Home » Biden’s Poll Numbers Look Awful. He’s Still Democrats’ Only Hope.

Biden’s Poll Numbers Look Awful. He’s Still Democrats’ Only Hope.

“You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” That was former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talking about the Iraq war. But his now-infamous line is actually appropriate advice for Democrats as their presumed nominee, incumbent President Joe Biden, endures the fallout from a brutal ABC News/Washington Post poll.

In case you missed it, Biden’s job approval rating is just 36 percent, with 54 percent saying Trump was better at handling the economy. Even more concerning for Dems, in a head-to-head matchup, 44 percent of Americans are leaning toward Trump, with just 38 percent for Biden. And when undecideds are pushed to make a binary choice, “it’s 49-42 percent, Trump-Biden.”

Meanwhile, as Trump-era immigration policies expire this week, Biden can likely look forward to another migrant crisis on the southern border. And did I mention that economists seem to think a recession is looming? Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Dems might start freaking-out over the prospect of another Biden candidacy. But since when was panicking helpful?

Sure, if we could go back in time a year or so and ask questions like: “Should Biden be paving the way for an electable successor?” or “Should Biden forgo running for a second term?” the answer very well might’ve been, “Yes!”

Biden, 80, has clearly lost a step (according to the aforementioned poll, less than 35 percent believe he has the “mental sharpness” for a second term). Biden could have easily declared victory, having likely been the only Democrat capable of defeating Trump in 2020 (albeit, in a pandemic year that allowed him to campaign from his basement), and retired on his own terms.

He chose not to do that. This leaves us with reality: Joe Biden has announced for president. Barring death, a major health scare, or some scandalous revelation, history suggests that Biden will be the Democratic nominee in 2024.

What is more, Biden’s vice president (a.k.a. heir apparent) Kamala Harris, is even less popular than Biden. So in the unlikely event that Biden were to bow out of 2024, replacing him with a more electable alternative would be virtually impossible.

Imagine the optics involved in depriving the first African-American female vice president from the party’s nomination. Even if doing so were possible, it would demoralize a key component of the Democratic base to a degree that it would be nearly impossible to recover.

The idea of primarying Biden also seems counterproductive.

The two most prominent people challenging him currently include crackpot Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and New Age guru Marianne Williamson. But let’s consider what would happen if someone more credible were to run against Biden.

The last two incumbent presidents to face credible primary challenges were Jimmy Carter, who faced down Ted Kennedy in 1980, and George H.W. Bush, who faced a robust, populist, proto-Trumpian insurgency by Pat Buchanan in 1992. Both presidents were able to dispatch their primary foes, only to lose to the other party in a general election.

The old saw about not wanting to “switch horses midstream” tends to be used to persuade voters in a general election, but the maxim might be even more compelling for Democrats today. Rather than freak out, Dems should consider a few things.

First, the notion that there is some great savior waiting to rise from these streets is overblown. Even if you could snap your fingers and pick someone to be the 2024 nominee, who would it be?

Pete Buttigieg has had a rough year as transportation secretary. Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro looks promising, but so did Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a few months ago—and DeSantis had a lot more experience and seasoning. Don’t make me laugh by even mentioning Illinois Gov J.B. Pritzker as a serious Democratic contender.

Other names bandied about include California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Both were embroiled in COVID-19 controversies; neither have the folksy, moderate appeal of Biden.

It is only when you consider the possibility of, say, Newsom, that you can fully understand that Biden is still successfully uniting the party’s moderate and progressive factions—in a way that might be otherwise impossible.

Putting aside a deus ex machina candidate—Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey—the notion that there is some candidate out there who would obviously fare dramatically better than Biden in 2024 is simply not true.

Yes, it’s possible that some “generic” Democrat might poll better than Biden today, but how would that generic Democrat hold up after months of campaigning and attacks from Donald Trump? Again, aside from some crazy revelation, Biden is their best bet.

Second, it’s also possible this poll is merely an outlier. Rather than polling “likely voters,” this survey was a “random national sample of 1,006 adults.” That’s not to say that Biden is doing great—or that he should take Trump lightly. Indeed, polling consistently demonstrates that Biden is unpopular. But it does mean it’s premature to assume Biden is toast.

And third, don’t forget, the other side has troubles, too. Given their druthers, Republican elites would prefer to nominate someone more electable than Donald Trump. Trump has already lost to Biden once, faces multiple indictments, and his penchant for chaos and controversy is hard to quantify. Trump’s presence on the ballot will also guarantee a large turnout to vote against him.

It’s cliche at this point, but it’s also a sad commentary on America to say that 2024 looks destined to be a rematch between two elderly and unpopular men. It’s time we begin to accept this likely fate.

The country is closely divided. The American public are fickle. Some Americans who believe Trump did something illegal are also willing to vote for him for president.

This is going to be a very tough and nasty race. It was always thus. At this point, the best thing for Democrats to do is batten down the hatches, circle the wagons, and embrace the lyrics of an old Boomer anthem: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.