As he turned 81 on Monday, Joe Biden was presented with unwelcome gifts: more polling showing him struggling against Donald Trump, his likely opponent next year who is just three and a half years younger but whom many fewer Americans think is too old to be president.
In its US Election Watch Report for November, the Morning Consult polling organisation said Trump is gaining ground among key voter segments including Black, Hispanic and young Americans. “Throughout 2023, Trump has made up ground with Joe Biden in our head-to-head tracking by improving his margins” among such groups, also including independents, it said.
On Sunday, NBC said Biden’s approval rating had reached its lowest point, 40%. It said its poll found Biden behind Trump for the first time in a hypothetical general-election match-up, “although the deficit is well within the margin of error for a contest more than 11 months away”.
Trump faces 91 criminal charges, for election subversion, retention of classified information and hush-money payments. He also faces civil suits over his business affairs and a rape allegation a judge called “substantially true”.
Trump has committed gaffes – for example, suggesting he thinks he beat George W Bush and Barack Obama – that might be seen to be symptoms of ageing. He has adopted increasingly extreme rhetoric, threatening dire action against political enemies and vulnerable social groups, prompting warnings he is a fascist.
And yet, as majorities of Americans continue to say Biden is too old for a second term, Trump keeps closing in the polls.
According to NBC, Biden is suffering over economic conditions at home and policy choices abroad, prominently including support for Israel in its war with Hamas.
Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster, told NBC: “Joe Biden is at a uniquely low point in his presidency, and a significant part of this … is due to how Americans are viewing his foreign policy actions.”
Bill McInturff, a Republican, said: “This poll is a stunner … because of the impact the Israel-Hamas war is having on Biden.”
Horwitt, however, said Biden had chances to win voters back, adding: “Jury verdicts in Trump’s trials, unforeseen events both foreign and domestic, and the rigours of a campaign all have a funny way of upending what may be true today.”
Biden also found more cheerful birthday reading from Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist who correctly played down fears of a Republican midterm “red wave”.
“I have a simple message,” Rosenberg wrote in his newsletter. “We should be very optimistic about winning the presidential election next year.”
Rosenberg added: “The Republican party is in trouble. It keeps losing elections across the country. It has done two things since 2020, each of which could keep a political party out of power for decades – stripped women of fundamental rights, and led a party-wide conspiracy to overturn an election and end American democracy.”
He also pointed to a “terrible” New York Times poll that showed Trump ahead in battleground states but also asked what voters would do if Trump was sentenced to prison, which Rosenberg said was “likely”.
Pointing to results including a 23-point swing to Biden in Nevada and an 18-point shift in Georgia, Rosenberg said: “Here is what happens in the battlegrounds – huge swings, GOP devastation.”
The Biden campaign and its surrogates are also confident. Earlier this month, the Democratic operative Donna Brazile told ABC: “I’m old enough to remember that Ronald Reagan was trailing in 1980 for his re-election. I’m old enough to remember when Bill Clinton was trailing, and Barack Obama was toast right before the 2012 re-election.
“Don’t count out Joe Biden.”
First appeared on www.theguardian.com