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Tipsheet

The Issue That Gave Biden's Aides Heartburn in 2020 Is Back

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Joe Biden’s reception among voters can be captured in three words: this guy sucks. The Democratic base will remain loyal, but even they aren’t pulling for this man; he’s not their first choice. And yet, Democrats are stuck with Biden, not least because he made his 2024 re-election intentions official. No one else could run nationally and win without the high likelihood of the GOP winning next year. Kamala Harris is even more incompetent than Joe, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, overseeing the precipitous decline of our transportation system, couldn’t even manage the response to a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio—that doesn’t instill trust that he could govern a nation. 

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Everyone else who ran for the Democratic Party nomination four years ago was exposed as woefully unqualified for the position. Look, Trump did that to the 2016 GOP field, too. Despite the litany of weaknesses, Joe is the Democrats’ best bet. Still, The Washington Post had a damning article about his political situation, including one issue that concerned his aides during the 2020 election: mental competency. Trump’s attacks might not have all stuck, but the ones aimed at Biden’s age and mental fitness did resonate. And now, as we enter 2024, not only is that a troublesome area for the Biden camp, it’s also back with a vengeance (via WaPo) [emphasis mine]: 

Biden’s overall job approval rating stands at 36 percent, down from 42 percent in February and about the same as the previous low of 37 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in early 2022. His disapproval stands at 56 percent, including 47 percent who disapprove “strongly.” Other recent polls have pegged Biden’s approval in the low 40s without a decline in recent months. 

Biden’s approval rating is underwater among a slew of groups that supported him by wide margins in 2020. He stands at 26 percent approval among Americans under age 30, 42 percent among non-White adults, 41 percent among urban residents and 46 percent of those with no religious affiliation. Among independents who voted for Biden in 2020, 57 percent approve while 30 percent disapprove. Among independents who voted for Trump, 96 percent disapprove. 

Biden’s overall approval ratings, however, are only part of a broader and largely negative assessment of him as a candidate for reelection. 

Biden has presided over an economy that has included strong job growth and low unemployment but also high inflation. While inflation has declined in recent months, Americans across party lines continue to express concern about prices and rate the economy negatively overall. Markets remain sluggish in the face of concerns that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to curb inflation will trigger a recession or additional bank failures. 

Biden inherited from Trump an economy badly damaged by the coronavirus pandemic, but the public sees the former president as a better economic steward than the incumbent. In the poll, by 54 percent to 36 percent, Americans say Trump did a better job handling the economy when he was president than Biden has done during his presidency so far. 

[…] 

Doubts about how well Biden would perform have risen since he ran in 2020. Today, 63 percent say he does not have the mental sharpness to serve effectively as president, up from 43 percent in 2020 and 54 percent a year ago. A similar 62 percent say Biden is not in good enough physical health to be effective. 

Trump, the leading candidate for the GOP nomination, is no youngster. He would be 78 in January 2025 at the time of the next inauguration. But in contrast to Biden, most Americans (54 percent) say he is sufficiently sharp mentally to serve as president and 64 percent say he is physically fit enough to serve. 

Neither Biden nor Trump is viewed positively on questions of honesty and trustworthiness, but Trump, who has lied repeatedly in claiming the 2020 election was rife with fraud and therefore stolen, is seen more negatively. Today, 33 percent say Trump is honest and trustworthy while 63 percent say he is not. In comparison, 41 percent say Biden is honest and trustworthy while 54 percent say he is not.

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For a media establishment that wants this guy to win over Donald Trump, they have a funny way of showing it. The Post stabbed Joe in the back with this piece, but it’s a bit comforting that American voters see both men as dishonest and untrustworthy; all politicians are the same. The mental acuity question is back, and it will be more salient as the president hits the trail with no benefit of hiding in the basement due to a pandemic. Joe’s unpopular; more voters like Trump’s handling of the economy, and they think he’s blown his last fuse. He’s also underwater with all the core groups in his coalition. 

It's early, but a Trump 2024 GOP win could change the board. While this piece is horrific news for Biden, there is still a voter bloc that is big enough to stop Trump, and that hasn’t shaken, especially if the former president returns to his rambunctious campaign style. Biden is eminently beatable, but we face a tough slog with Trump due to his unfavorables. It’s a sad state of affairs as the GOP faces an incumbent president who should be wiped out in a landslide, at least on paper.

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