The Democratic Party is finally admitting its octogenarian standard-bearer might not have what it takes to win
Citing “dozens of frustrated Democratic officials, members of Congress and voters,” the New York Times has acknowledged in a Sunday report that incumbent US President Joe Biden could be replaced as the party’s nominee in 2024.
The president is “struggl[ing] to advance the bulk of his agenda,” the article admits, stating the party’s last chance to lure voters “focused on inflation and gas prices” back into the Democrat fold before the midterm elections is to further focus on the already-ubiquitous coverage of the January 6 Capitol riot hearings.
After reassuring its readers that “most top elected Democrats were reluctant” to throw the incumbent under the bus, crediting him with extricating former president Donald Trump from the White House, the newspaper highlighted his administration’s “repeated failures” on “signature Democratic issues” such as abortion, gun control, voting rights, and the expensive Build Back Better program, as well as non-partisan issues such as record inflation and gas prices.
Miami Democratic National Committee member Steve Simeonidis did not mince words regarding his lack of faith in Biden’s ability to win a second term. “To say our country was on the right track would flagrantly depart from reality. [Biden] should announce his intent not to seek re-election in ’24 right after the midterms,” he said.
Others were less blunt. After a disclaimer about how as an incoming freshman congresswoman she wasn’t “allowed to have feelings” regarding Biden’s electability, recent Democrat primary winner Jasmine Crockett pointed to a much-hyped “enthusiasm gap” between the parties. “Democrats are like ‘What the hell is going on?’ Our country is completely falling apart. And so I think we’re lacking in the excitement.”
And even the president’s supporters admitted that some serious narrative-fluffing might be required to keep Biden in the White House. Complaining about “leaders in the party” not “more aggressively touting the success of the administration,” former senior Biden adviser Cristobal Alex called for a shift in focus that could only be brought about by “a powerful echo chamber combined with action in Congress on remaining priorities.”
Given the powerful echo chamber of major social media platforms already largely compliant with the administration’s desires, it’s not clear how further narrative muscle could be brought to bear, short of deploying the much-derided Disinformation Governance Board the administration was shamed into pausing last month after it was widely mocked as an Orwellian assault on the First Amendment.
Biden’s approval ratings are running at record lows, with even his own party members reporting uninspiring 73% support last month – the lowest point in his presidency – and just 48% of Democrats calling for him to run again when polled in January. Nationwide approval rates are much lower, with just 36% of respondents saying they view his presidency favorably, the lowest score since he took office in January 2021. A shocking 83% of Americans believe the country is going in the wrong direction.
Of particular concern to would-be Biden boosters are the party’s core constituencies. Recent polls show black voters shunning the president for his failure to follow up on “core promises” made on the campaign trail. Less than a quarter of black voters “strongly approved” of Biden’s performance in a poll conducted earlier this month, and just 64% said they were “absolutely certain” to vote in the midterms, a 20-point drop from last June.
Given that Biden’s primary selling point in 2020 was that he was not Trump, strategists also worry about how he will perform against any non-Trump Republican candidate, especially a younger face such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is widely seen as a potential nominee should Trump decide to stay retired. Given that Biden will be 82 in 2024, even the strategy of avoiding interviews that served him so well during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 is unlikely to hide his frailty from voters. However, the Times declined to float the names of any alternative potentially-victorious Democratic candidates who had not already lost to Biden in the 2020 primary.