As the New Hampshire results rolled in Tuesday night, veteran political journalist John Harwood tweeted, “We’re in early stages of massive analytic shift from ‘Biden’s in big trouble’ to ‘Trump’s in big trouble.’”
Harwood’s assessment came in response to an observation from Sarah Longwell, publisher of conservative website The Bulwark, that among anti-Trumpers like her, “there’s more of us” now than there were in 2020.
As veteran Democratic campaign strategist Joe Trippi noted on his podcast, despite the persistent “Biden’s in trouble” media narrative, if you compare where Biden’s fundamentals are now to where they were when the fanciful “red wave” narrative took hold in 2022, the president is in far better shape today. The economy is humming, gas prices are lower, inflation has eased significantly, and consumer buying power and sentiment are on the upswing. And while Biden’s favorable rating currently sits at 40% and his job approval rating at 35%—historically low and unenviable by any stretch—those numbers are still either on par or better than they were in the spring and summer of 2022, when the red wave narrative hit its stride. Plus, Biden’s current net favorable rating is still better than Trump’s by about 5 percentage points.
But it was really the numbers under the hood in New Hampshire—a swing state under the right conditions—that exposed Trump’s liabilities as a general election candidate.
What is clear is that Trump’s dominance of the GOP has all but stripped the party of suburban voters and fact-based independents.
Here’s the profile of Nikki Haley’s New Hampshire supporters, according to CNN exit polls:
64% are undeclared or independent.
24% are registered Republicans.
76% think Biden legitimately won in 2020.
56% are college graduates.
94% would not be satisfied with a Trump nomination.
That final statistic is extremely damaging to Trump’s general election chances. It means nearly all of Haley’s 43% share of the New Hampshire electorate consists of potential Biden voters.
Last week’s Marist poll of New Hampshire voters showing Biden besting Trump in a head-to-head matchup by 52% to 45% was also a tell. Biden’s approval rating in the survey was a dismal 38% but it proved to be untethered from his standing in a rematch against Trump.
National horse-race polling between Biden and Trump still generally favors Trump by several points. But in a state like New Hampshire, where voters are engaged and clear-eyed about the Biden-Trump rematch that’s upon us, Trump is a loser.
Not all battlegrounds have polling recent enough to be relevant, but two high-quality polls conducted in Pennsylvania this month both give Biden the edge.
None of this suggests that Biden doesn’t have weaknesses. He does, and his approval ratings among Democrats and independents have suffered since the Israel-Hamas war broke out. That’s a problem for Democrats.
But the overarching takeaway from this week’s New Hampshire contest was that the vast majority of the Democrats who showed up to vote wanted to send a message that Biden was their guy—and the vast majority of undeclared voters who showed up to vote wanted to send a message that Trump wasn’t their guy.
Undeclared voters accounted for roughly 46% of Republican primary voters, with 64% of them favoring Haley. On the Democratic side, just 17% of primary voters were undeclared.
If 2024 becomes the battle of attrition that many analysts expect, that gives Democrats a sizable share of the electorate to appeal to.
Tim Miller from “The Next Level” podcast comes on to discuss Iowa, New Hampshire, and the cracks they expose in Donald Trump’s MAGA movement.