The extremely obvious case for Joe Biden in 2024
I’m old enough to remember when the media buried the Biden presidency. Which is to say, I was about two months ago.
June 11, The New York Times published an article with the provocative title: “Should Biden run in 2024? Democratic whispers of “no” are beginning to mount. The article appeared on the front page of the print edition and quickly sparked a feverish week-long frenzy of speculation over who should replace the incumbent president on his own party ticket. Politics reported that a progressive group was planning a campaign to pressure Joe Biden not to run. Slate ranked nine different Democratic politicians who could replace him. The Washington Post listed 18. My colleague Conor Friedersdorf solicited 20 such recommendations Atlantic readers. And the less said about Twitter’s foreseeable collapse, the better.
The full-fledged anti-Biden panic has resulted in a New York Times poll, which found 64% of Democrats wanted someone else to run for president in 2024. For many, that was the nail in the coffin. Biden hadn’t just lost the country. He lost his own party.
I got a different response to the New York Times poll, because I noticed another discovery there that has been largely ignored, buried in the 16th paragraph of the newspaper’s history:
This framing may seem troll, but I was trying to make a serious point. When it comes to evaluating a presidential candidate for 2024, what matters is not whether some voters in 2022 prefer an idealized hypothetical alternative, but whether they favor the candidate over the real alternative to the polls in 2024. And even amid a summer of disastrous inflation rates, Biden has outstripped Trump.
At the time, this was not a popular opinion. But times have changed. Over the past month, Biden’s standing among Democrats has rebounded, transforming him from a floundering failure into a folk hero. The reason is relatively simple: Biden started winning. He passed the Inflation Reduction Act, delivering the biggest legislative blow against climate change in American history. He ordered the assassination of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. He forgave billions in student loan debt. Gas prices fell from over $5 a gallon to under $4. Inflation, which peaked at a record high in June, has finally started to decline. Not to mention past bipartisan bills on gun control, infrastructure, and domestic semiconductor production.
As triumphant Dark Brandon memes proliferated on social media, Biden’s approval rating began to rise. As of August 31, FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics, which average all presidential endorsement polls, recorded a nearly five-point increase in Biden’s popularity over the past month.
None of this should come as a surprise. Like I Noted in July, Biden’s decline in popularity was mainly related to the economy and the price of daily consumer goods. Contrary to what some progressive commentators claims, average Americans were upset about these things not because “the media” told them to be upset, but because they were personally affected by them at the supermarket and at the pumps. It wasn’t CNN that made people angry about the economy and inflation; it was their experience of the economy and inflation. With consumer prices gradually falling, Americans’ confidence in the economy has improved. And Biden’s popularity too:
These trends underscore a simple point: Far from desperately looking for someone to replace Biden, Democrats should be desperate for him to run again in 2024. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Biden has already beaten Trump in historic fashion. Most sitting presidents are re-elected. Prior to 2020, only 10 had stood for a second term and failed to achieve it. Before Trump, the last incumbent president to lose re-election was George HW Bush in 1992, and that was after Republicans held the White House for 12 years. But not only did Biden defeat an incumbent, he did so by such a decisive margin — 4.4%, or 7 million votes — that he overcame the structural Republican advantage in the Electoral College, which had allowed the party to repeatedly win the presidency despite his defeat. the popular vote.
2. Biden has an advantage as a starter. As noted, incumbent presidents are almost always re-elected. Incumbents dominate the news cycle simply by being president and benefit from voters’ aversion to change; it’s part of what made Biden’s victory in 2020 so impressive. Ideally for Democrats, the incumbent is now a Democrat. The party would be foolish to throw away this advantage and intentionally level the playing field between the Republican candidate and the Democratic candidate.
3. Biden is the best candidate on the Democratic bench to assemble his own winning coalition. To defeat Trump and defeat the Electoral College, Biden had to unite a diverse and divisive amalgam of diehard progressives, minority voters, and small but decisive portions of unqualified white voters and anti-Trump Republicans. All of these groups were essential to his victory. For example, a crucial difference between by Barack Obama and Biden’s wins and Hillary Clinton’s loss was that they garnered 5% more of the unqualified white vote, which is disproportionately concentrated in oscillating states. Biden has also passed Democratic Senate candidates in purple states like Michigan and Maine, thanks in part to his appeal to conservatives Never Trumpers.
To accomplish this great task, Biden relied on several personal characteristics that were unique to him. For starters, by appealing to independents and conservatives, Biden took advantage of his moderate political persona, which predated our current culture wars and made it quite difficult for Trump to label him an extremist, especially after Biden defeated socialists. like Bernie Sanders in elementary school. At the same time, Biden benefited among Democrats — and especially black voters — from his association with President Obama, and was seen by many as the party’s staunch successor. most popular character. Given these strengths, it’s no surprise that Biden has consistently outplayed his top Democratic rivals against Trump. To date, no other Democratic politician — from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Pete Buttigieg — has demonstrated Biden’s overall appeal to the electorate. That doesn’t mean any of them can’t, but does suggest that Democrats don’t need to roll the dice when they already hold a potentially winning hand.
That’s not to say there aren’t real pitfalls to another Biden candidacy.