Biden’s statement this week that he’s “planning” to run for reelection shows a certain nervousness about the possibility that he may have difficulty winning re-nomination, columnist Michael Barone says
It’s just one poll, conducted by SSRS Research for CNN, but it provides interesting evidence about where voters are on issues, and it isn’t glaringly inconsistent with other survey research.
So “which political party’s views are closer to” yours on each issue? Answer: mostly the Republican Party. On the economy (41%-29%), immigration (40%-30%), crime and policing (40%-28%), government spending (35%-26%) and parents’ rights (36%-33%).
Admittedly, the Republicans’ margin is closer on America’s role in world affairs (35%-32%) and freedom of speech (37%-35%), and Democrats have the advantage on social and cultural issues (36%-33%) and abortion (40%-30%).
But the overall picture is fairly clear. Although respondents usually have more negative feelings about the Republican than the Democratic party, on this particular set of issues — not out of line with other polls on voter priorities — Republicans have a statistically significant advantage over Democrats on four issues and Democrats on only one.
That’s reasonably consistent with President Joe Biden’s job approval, which is currently 44% and has been running at about that level, and occasionally well below, most of the time since the disorderly withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan in August 2021. But it’s at least somewhat dissonant with polls matching Biden against former President Donald Trump, in which the latter leads 44% to 42% — a statistical tie.
One revealing thing about these numbers is that they show majorities of American voters rejecting both the 45th and 46th presidents, and are presumably in the market for a 47th. But even more revealing is that Republicans’ apparent advantage on salient issues has not produced an electorate determined to reject an 80-year-old Democratic incumbent.
That’s true even though Biden himself, after tacking left on virtually every issue during Ron Klain’s months as White House chief of staff, has now, during Jeff Zients’ weeks in that post, taken a couple of stands that suggest an awareness of vulnerability on some key issues.
He’s announced changes in immigration policy apparently designed to prevent some illegal border crossers to apply for asylum status. One suspects that the administration welcomes the vocal opposition from the left, which may help Biden and other Democrats convince voters that he has abandoned what can plausibly be attacked as an open borders policy.
And, despite cries of anguish from the defund-the-police left, Biden declined to veto Congress’ bipartisan overturning of the District of Columbia legislation reducing the penalties for violent crimes. This shows a lack of confidence in the liberal talking point that violent crime is less prevalent than it was 30 years ago and in the argument, advanced by the narrowly elected Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson, that high crime in black neighborhoods results from anger at low corporate tax rates.
Biden’s statement this week that he’s “planning” to run for reelection shows a certain nervousness about the possibility that he, like his immediate predecessor, may have difficulty winning re-nomination.
As the Washington Post’s Republican columnist Henry Olsen points out, a YouGov poll gives Biden 81% job approval among Democrats but reports that only 48% of them want him to run again.
That has prompted the Spectator’s conservative writer Ben Domenech to make the perhaps puckish suggestion that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) challenge the incumbent. Some 47 years younger than Biden, she will reach the constitutionally required age of 35 in October 2024.
Domenech compares an AOC candidacy to Pat Buchanan’s challenge of the first President George Bush in 1992 and suggests that just as Buchanan presaged Republicans’ post-Bush movement toward isolationism and protectionism, so Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of what I call “barista socialism” represents a rising force among young Democratic voters strong enough to have provided the decisive votes earlier this month in the City of Big Shoulders.
As for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump faces announced or possible opposition from serious figures in early-primary states — South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu — who could potentially be ticket-balancing VPs. The Manhattan district attorney’s flimsy indictment last week boosted Trump’s numbers, at least temporarily, but as I noted last week, primary preferences are usually readily changeable.
Patrick Ruffini of Echelon Insights, analyzing his firm’s polling, classifies 25% of Republican voters as Always Trump, 15% as Never Trump and 60% as up-for-grabs. That suggests there is plenty of room for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been competitive with Trump in two-candidate pairings, to overtake Trump if and when early-state candidates and former Vice President Mike Pence fall by the wayside.
Bottom line: Republicans have some advantage on issues, but there’s probably a bigger advantage for the party whose voters eschew residual loyalties and dump their overage and unpopular 2020 presidential nominees.
Michael Barone is a senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and longtime co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.
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