Biden 2024: The polls, the politics, and why he needs Trump in order to win

The 46th president’s ratings are decidedly mixed, but some early polling of match-ups with his most likely challenger give room for optimism, write Andrew Feinberg and John Bowden

Tuesday 25 April 2023 18:28 BST
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Trump’s likely emergence as the GOP frontrunner will give Biden the opportunity to remind voters why they elected him in the first place
Trump’s likely emergence as the GOP frontrunner will give Biden the opportunity to remind voters why they elected him in the first place (Getty/The Independent)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

Joe Biden unveiled his 2024 re-election campaign on Tuesday – four years to the day since he launched his successful bid to knock Donald Trump out of the White House.

In a three-minute video, the 46th president of the United States revisited the theme that powered his successful 2020 run, saying the contest remained a “battle for the soul of America” and to protect personal freedoms from pro-Trump “extremists”.

Mr Biden, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, is hoping the threat posed by right-wing Republicans will count for more among divided voters than concerns over his age.

“The question we are facing is whether, in the years ahead, we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer – I know what I want the answer to be,” he said, as images of the 6 January attack on the Capitol played on the screen.

He said his opponents were “dictating what healthcare decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love ... all while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote,” adding: “This is not a time to be complacent.”

Mr Biden also exhorted Americans to visit his new-look campaign website, and closed by repeating a line that he unveiled in this year’s State of the Union address: “Let’s finish the job.”

Mr Biden’s announcement had been widely expected for months. Aides attributed the delay to his natural reticence over big decisions, as well as the lack of significant opposition in his own party and the general dysfunction on the Republican side, which together have increased the prospect of a rematch between Mr Biden and Mr Trump.

The potential for such a rematch is thought to be one of the reasons Mr Biden delayed announcing his re-election plans. He is the oldest man ever to be inaugurated as America’s chief executive (having stolen that title from Mr Trump), and a significant majority of voters say his advanced age is a concern.

But the president and his inner circle see the continued presence of the twice-impeached, indicted and disgraced 45th president on the US political scene as an opportunity for Mr Biden to return to the themes that helped make his 2020 campaign resonate with the American public.

Joe Biden appears to confirm 2024 presidential bid with one word

Mr Trump’s probable emergence as the GOP frontrunner, aides say, will give Mr Biden the opening he needs to remind voters why they elected him in the first place.

They also believe that the continued Republican focus on restricting reproductive rights – and Mr Trump’s role in nominating the Supreme Court justices who overturned abortion rights last year – will lead to a Democratic turnout that is equal to, or greater than, the record number who voted for Mr Biden in 2020, and for Democratic candidates in elections that have been held since.

The bet being made by Mr Biden and his inner circle is that they will be able to replicate the dynamics of that successful 2020 run by highlighting the president’s successes over the past four years, particularly his economic programme and his efforts to boost manufacturing in the US.

Yet from the looks of the opinion polls, Mr Biden’s re-election is not even close to a certainty.

The president’s polling is decidedly mixed heading into his re-election campaign launch. Mr Biden’s approval rating is under water in nearly every poll – including one from NBC this week, in which seven in 10 Americans said he should not run again, while 54 per cent disapproved of the job he has done in the White House. His approval took a major hit in the summer of 2021, when the messy withdrawal of the last US troops from Afghanistan was widely criticised after 13 US service personnel were killed in an attack carried out by terrorists aligned with Isis.

Those polling figures would be dismal for any incumbent president, but they tell far from the whole story when it comes to Americans’ thoughts about 2024. As his hypothetical opponent for a general election has yet to be determined, the president has not entered the level of campaigning mode that is likely to energise his supporters – and hurt his rivals, should he go on the offensive.

Most confusing moments from Trump's 2024 announcement

That’s not to say that some sudden reversal of fortune is to be expected once the president hits the campaign trail full-time, but some early polling of match-ups with his most likely 2024 challenger, Mr Trump, still give room for optimism. Mr Biden leads his 2020 rival in most polls of voters’ general-election preferences – albeit by single digits, just as he does in most polls that pit him against Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina who served as the UN ambassador under Mr Trump.

Against Ron DeSantis, however – the Florida governor who polls competitively against Mr Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination – Mr Biden does not fare so well; he trails Mr DeSantis by single digits in nearly every survey.

Mr DeSantis himself, though, is falling in the polls that ask about a hypothetical Trump-DeSantis fight for the GOP nomination, against a backdrop of Mr Trump’s criminal indictment and a flurry of attacks the former president has aimed at his new rival. And Mr Trump has his own polling problems within the GOP, as well – a new survey from the AP and the University of Chicago’s NORC research centre found that as many as 44 per cent of Republicans do not want the twice-impeached, criminally indicted ex-president to run at all. He does, however, continue to hold the highest net favourability rating of any of the prominent (announced or unannounced) 2024 Republican contenders.

The general sense from most polling is that Americans largely do not want to see a repeat of the 2020 election – while at the same time, they are wholly unenthused about the alternatives. Some 65 per cent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, according to the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll.

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