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Biden's biggest problem in 2024 isn't age or a shaky memory. It's the war in Israel.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on February 8, 2024.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the White House on February 8, 2024.Nathan Howard/Getty Images
  • Biden faces new scrutiny over his age and memory, but that's already baked-in for voters.

  • Outrage within the Democratic base over US support for Israel will be a much bigger factor in 2024.

  • The issues runs deep and personal for some voters, and it could tip the scales in key states.

Following the release of a special counsel report that raised questions about his age and memory, President Joe Biden moved to forcefully respond to those questions in a brief White House address on Thursday night.

But the most telling moment was not in his initial remarks about the report, but in his response to shouted questions about Israel's ongoing war in Gaza as he began walking away — prompting him to stop and return to the lectern.

"I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top," said Biden.

He went on to have another gaffe, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as the "President of Mexico." But he also spoke about efforts to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza and his desire to bring a "sustained pause in the fighting."

"There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying," said Biden. "And it's got to stop."

It's a rhetorical shift from the early days of the war, when Biden forcefully backed Israel in the wake of the October 7 Hamas attacks. But with nearly 30,000 Palestinians already dead, along with the looming threat of famine and disease in Gaza, the president has become more vocally critical of Israel's conduct.

It's a shift that's been driven as much by the situation on the ground in Gaza as it is by the protests and outrage he's faced from Democrats back home.

Pro-ceasefire protesters have disrupted several of Biden's events in recent months, and Democratic lawmakers in Congress have become increasingly critical of Israel's war effort, with some seeking to place conditions on future Israel aid. Some progressive Democrats are likely to oppose sending more aid to Israel altogether, but they remain a minority voice in the upper echelons of the party.

But among rank-and-file Democratic voters, the situation is far more dire and could threaten Biden's chances of being reelected next November.

According to one recent poll, 50% of Democrats believe Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. While many Democrats who believe that may be willing to support Biden anyway, there's a sizeable portion who may decline to support Biden's reelection.

In Michigan, pro-ceasefire activists are urging Democratic voters to choose "uncommitted" over Biden in the upcoming primary — and they say they'll withhold their support for Biden until he changes course on Israel.

Michigan has a disproportionately large Arab and Muslim population, and with Biden only narrowly carrying the state in 2020, Democrats declining to back the president could hand former President Donald Trump a win.

And even as Democratic leaders argue that a Trump presidency would be far worse than Biden, those voters are unlikely to be swayed without a significant change in US policies toward Israel.

"It should not be the Biden administration asking his core constituency to support him because he is the lesser of two evils," said Layla Elabed, the campaign manager for the "Listen to Michigan" effort and the younger sister of Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib.

"President Biden himself, by failing to call for a ceasefire, is on track to deliver the presidency back to Donald Trump and his white supremacist buddies," said Abbas Alawieh, a spokesperson for Listen to Michigan.

While the issue is especially acute in Michigan, Biden faces a miniature version of it in states across the country, not just from voters who are personally connected to the conflict, but from progressives and younger voters.

If the election's close, as many expect it to be, even just a few thousand voters per state choosing to leave the top of the ballot blank, or not showing up at all, could have a major impact.

Compare that to the age issue.

In contrast to questions about Israel, top Democrats have quickly moved to dismiss questions about the special counsel report.

While polling shows that voters are concerned about Biden's age, the issue is less likely to carry high salience in the upcoming election, given that voters largely already know this about Biden.

Plus, let's face it: news cycles are short, and while the special counsel report will be one more talking point for Biden's opponents for the rest of this year, this week's revelations are unlikely to be top of mind in November — like they were when then-FBI Director James Comey announced a reopening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of classified documents on the eve of the 2016 election.

Read the original article on Business Insider