Can a deeply unpopular president win reelection? Yes, he can

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden heartily criticized “extreme MAGA Republicans” in a Friday statement reacting to the March jobs report. Patrick Semansky/AP

Can a deeply unpopular president win reelection? Yes, he can

CAN A DEEPLY UNPOPULAR PRESIDENT WIN REELECTION? YES, HE CAN. A new CNN poll shows that just 32% of the public thinks President Joe Biden deserves to be reelected. The number is slightly better for Biden, 36%, when just registered voters are counted. Still, the verdict is pretty harsh: About two-thirds of voters do not believe Biden deserves a second term in the White House.

The poll revealed about the same ratio when pollsters asked people whether Biden inspires confidence. Thirty-five percent said yes, while 65% said no. Put those numbers together with Biden’s job approval rating, 42%, and it sounds like the president is in deep political trouble.

But look at another question, one that CNN asked of Democrats alone: “Is there a specific person you’d like to see the Democratic Party nominate for president in 2024, or do you just want to see someone besides Joe Biden?” A huge majority, 69%, had no one in mind. They just want someone besides Biden. And that is a huge advantage for the president.

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Plus, among those who had a specific person they would like to see become the Democratic nominee, no one had more than 5% support. Bernie Sanders, 5%. Pete Buttigieg, 4%. Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama, 3%. Gavin Newsom and Elizabeth Warren, 2%. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Marianne Williamson, Hakeem Jeffries, and Beto O’Rourke, 1%. Another 4% said they would simply like someone younger than the 80-year-old Biden.

That is a good indicator of why Biden, unpopular as he is, appears to face no threat at all inside the Democratic Party — unless you consider the Williamson candidacy a threat. It looks like the party’s 2024 presidential nomination is his for the asking.

So the deeply unpopular president becomes his party’s nominee. What about the general election? Well, Biden and his party in Congress and his party in the states and his party in law enforcement and his party’s supporters in the media have not spent years attacking Donald Trump for nothing. Still, right now, in the wake of his indictment, Trump has a small lead, 1.8 percentage points, over Biden in head-to-head matchups included in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. What to do? Turn up the attacks.

Given the intensity of negative coverage that Trump receives every day, it is hard for supporters to believe, but there would be an exponential increase in media negativity should Trump actually become the Republican nominee or even get close to it. Would that harden Trump’s support among his GOP base? Yes, it would. But would that also drive away less committed voters? Probably. And the opposition would be just as stiff as it ever was. It is not at all hard to imagine Biden prevailing narrowly over Trump in the Electoral College in a 2024 rematch. Indeed, it is more difficult to imagine the opposite happening.

But what if Biden faces Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) instead? At the moment, the Florida governor also has a narrow lead, 2 percentage points, over Biden in the RealClearPolitics average of polls. Of course, should DeSantis win the Republican nomination, Democrats and their allies in the media will portray him as Trump II. That has been clear for a long time. The problem is, try as they might, that is simply not possible because DeSantis is not Trump. Voters will sense that. It’s just that simple.

So the deeply unpopular president’s path to reelection is fairly clear: Win the Democratic nomination, even when Democrats want somebody else, because there isn’t anybody else. Then beat Trump because, after years of nonstop attacks, he’s even more unpopular than Biden. It won’t be pretty, but that’s how an 82-year-old Biden could find himself starting another term in the White House.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

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