Joe Biden had a lot riding on his State of the Union address. I’ve long suspected that the national address was his moment to change the trajectory of his presidency and ultimately determine whether or not a reelection campaign is viable. Prior to the address, it was said that his 2024 announcement would come relatively soon after—though no particular timetable was given.
Biden, for his part, has generally given the impression that he’s all in for 2024. However, a new report from Politico casts doubt on Biden throwing his hat in, as several Democrats are quietly positioning themselves to run in 2024 in the event Biden ultimately realizes, in the word of Lethal Weapon‘s Roger Murtaugh, he’s “too old for this s—.”
“Obviously, it creates doubts and problems if he waits and waits and waits,” Democratic strategist Mark Longabaugh told Politico. “But if he were to somehow not declare ‘til June or something, I think some people would be stomping around.”
The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll has Biden’s approval ratings at their highest point in almost a year—matching pre-botched withdrawal from Afghanistan levels.
So was there a bounce?
Ehh. His numbers were arguably inching in the positive direction beforehand, and his approval ratings remain in negative territory in the RealClearPolitics average and seem to have hit a ceiling of roughly -7 to -6.5. If Team Biden is waiting to see how things panned out after the State of the Union, it looks like they’ll be waiting even longer if they’re trying to find some good news to justify launching a reelection campaign. I certainly wouldn’t bank the future of the Democratic Party on one positive poll that is most likely an outlier.
Even if the NPR/PBS/Marist poll is not an outlier, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for Biden.
One good part is that he’s repairing his image somewhat within his own party. “Lots of surveys, including Marist’s, have shown that members of Biden’s own party think he’s too old and they’d have a better chance of winning the White House with someone else – although there’s been little agreement on who that should be,” NPR explained of the poll. “That’s changed in this survey. Now, 50% say they have the best chance with Biden, while 45% think the best chance lies with a different candidate.”
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This may look like a good sign for him, but if only half the party thinks their incumbent is the best candidate they have, that’s still a problem. Worse yet, Biden’s standing among independents is still… well… garbage. Only 36% of independents approve of the job he’s doing.
This is an incredibly weak position from which to launch a reelection campaign. It is reasonable to assume that Team Biden is waiting for a sign that Biden can successfully lead the Democratic Party to victory. While some polls show him marginally ahead of Trump in head-to-head matchups (and some Trump ahead), a deep dive into the poll numbers shows that Biden is on shaky ground coming into the 2024 election.
So, if Biden got a bounce, it was marginal at best, and certainly not enough for him to feel confident about launching another bid for the presidency.