Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

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If you can put politics aside, Joe Biden had a good year as presidencies go. He held together a global coalition backing Ukraine’s defense against Russia. His early legislative wins started paying off in jobs and investments in infrastructure and manufacturing. The economy even hummed along, side-stepping a recession many thought was inevitable. Not to mention the government remained open and solvent, no small thing these days.

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Yet none of that appears to be helping Biden in the polls. He is heading into 2024 with worse polling than any President since Jimmy Carter at this point in his first term. Even George H.W. Bush’s job approval in November 1991 was 20 points better, and he went on to lose re-election by a whopping 202 electoral votes. The polling speaks of more than disapproval, with 48% of Democrats believing Biden lacks the stamina to do the job—up from 31% when he ran last time—and 32% saying he does not make them proud as President. And those folks are supposed to be his base.

Somehow, Biden remains competitive in head-to-head polling against the Republican front runner, Donald Trump. Democrats may be looking around the corner for someone fresher—or at least not turning 82 just before the next Inauguration Day—but Biden remains perhaps the most unifying figure on their bench, and a powerful check against a volatile GOP-controlled House struggling to accomplish even basic tasks. Moreover, in the first post-Roe presidential election, Biden’s support for abortion rights helps him with voters who ranked that as their top worry.

As his re-election bid ramps up in 2024, Biden will face new headwinds. The House’s lagging impeachment inquiry is likely to move ahead, with Republicans convinced they’ll turn up evidence of foreign bribery. And the legal woes of his son Hunter remain vexing, as do third-party challengers, who seem to be multiplying.

Which is why so many in the West Wing find themselves taking comfort in the old adage “Polls don’t vote, people do.” Sometimes, it seems, old is what you want.

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