Voices: Biden’s poll numbers prove it — a Democratic apocalypse is drawing near

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Biden speaks after signing an executive order this week  (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Biden speaks after signing an executive order this week (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A new poll conducted by SSRS and released yesterday by CNN puts Joe Biden’s approval rating at a dismal 38 per cent. To put that in perspective, the president’s numbers are worse than every other president since the second half of the 20th century, even clocking in one point lower than Donald Trump around July 2018.

Even more devastatingly, the survey showed that nearly 7 in 10 people say that Biden hasn’t paid enough attention to the nation’s biggest problems; only 30 per cent approve of how he’s handling the economy, and only 25 per cent of how he’s handling inflation. This comes after the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed last week that inflation jumped a stunning 9.1 per cent, a 40-year high.

Some polling shows that Democrats hold an advantage in the generic ballot, which shows whether voters would prefer Democrats or Republicans to lead Congress, and Democrats have generally started to hold an advantage since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v Jackson decision overturned the right to abortion. But the nation’s overall sentiments do not reflect how individual districts, let alone swing districts, are leaning. Many voters in hotly contested races might feel compelled to make a change and let the GOP take the reins in Congress.

For now, Biden’s dismal performance is a sign that Democrats should probably prepare themselves for a catastrophe in the midterm elections this November — one that could make the Blue Wave of 2018 and the Republican “Shellacking” of 2010 look like, well, a Tea Party.

All of this indicates why some are saying that Biden should step aside in 2024 for the good of the party. But that only raises the question of who should replace him at the top of the ticket.

Vice President Kamala Harris, the logical choice by virtue of her position, often faces even worse headwinds than the president himself. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg lacks statewide experience, while swing-state governors like Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan need to actually win reelection before they even consider a White House run (the same goes for Senators like Raphael Warnock).

Southern state governors like Roy Cooper of North Carolina might be too moderate for the party, while blue state governors like Illinois’ JB Pritzker and California’s Gavin Newsom might be too liberal. More than that, many voters may want to get behind a woman or a person of color after nominating an old, white, Catholic man last time around.

Democrats may find comfort in the fact that so many GOP Senate candidates are proving to be total duds this year, but they must resist the allure of a false sense of security. If Donald Trump or a Republican with crossover appeal like Glenn Youngkin of Virginia or Ron DeSantis of Florida decides to run in 2024, Democrats risk something that some might have thought unthinkable: a complete lockout of power for almost a decade.

Democratic data scientist David Shor warned about this last year, but if anything, he was downplaying the threat. Even if Democrats miraculously hold all their Senate seats in 2022, come 2024, if Biden is as unpopular as he is now, Democrats could lose not just the White House, but as many as eight seats.

Think of it this way: As things stand, 2024 will see three Senate Democrats – Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Sherrod Brown of Ohio – fighting re-election campaigns in states that Trump won twice. As ticket-splitting declines, it will be harder for them to outperform a Republican at the top of the ticket.

Next, take the three Democrats representing Rust Belt states that Trump won in 2016 but lost in 2020: Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. If voters are still upset with the Democrats, those seats could all too easily fall to the Republicans.

Lastly, if you take the two Democrats who won swing state seats in 2018 – Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona and Jacky Rosen in Nevada – and assume they are gone too, Democrats wind up with only 42 Senate seats. And that’s if they somehow hold all their seats in 2022.

That outcome would be cataclysmic for Democrats, not to mention a boon to a Republican president with a conservative wish list. In the aftermath, the next few elections would simply mean playing defense with little room to grow. Even if Democrats somehow wind up flipping seats in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin this year, they still would risk being at only 45 seats come 2025.

Of course, these results are not prophecy. Democrats could certainly turn the ship around; the worst of inflation could be behind the US, or Republicans might field wholly unqualified candidates. But for Democrats to simply skate by, an enormous amount needs to happen first.

For now, the apocalypse looks imminent. And with respect to Idris Elba, there seems little chance it will be canceled.

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