In the lead-up to the 2022 midterm, political analysts continually cited President Joe Biden's relatively low polling numbers as a reason the vaunted red wave would sweep the nation. Instead, Democrats broke free from historical norms, growing their majority in Senate and holding House Republicans to a razor-thin majority.
Now that President Biden's reelection is officially underway, his lowish polling is already drawing 'grim' assessments. But even Politico is somewhat tempering its analysis with the acknowledgment that Biden's potential rival is Trump, "whose personal favorability ratings are generally worse than Biden’s." True story.
So as we prepare for a gusher of polling-obsessed doomsday predictions for Biden, keep in mind that we are living in ahistorical times. A lifetime exists between now and November '24, and now more than ever, the presidential election isn't merely a contest of candidates; it's a contest of parties. And the Republican Party, rife with infighting, is fundamentally an anti-democratic force now. It's no accident that the very first word out of Biden's mouth in the video launching his reelection bid is "freedom."
Polling analysis largely ignores the factors above, but it's still worth setting a baseline right now. In FiveThirtyEight's aggregate, Biden's job approval rests at about 42.1% (nearly a point higher than his 41.4% on midterm Election Day). As Politico points out, Biden's approval rating is roughly equivalent to where Barack Obama (43%) and Ronald Reagan (41%) stood when they won reelection. But it's also similar to Donald Trump (42%) and Jimmy Carter (40%), who lost their second-term bids.
It's obviously too early to be consumed with head-to-heads given that the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, likely faces more criminal indictments and it's impossible to say who will prevail in the GOP primary. But bottom line, Biden is certainly holding his own for now, and his favorable rating in Civiqs tracking exceeds Trump's, should he become the Republican nominee.
BIDEN CIVIQS TRACKING
TRUMP CIVIQS TRACKING
But frankly, all of this polling discussion misses the point that we truly are in a "battle for the soul of the nation," as Biden puts it.
In that sense, every candidate takes on more meaning by virtue of their party identification than a simple assessment of the favorability rating might suggest. As Biden is fond of saying, "Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative."
The alternative right now is trending nothing short of fascist, as this sampling of headlines from the last 24 hours alone demonstrates:
They are just the tip of the iceberg. In Ohio, Republican lawmakers are trying to raise the threshold for voters to amend the state constitution in order to prevent voters from enshrining their abortion rights via ballot measure.
Tennessee Republicans ignited a firestorm two weeks ago when they expelled two of their Black male colleagues for joining gun violence protests inside the statehouse chambers. A third lawmaker, a white woman, was spared expulsion by one vote.
On Monday, President Biden met with the 'Tennessee three' in the Oval Office, calling their ouster "shocking," and adding that “nothing is guaranteed about our democracy — every generation has to fight for it.”
Biden echoed the theme in his announcement video.
"Every generation of Americans have faced a moment when they have to defend democracy," he said. "This is our moment."
Indeed, democracy was on the ballot in 2022. In exit polling, 44% of voters cited the future of democracy as their primary motivation for voting—second only to inflation.
Just like in the ‘22 midterms, the 2024 battle lines will be fought on the defense of our personal freedoms in the face of a Republican Party that no longer believes in the right to self-determination. To the extent that Biden and Democrats are able to make that contrast clear, they will defy polling expectations and prevail—much like they did last cycle.
Markos and Kerry are joined by Aaron Rupar today to discuss what he is seeing in the right-wing media landscape. Rupar is an independent journalist whose Public Notice Substack is a must-read for those who want to know how truly outrageous the conservative movement is. We are addicted to his Twitter account, with its never-ending stream of Republican lunacy all captured on video.