As President Biden marks his 81st birthday today, the atmosphere is far from celebratory. The gaffe-prone leader, already the oldest president in U.S. history, is facing growing concerns within his own party about his advanced age and diminishing support, especially among younger voters.
A recent Washington Post exposé sheds light on the internal struggles among Democrats, revealing that key allies of the President are working hard to convince donors and party members that Biden is the Democrats' strongest contender for the upcoming election, despite the increasing doubts. However, a new NBC News poll adds a layer of complexity, indicating that even if Biden secures the Democratic nomination, he might still be at risk of losing to likely Republican nominee Donald Trump—a first-time scenario where the former president surpasses his successor in a national general-election survey.
"The bad news is that everybody is wetting the bed inside of Biden world," lamented one fundraiser to The Washington Post. The discontent seems to stem from a convergence of concerns voiced by Biden's donors and their associates, questioning his candidacy and suggesting alternatives.
During a private power conference in September, hosted by Ari Emanuel, the Democratic anxiety came to the forefront. Attendees openly expressed worries about Biden's chances of winning and sought information about the Democrats' backup plan. Former Biden chief of staff, Ron Klain, staunchly asserted that there was no Plan B, defending Biden's candidacy as robust. The response, however, left some attendees divided, with some disgruntled by the absence of a backup strategy and others appreciative of Klain's unwavering support for Biden.
A subsequent private event in Chicago saw further frustrations voiced, this time directed at former President Barack Obama for not doing enough to boost Biden's candidacy. The sentiment among some attendees was that if the perceived threat to democracy was as severe as suggested, then more overt actions should be taken.
As Biden faces these internal challenges and with his potential age at the end of a second term looming at 86, the Democratic unease surrounding his candidacy is not confined to hushed conversations backstage—it's increasingly becoming a matter of open concern within the party.
Democratic stalwart David Axelrod, a key architect of Obama's historic 2008 presidential triumph, has stirred ripples within Biden's inner circle with his public reservations about the President's chances. While Axelrod later clarified that he wasn't advocating for Biden to withdraw from the race, he expressed skepticism about Biden's odds in a recent interview with Maureen Dowd of The New York Times.
"I think he has a 50-50 shot here, but no better than that, maybe a little worse," Axelrod commented, raising concerns about Biden's attempt to defy the natural challenges of age. He cautioned against relying on Trump's potential candidacy as a strategy, drawing parallels to a similar misstep made by Hillary Clinton in the past. Axelrod's sentiments coincided with a series of polls indicating Trump leading Biden in five out of six battleground states.
In a Sunday release, the NBC poll underscored Trump's marginal lead over Biden at 46% to 44%, notably surpassing the President among younger voters. Among the 18 to 34 age group, Trump secured a 46% to 42% advantage over Biden, a stark contrast to the 26-point lead Biden had in the same demographic during the 2020 election. RealClearPolitics' aggregate of polling data also positioned Trump ahead by 1.6 percentage points in a potential 2024 matchup.
Despite these statistics, Biden's team downplays the significance of the polls, arguing that they do not accurately reflect the overall landscape with a considerable stretch of time remaining before the November 2024 election. The ongoing legal challenges faced by Trump, including 91 pending criminal counts and an upcoming trial in March related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election results, are factors the Biden camp believes could alter the political dynamics.
Recent Democratic victories in off-year 2023 elections in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and elsewhere prompted Biden allies to assert their confidence in the President's ability to defy expectations. Communications director Michael Tyler highlighted Biden's track record of surpassing predictions, emphasizing historic wins on election days following periods of dire predictions about the President's prospects.
As the political landscape continues to evolve, the Biden camp remains steadfast in its belief that the true narrative will unfold over time, echoing the sentiment that past victories are indicative of the President's ability to navigate challenges successfully.
Despite notable victories in both 2022 and 2023, the specter of concern within the Democratic ranks about President Biden's electoral prospects in the upcoming general election remains persistent. Seeking clarity on this unease, The Washington Post reached out to the Biden campaign for comment, attempting to glean insights into the internal sentiments within the party.
Adding a layer of intrigue to the political landscape, Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota recently launched a somewhat audacious primary challenge against Biden. Phillips has been capitalizing on discussions surrounding the incumbent's viability, attempting to tap into the undercurrent of uncertainty within Democratic circles. However, Biden appears to maintain a robust lead over Phillips and his other primary rival, the author Marianne Williamson.
While heavyweight Democrats have not thrown their hats into the primary ring against Biden, there are those who have strategically cultivated presidential speculation. California Governor Gavin Newsom, for instance, has been actively engaging in tours of traditionally conservative states and deploying advertising campaigns to champion progressive causes in areas known as conservative strongholds. Newsom is slated to face off against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in an upcoming debate, and his team has recently produced an ad critiquing DeSantis, who is seen as an aspiring 2024 Republican presidential nominee, particularly on the issue of abortion.
Despite Newsom's active involvement and apparent ambition, he has officially endorsed Biden and vociferously declared that he has no intentions of running for the presidency in 2024. The dynamic interplay of Democratic figures, both within and outside the primary arena, adds a layer of complexity to the unfolding narrative of the party's internal deliberations as the 2024 election looms on the horizon.
In conclusion, as President Biden marks his 81st birthday amid a landscape of both triumphs and lingering concerns within the Democratic Party, the path to the 2024 general election appears increasingly complex. Despite notable victories in recent years, including the off-year elections of 2022 and 2023, doubts about Biden's electoral viability persist, fueled by polls, internal disagreements, and the emergence of primary challengers.
Key figures within the Democratic establishment, such as David Axelrod, have publicly expressed reservations, emphasizing a perceived 50-50 chance for Biden and cautioning against underestimating the challenges posed by his age. Polls, including the NBC News survey, have added an additional layer of uncertainty, showing former President Trump leading in key battleground states and gaining ground among younger voters.
The internal dynamics of the Democratic Party are further complicated by the entry of Representative Dean Phillips into the primary race, although Biden maintains a substantial lead over both Phillips and primary opponent Marianne Williamson. Additionally, the speculation surrounding potential alternative Democratic candidates, notably California Governor Gavin Newsom, contributes to the intricate tapestry of political maneuvering.
As the political landscape continues to evolve, the Biden campaign's dismissal of polls and emphasis on historical victories suggests a confidence that transcends the current challenges. The upcoming debate between Governor Newsom and Governor DeSantis promises to be a significant moment, offering insights into the ongoing dynamics within the party.
Ultimately, the journey toward the 2024 election is characterized by a delicate balance between confidence and concern within Democratic circles. The interplay of internal dynamics, primary challenges, and the broader political climate will undoubtedly shape the narrative as the Democratic Party navigates the road ahead.