Biden trails Trump in multiple swing states

The Briefing, Vol. XI, Issue 44

This week:

  • Biden is losing to Trump all over the map
  • Despite Trump’s trials, he polls above 50 percent
  • Big state and local elections tomorrow


Trump trouncing Biden? Just how unpopular is President Joe Biden right now? Last week, the New York Times commissioned polls of six battleground states by Siena College. The surveys were taken in Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. 

So here is how bad things are for Biden at the moment: In only one of the six states in question (Wisconsin) does Biden even get to 45 percent or better in head-to-head matchups against former President Donald Trump. And Biden trails Trump in five of the six states by margins ranging from four to 10 points.

These numbers, which come from a company that could never be accused of shilling for Trump, point one year ahead of Election Day to a broad national electoral college victory for Trump. They are also astounding for a number of additional reasons. 

First, Biden’s failure to crack 45 percent in so many key states is indicative of his continued, persistent unpopularity. An incumbent running for re-election to any position who suffers such low numbers is normally considered doomed. If we were conspiracy theorists, we might theorize that the poll was a New York Times’ attempt to push him out of the race altogether, so that a more viable Democrat could run and win. (We do not actually believe that, but some people might.) 

Second, former President Trump usually polls far below his real levels of support. The “shy Trump voter is a well-known phenomenon — this is why his victory in 2016 and his near-victory in 2020 were both so shocking. So either these numbers represent a departure from that trend, or they show that Trump is on his way to a much larger victory than anyone reasonably expected to date.

Third, Trump is beating Biden convincingly even in the key states — Georgia and Arizona — where he underperformed worst as a Republican nominee during his two previous presidential runs (including 2016).

Fourth, this comes even as Trump is going through a civil fraud trial and faces four separate criminal indictments. 

These polls suggest that America is rejecting, en masse and in diverse geographic locations, the dominant media narrative that the prosecutions and other accusations against Trump are meritorious, not frivolous or politically motivated. 

We have speculated previously about the potential results of a conviction, but just imagine what happens if Trump beats the rap or gets a hung jury in even just one of these trials before the election. It could prove a humiliating and politically devastating result for Biden’s Justice Department, as it might take only one juror or one judge in a ruling on appeal to ruin the entire plan.

All of Biden’s other polls look bad: Note that this is not the first or only poll showing devastating results for Biden right now. CBS News just published its own national survey showing Trump at 51 percent support. It is normally very rare for him to poll above 50 percent, but this has happened now in three of the last ten national polls over a period of one month. In fact, Biden leads in only two of those ten polls, and in those by just one point each. His unpopularity is so great that the normal incumbent’s polling advantage simply doesn’t exist for him.

People are not really that eager to put his presidency behind them as the widespread assumptions of the media would indicate. Journalists magnified every controversy and behaved in an almost  manic fashion when Trump was president. Today, though, the polls indicate that most people really wouldn’t mind hearing his dumb comments about injecting sunlight into his veins, his insulting names for all of his opponents, or his long, rambling and confrontational press conferences, so long as it means they don’t have to live under Biden any longer. 

Among the many concerns expressed in the poll about Biden were his being “too old” to be an effective president (71 percent), his “mental sharpness (62 percent) and his performance on the economy, where they prefer Trump by a 22-point margin. 

There is still a lot of time before next year’s election, but Democrats are in a bit of a bind over Biden’s situation. Many partisans continue to promote him without concern and disdain those who would challenge him. But on Sunday former top Obama aide David Axelrod suggested he should drop out of the race and make way for someone else — probably not Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), but perhaps California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), whose recent trip to China made clear he is running a shadow presidential campaign.

Iowa: Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) is endorsing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), just as former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) is catching up to him for second place in the Hawkeye State. This comes as it feels less and less likely that the legal actions brought against Trump are going to bring him down before the caucuses. 

Election 2023

A number of state and local elections take place tomorrow across the nation. Here’s a quick recap of what to watch for in some of the most important ones.

Kentucky: Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is heavily favored to win re-election. But polling in Kentucky is notoriously unreliable. What’s more, with Biden’s numbers so bad nationally and even in far Bluer states than the Bluegrass State, a surprise upset by Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) cannot be ruled out. 

It must be added that Republicans are widely expected to sweep all of the other statewide constitutional offices besides the governorship — attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, etc. If Beshear does survive on Tuesday, he will be the one island not overwhelmed by a rising red tide. Leaning Democratic retention.

Mississippi: Every Democratic poll has pointed to a very competitive race in Mississippi between Brandon Pressley (D) and incumbent Gov. Tate Reeves (R). All independent polls, however, suggest that this will instead turn out as a decisive win for Reeves.  

If the race really is close, it could result in a runoff under the new rules adopted three years ago. Under the old rules, a successful candidate had to win a majority of state House districts in addition to a plurality of the statewide vote, or else the state legislature would choose the governor. 

The new rules are much simpler and match those of other southern states such as Georgia, requiring only a 50 percent-plus-one majority. Likely Republican Retention.

Virginia: Republicans, led by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), are looking to take full control of the state legislature. This would require protecting their two-seat majority in the state Assembly and picking up at least two seats in the state Senate. This will be the first race since Youngkin’s 2021 victory in which the state Senate is up for grabs. The Senate outcome will be largely determined in about ten of the Old Dominion’s most competitive districts.

Senate 2024

West Virginia: Still no official decisions (one has been promised for fall, so it could be any day), but here are two small hints that Sen. Joe Manchin (D) may not be running for re-election. First, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is not treating West Virginia as a battleground state with its initial allocation of resources, even though it is arguably Republicans’ best Senate pickup opportunity. 

Second, Sen. John Fetterman (D) of neighboring Pennsylvania remarked that Manchin “is not going to be around much longer” and even said he looked forward to inheriting Manchin’s parking spot on the Capitol grounds. The two have had a dispute over the recent reinstatement of the Senate dress code, an action in which Manchin participated, which targeted Fetterman specifically for wearing hoodies around the Capitol. 

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