CV NEWS FEED // Although President Joe Biden currently enjoys a comfortable lead in polling for the 2024 Democratic nomination, reports show increasing resistance of his candidacy from the political left.
Biden is in an unusual position given that he is simultaneously leading in his party’s polls and suffering from plummeting approval ratings.
A Gallup poll from late last month showed that a record-low 37% of respondents approved of the president’s job performance. The October poll also showed that Biden’s approval in his own party was at 75% – also the lowest it has been since he took office.
While this intraparty approval percentage may seem high, it is historically dismal. Incumbent presidents seeking another term are generally expected to have near-unanimous intraparty approval. By contrast, when President Donald Trump was in office, his average approval rating among fellow Republicans was 87%.
Per Gallup, Biden’s approval rating with Democrats fell a stunning 11 points from September, when it was at a much more typical 86%. The development greatly contributed to the fall in Biden’s overall approval rating during the same one-month period – from 41% to 37%.
Still, Biden seems to be on track to win re-nomination by a large margin. According to the analysis site FiveThirtyEight, his polling average with Democratic Primary voters is over 70%.
However, the votes in the party’s first primary contest will not be cast until over two months from now. A lot could still happen in the interim, as Democratic and leftist criticism of Biden’s 2024 candidacy seems to be gaining steam with each passing day.
Biden vs. The Democratic Party
In a Monday op-ed at The Washington Post, left-wing pundit Perry Bacon Jr. pointed to the overwhelming success of Democratic candidates in last week’s 2023 off-year elections.
Against the backdrop of President Biden’s abysmal approval ratings, the Democrats maintained control of the governor’s mansion in deep-red Kentucky and nearly flipped the governorship in similarly ruby-red Mississippi. In addition, they retook control of the Virginia House of Delegates.
“How can we reconcile the seeming contradiction between an unpopular president and a popular party?” Bacon asked in his piece, titled, “Biden shouldn’t run. The Democratic field is stronger than you think.”
He speculated that while many voters in traditionally conservative areas chose Democratic candidates last Tuesday, this was “despite Biden, not because of him.”
“After all, purple- and red-state Democratic politicians often distance themselves from the president on the campaign trail,” Bacon noted. “The Biden presidency came about for one single reason: his perceived electoral strength. He’s not looking electorally strong now — and many other Democratic politicians are better positioned for a successful 2024 presidential campaign.”
In his piece, Bacon cited Democratic operative David Axelrod, who also believes Biden should consider stepping aside for another candidate. Axelrod was instrumental in former President Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, including an upset nomination win over then-odds-on frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
In a similar op-ed for The Hill, Democratic strategist Douglas Schoen agreed with Bacon, writing:
Despite Democrats’ notable off-year election wins, last week was a very bad week for Joe Biden. There have been a number of polls, both the New York Times/Siena poll and Emerson polling, showing Biden trailing former President Trump in five of six swing states.
Schoen added that in terms of his approval ratings “Biden is now at levels on par with Jimmy Carter when he suffered an overwhelming defeat in 1980.”
“The fundamental problem is that Biden does not have an argument for reelection,” Schoen argued. “The White House has spent the last few months trying to make the case that ‘Bidenomics’ is working, and that it is only a matter of time until people feel it.”
Passing the Torch?
As of November 14, the embattled president is facing two well-known longshot challengers in the primaries – in addition to several other minor candidates.
Author Marianne Williamson, who ran against Biden in the 2020 primaries, is again running to his left.
Rep. Dean Phillips, D-MN, who had been extensively critical of Biden’s re-election bid, entered the primary in late October.
“I didn’t set out to enter this race,” the three-term congressman said upon announcing his campaign on X (formerly Twitter). “But it looks like on our current course, the Democrats will lose and Trump will be our President again.”
“President Biden is a good man and someone I tremendously respect,” Phillips continued:
I understand why other Democrats don’t want to run against him, and why we are here. This is a last-minute campaign, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and courage is an important value to me.
If President Biden is the Democratic nominee, we face an unacceptable risk of Trump being back in the White House. I know this campaign is a long shot, but that is why I think it is important and worth doing.
Phillips has long maintained that Biden should “pass the torch” to younger party members. Prior to declaring his own bid, he fruitlessly encouraged other high-profile Democrats to “take the chance” and challenge the sitting president.
A primary poll from early this month had Biden at 72% with Williamson and Phillips both far behind and tied at 4%.
Regardless, Phillips has vowed to stay in the race and has invested millions of his own money in his quest to dethrone Biden.
Rise of the Independents
Another factor that concerns Democrats skeptical of Biden’s re-election chances is the rising number of left-leaning independent candidates entering the 2024 race.
Environmental attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was previously challenging Biden in the Democratic Party primaries and, unlike Williamson or Phillips, consistently polled in the double digits.
One month ago, Kennedy announced that he was switching to an independent run in a jarring speech decrying both major parties as a divisive “scam.”
“We declare independence from the corporations that have hijacked our government,” he said.
“We are turning a new page in American politics,” wrote the nephew of President John F. Kennedy in an op-ed for FOX News. “There have been independent candidates before. But this time is different. This time, the Independent is going to win.”
The two major parties are fielding candidates that most Americans do not want even to run. A shocking three-fourths of Americans believe President Biden is too old to govern effectively. President Trump faces multiple civil and criminal trials. Both have favorability ratings deep in negative territory.
On most issues, including abortion, Kennedy is widely considered to hold policy views that are left-of-center. However, he is known for dissenting from Democrats – and many Republicans – on the topic of COVID restrictions.
A recent poll showed that Kennedy is leading both Trump and Biden with voters aged 18 to 29 and 30 to 44 in a number of battleground states. This is especially concerning for Biden given that young voters are almost always a reliably Democratic cohort.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV, who recently announced that he is not seeking re-election to his Senate seat next year, may also mount a high-profile third-party bid. The moderate senator has been vocally critical of the state of politics and the economy under Biden. In recent years, Manchin has emerged as an important swing vote in the chamber.
“Every incentive in Washington is designed to make our politics extreme,” said the moderate senator. Manchin has floated the idea of teaming up with the centrist organization No Labels on a possible candidacy and has hinted that he will make a decision toward the end of this year.
“I’ve been in races to win,” he said at a No Labels event in the summer. “And if I get in a race, I’m going to win.”
In addition, socialist philosopher and activist Cornel West has also mounted an independent bid.
West, a beloved figure in American left-wing circles, previously announced his run with the upstart People’s Party and subsequently the Green Party – before deciding to instead run as an independent.
His presence in the race has notably worried many so-called “progressives” such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, who expressed concerns that West would attract Democratic voters dissatisfied with Biden.
Can the Democrats Actually Replace Biden?
Bacon wrote that it’s “not too late” for the Democrats to replace Biden with another candidate if they so wanted.
“The filing deadline for 2024 presidential candidates has passed only in a few states,” he wrote. “Even in those states, voters could write in a candidate, and that person could win. If the Democratic Party actually wanted to nominate someone else, it could.”
Only time will tell if the Democratic Party and its voters will heed the words of caution from the growing number of commentators and leaders on the political left who are skeptical of Biden.
Bacon pointed out:
[Michigan Gov. Gretchen] Whitmer, [Kentucky Gov. Andy] Beshear, Govs. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Raphael G. Warnock of Georgia — the Democratic bench is full of people with strong recent electoral performances.
“So the case to move on from Biden is strong,” he concluded. “The hard part is making it happen.”