Voices: Democrats fear Biden might lose; Republicans fear they might blow the Senate

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Democrats received a gut punch on Sunday when a new poll from The Washington Post and ABC News showed that President Joe Biden hit an all-time low and that he actually trailed former president Donald Trump.

The poll showed that 56 per cent of adults disapprove the job Mr Biden is doing while an abysmal 36 per cent of adults approve of how Mr Biden is doing. Moreover, he only has the support of 26 per cent of Americans younger than the age of 30 and 42 per cent of nonwhite adults, a crucial demographic in the Democratic coalition.

Even more alarmingly for Democrats, 54 per cent of adults say Mr Trump did a better job handling the economy than Mr Biden did. Barring international crises on the level of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, voter sentiment about the economy typically tips the scales one way in a presidential election. Similarly, 63 per cent of adults said that Mr Biden lacks the mental sharpness to be president.

The numbers should concern Democrats because Mr Biden largely won his race in 2020 on the back of his ability to beat Mr Trump. Democratic primary voters eschewed other candidates, including some younger candidates or candidates that reflect the diversity of the party, in favor of someone they believed could evict Mr Trump from the White House.

Mr Trump’s continued presence in national politics might rationalise Mr Biden’s decision to remain the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. But that doesn’t enthuse Democratic voters, as 58 per cent of Democratic-leaning adults want the party to nominate someone other than Mr Biden.

Additionally, when asked who they would prefer, 44 per cent of those polled said they would cast their ballot for Mr Trump instead of Mr Biden. However, only 38 per cent said they would vote for Mr Biden. Similarly, 42 per cent said they would cast their ballot for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis while 37 per cent said they would back Mr Biden. Notably, Mr DeSantis has not even announced whether he’s running.

Mr Trump even beats Mr Biden 45 to 39 per cent, respectively, while Mr Biden leads with college-educated white women. Mr Trump and Mr Biden are about split when it comes to white men with college degrees.

But Mr Trump carries unique vulnerabilities as well. 56 per cent of adults say he should face criminal charges for his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, and 54 per cent say he should face charges for his role in the January 6 riot.

That might be why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is sweating about the Senate. In an interview with friend of the newsletter Manu Raju at CNN, Mr McConnell warned that Republicans could very easily blow their opportunity to take back the Senate. As it stands now, Democrats hold only 51 seats, meaning the GOP needs to flip only two seats to reclaim the majority.

Mr Biden’s low approval numbers, and the fact three Democrats hold Senate seats in states Mr Trump won twice, should make Mr McConnell feel confident. But Washington’s most calculating political operator is not resting easy, likely still smarting from the fact that he failed to flip a single seat last cycle.

“In other places where we did not get involved in the primaries it was because we were convinced we could not prevail, and would spend a lot of money that we would need later,” he told CNN, a nod to the fact that Republicans didn’t get involved in last year’s primaries, which allowed for Mr Trump to endorse candidates that repelled general election voters.

While he said that Mr Trump’s nomination could boost Republicans in West Virginia, Ohio and Montana, Mr McConnell said he would be much more willing to get involved in primaries, emphasising: “We’ll be involved in any primary where that seems to be necessary to get a high-quality candidate, and we’ll be involved in every general election where we have a legitimate shot of winning – regardless of the philosophy of the nominee.”

Of course, the next election is still 18 months away and the political tides are shifting. As of now, everything is a hypothetical. But both Republicans and Democrats have reasons to be nervous.