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Confidence in Biden Is Strikingly Low and Dems Are Worried

Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

It's no secret that national and battleground state polling has been alarmingly ugly for President Biden, roughly a year away from the re-election he hopes to secure.  We've been tracking the emerging data trends for weeks, and they all point to a highly competitive potential rematch between Biden and Donald Trump -- with Trump slightly favored, if the election were held in the imminent future.  Much can and will change over 11 months, of course, and polling is merely a snapshot of sentiment.  But the collection of snapshots gathered over the last few months has looked rather dire for the incumbent, despite his party faring well in the off-year elections.  Biden's team has pointed to those victories in low-turnout races in a handful of states as proof that the handwringing over their struggles is overblown.  But that narrative has not created any sort of 'bounce' for the president, nor has a multi-million-dollar ad blitz designed to improve public perceptions of 'Bidenomics.'  If anything, the president's standing has deteriorated further.  Just a few recent data points to pile atop the heap:


Only 29% optimistically say the worst is over on the economy, an improvement from 25% in 2022. But more than twice as many, 67%, don’t see any signs the economy has started to turn the corner.  That includes most Republicans (84%) and independents (77%)...Seventy-eight percent of voters rate the economy negatively, including 47% who describe it as being in "poor" condition -- that’s worse by 19 points compared to the early days of the Biden administration.  In April 2021, 28% said conditions were poor...President Biden’s job rating is negative by 19 points: 40% approve and 59% disapprove. That matches a low point also hit in July 2022. His low approval number is driven by new lows among men (37% approve), voters under age 45 (37%), Hispanic voters (38%), and college graduates (43%)...Biden’s marks on issues are also grim. He’s underwater by 40 points on inflation (29% approve, 69% disapprove), -32 points on the economy (33-65%), -31 points on immigration (33-64%), -23 points on guns (36-59%), -16 points on his handling of the Israel-Hamas war (39-55%), and -17 points on national security (40-57%).


In the same survey, Biden trails Trump by four points nationally, Ron DeSantis by five points, and Nikki Haley by 11 points.  All three Republicans hit 50 percent or higher in the poll: 


Republicans are also preferred by double digits on most of the top issues on voters' minds:

My question is rhetorical, naturally. But the possibility of the GOP botching this high-stakes opportunity doesn't change the reality that the Fox poll is hideous for Biden, as it should be:

A brand new NBC poll also shows Trump ahead of Biden nationwide, but within the margin of error.  Biden's support is driven down by record-low job approval, particularly among independents:


And a national survey from Marquette points not only to a Trump lead over Biden, but the sitting president's glaring disadvantages on huge issues:

Confidence in Joe Biden is strikingly low.  A few weeks ago, I teased out a series of caveats to the Trump-favorable polling outcomes that we're seeing.  These very much still apply, in my view: 

(1) We're a year out from the election.  (2) Voters' attitudes may shift dramatically in the ensuing months, especially if the economy makes a significant bounce-back, or if former President Donald Trump becomes a convicted felon prior to Election Day.  The latter may be more likely than the former. (3) Hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent by the Democrats and their allies over the spring, summer and fall of 2024 in order to move the dynamic from a harshly negative referendum on the incumbent to a choice featuring the still-strikingly-unpopular former president.  (4) If and when Trump re-takes center stage in the national discourse, some of the current nostalgia may fade substantially, even if he maintains an advantage on a number of major issues.  (5) This swing state polling from the New York Times and Siena College -- rated as an A-plus outfit by FiveThirty Eight -- also points to Trump's weakness among key demographic groups who are wavering or sliding away from Biden. And (6) Biden's deep unpopularity and Democrats' disadvantage on leading issues famously didn't translate into a red wave last fall.  All of which is to say, this snapshot in time may not last, and Trump's apparent 2024 strength at this stage of the cycle could prove to be a mirage that crumbles as time passes.  There are reasons for Republicans to fear that could well be the case. 


A longtime Democratic pollster laid out his argument against bed-wetting within his party, given the president's profound vulnerabilities at this stage. Much of this makes sense, in my view, and boils down to, things will get worse for Trump:

Fair enough, and surely plausible.  However, as Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics points out, there are also plausible scenarios in which the electoral picture darkens further for Biden:

A recession.  A major physical stumble or high-profile 'senior moment.'  A terrorist attack -- God forbid -- by one or more of the million-and-a-half-plus illegal immigrants who've entered the country without any vetting or processing.  Yes, it's not hard to imagine how Biden's fortunes could improve, especially vis-a-vis Trump.  But it's similarly easy to envision how matters could get worse for him, too.  I'll leave you with two thoughts: First, Biden turns 81 today.  Recent polling has shown that it's an enormous area of concern among voters, who place those related worries on par with those about Trump's multiple indictments.  Maybe that changes if and when Trump is convicted.  Or, again, maybe Biden slides further.  Second, for Democrats anxiously eyeing polling like the numbers we've shared above and wondering if they should pull the plug on Biden's campaign, the Fox survey also polled hypothetical match-ups of other Democrats against Trump.  Kamala Harris fares slightly worse than Biden does, and Gavin Newsom trails Trump by an identical margin.


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