a more left-wing mood two years from now?  Do they really want to change horses away from the guy who's actually demonstrated that he can beat Trump, and who's still leading him head-to-head, despite his own immense unpopularity?  Similar questions should be swirling among Republican voters.  Biden is floundering at 33 percent approval in this survey, with 77 percent of voters saying the US is on the wrong track...and they're considering nominating perhaps the only baggage-laden guy who could conceivably lose (again) to this disaster?  I'll leave you with this, which might prove to be a tad conservative, given all the data rehearsed above:

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