Another week, and amid more calls for President Joe Biden, who just turned 82, to step aside, former President Donald Trump is extending his lead in national polls over Biden for the 2024 election, with 46.6 percent for Trump to 45 percent for Biden in the latest average of polls taken by RealClearPolitics.com.
That’s bad news for Biden, as only three polls taken the entire cycle show him even hitting 50 percent or above out of 187 polls taken. Of the polls, Biden has led just 75, with Trump leading 87. The rest were tied.
Compared to the 2020 cycle, when 293 polls were taken, Biden led 285 of them and hit 50 percent 174 times.
That’s quite a difference, and it’s less than a year out. Biden should be way ahead, but he isn’t.
At this point in the cycle in 1980, for example, Gallup had Jimmy Carter up over Ronald Reagan by 30 points, and yet Reagan a year later won easily in a landslide, 51 percent to 41 percent, and winning 44 states.
Going back over the elections where incumbent presidents stood for election, only 1948 and Harry Truman stands out as a time when an incumbent president was consistently losing in polls but then went on to win fairly easily, 49.6 percent to 45 percent, and winning 28 states.
Otherwise, it’s a very consistent track record where incumbent presidents tend to lead polls and go on to win. Barack Obama led the polls consistently in 2012, as did George W. Bush in 2004, Bill Clinton in 1996, Ronald Reagan in 1984, Richard Nixon in 1972, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, and Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, 1940, and 1944.
Whereas, incumbents who ended up trailing in the polls during the election year itself, with the exception of Truman in 1948, all lost, including Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 (by June 1980, Reagan had begun to overtake Carter in the polls), George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Donald Trump in 2020.
So, the reason many Democrats are frightened by Biden’s weakness in national polls, whether the reelection polls or his approval rating, which stands at a low of 41 percent now on average, with 56 percent disapproving, is because they should be. The polls are real, and they believe them.
Additionally, age is a significant issue in the campaign, with 67 percent in the latest Harvard-Harris poll taken Nov. 15 to Nov. 16 saying he’s too old to run again.
Another factor is that throughout his political career, Trump has consistently underpolled from his actual support at the polls. In 2016, the RealClearPolitics.com average had Trump at 43.6 percent, winning the election with 46.1 percent of the popular vote.
In 2020, the average had him at 44 percent. Still, he ended up with 47 percent of the popular vote and barely lost by 43,000 votes in Georgia (10,000), Arizona (10,000), and Wisconsin (23,000), nearly pulling off the same comeback Truman did in 1948.
The phenomenon is interesting enough that when called, many Trump supporters concealed their support and were present in 2016 and 2020. Therefore, the current numbers must be incredibly terrifying for the Biden campaign because they imply that Biden’s support has already peaked and might even worsen from here, given certain exigent circumstances, such as a recession.
Another factor is that replacing the incumbent hasn’t recently worked. When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson did not stand for reelection in 1952 and 1968, Republicans still won relatively easily. They could try, but Dems’ argument still becomes, “The country got so bad we had to replace the president. Would you still vote for us?” It’s a show of weakness.
This means the only thing worse for Democrats than Biden might be if anyone else were to run. They might try, but they might also end up offering someone else up who might have even less chance of winning and who showed up almost nowhere in Democratic presidential primary polls, of which Vice President Kamala Harris consistently led as a second choice in the RealClearPolitics.com average and when Biden was excluded from the question.
Biden is the incumbent and is well below 50 percent in the polls a year out. Now, it could be that the Democratic political machine can still get its base out to vote one way or another in 2024, and the election will still be quite close. A lot can change, but at 82 years old, Biden’s in trouble. Happy birthday, Mr. President!