Democrats Have Serious Doubts About Biden, But His Team Isn’t Worried

Despite President Joe Biden's numerous achievements during his first term, he faces an uncomfortable truth as he embarks on his reelection campaign: a majority of Democratic primary voters oppose his bid for another presidential term.

Growing Concerns

Multiple polls have consistently revealed similar findings, accompanied by his consistently low approval ratings and widespread concerns about his age and mental sharpness. While these factors suggest vulnerability to a primary challenge, no prominent contender within the Democratic mainstream has emerged.

Consequently, some Democratic operatives fear that the party is carelessly heading towards a potential electoral catastrophe, unaware of the risks they face. President Joe Biden, despite his significant accomplishments in his initial term, confronts a disquieting reality as he commences his reelection campaign: the majority of Democratic primary voters are against his pursuit of another presidential term.

A New Strategy

To counter Republican attacks regarding his age and alleviate concerns within the Democratic camp, President Biden and his team have employed a two-pronged strategy. They have light-heartedly addressed the issue while also criticizing the media for placing excessive emphasis on it.

During a speech to abortion rights groups, Biden playfully remarked, “I know I'm 198 years old, but all kidding aside, think about that. I never ever thought I'd be signing an executive order protecting the right to contraception.” This quip elicited hearty laughter from the audience.

Simultaneously, senior White House aides, including Communications Director Ben LaBolt, circulated an analysis by liberal watchdog Media Matters, which criticized mainstream media outlets for disproportionately focusing on Biden's age compared to Trump's. The analysis revealed that 89% of mentions about candidate age centered on Biden, despite him being only three years older than Trump.

Although there is little doubt that Biden will secure the nomination, early polls have shown unexpected support for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist whose views lie outside the Democratic mainstream. However, the Democratic National Committee has not scheduled any primary debates, and candidates like Kennedy who participate in unsanctioned nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire risk having their convention delegates stripped away. Moreover, interest groups that could potentially support a challenger are instead aligning themselves with Biden's campaign, further solidifying his position.

Age Isn't Just A Number

Faiz Shakir, a progressive operative who managed Senator Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign, encapsulated the mixed sentiments regarding Joe Biden and a potential rematch against former President Donald Trump.

According to Shakir, Biden is not perceived as a strong leader and has his fair share of problems and issues. Shakir argues that Biden's inclination toward seeking consensus sometimes makes him appear less assertive. However, despite these concerns, Shakir believes that Biden can emerge victorious in a rematch against Trump.

Conversations with Democratic operatives and voters reveal that the anxiety primarily stems from Biden's age as an octogenarian and the occasional falls and verbal flubs that arise from it. While there is frustration with inflation and the obstacles posed by two maverick Democratic senators to Biden's grandest ambitions, much of the worry among Democratic voters now revolves around Biden's electability and whether swing voters will support an octogenarian who often exhibits signs of his age.

A progressive Democratic strategist with experience in battleground states, speaking anonymously to safeguard professional relationships, expressed the belief that Biden can only defeat Donald Trump. In their opinion, Biden would lose to any other candidate based on optics, as there is a prevailing sentiment that after having two older presidents, it is time for a young family to assume office.

No Viable Contender

A progressive Democratic strategist, speaking anonymously to freely criticize their party's leader, expressed that if someone legitimate, such as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or Senator Raphael Warnock, had the courage to challenge Joe Biden, they would become a legendary figure and likely secure the nomination. However, the strategist emphasized the lack of opportunity to challenge Biden due to the absence of a primary and debates.

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Biden's campaign and supporters argue that the most telling poll was the 2022 midterm elections, where Democrats expanded their Senate majority and narrowly lost the House. They view this as one of the party's strongest performances in a midterm election during a presidency.

According to a Biden campaign adviser, Americans have overwhelmingly rejected the MAGA agenda not once, but twice, indicating their disdain for it. This sentiment was supported by an NBC News poll, released on Sunday, which showed Biden having higher net favorability ratings compared to both Trump and potential 2024 GOP candidate Ron DeSantis. The poll also indicated that in a hypothetical contest, Biden was leading Trump by 4 percentage points but tied with DeSantis.

Furthermore, Biden's lackluster polling numbers among Democrats are dismissed as typical off-year anxieties that incumbents face at this stage of their presidency.

Potential Cognitive Decline

While Biden's support from Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents is crucial, he cannot rely solely on them to win the general election. Some less reliable voters may prioritize concerns about his age and fitness for office over his policies.

Political strategist Sheinkopf highlighted the significance of people's perception regarding Biden's cognitive decline, regardless of whether it is overstated or not. This perception creates a substantial problem for the Biden campaign.

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Sheinkopf's perspective aligns with that of other Democratic strategists who believe that Trump would be the easiest Republican opponent for Biden to defeat. They cite Biden's previous victory over Trump, Trump's legal troubles, and the fact that, at the age of 77, Trump's attempts to use the age card are less convincing.

Democrats who are hoping for a rematch with Trump may see their wish fulfilled. According to FiveThirtyEight's polling average, Trump currently enjoys a national lead of over 30 percentage points against his closest GOP competitor in the polls, Ron DeSantis.


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