Democrats enjoyed a wave of electoral successes in 2023, buoyed by their support of abortion rights.
But President Biden's political footing remains on shaky ground, as he polls poorly with voters.
The party faces a tough dilemma as they figure out how to deal with Biden's struggles ahead of 2024.
Despite many favorable election outcomes for Democratic candidates, the party's Tuesday night victories are bringing President Joe Biden's electability concerns to the limelight.
Tuesday's elections saw Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear win his bid for reelection in Kentucky. Democrats won majorities in Virginia's state House of Delegates and state Senate. And the right to an abortion will now be codified in Ohio's constitution.
Beshear's ability to best his Republican challenger, Trump-backed state Attorney General Daniel Cameron, by approximately five percentage points, and Ohio voters supporting the abortion referendum by a margin of more than 13 percentage points are major victories for the Democratic Party. And the decisive margins of victory likely have the party questioning its presidential strategy headed into 2024.
Democrats are already committed to supporting Biden as the party's nominee in the 2024 election, but after seeing last night's results, they may have to rethink their strategy.
Biden's polling woes are raising eyebrows
For months, Biden has generally been in a statistical tie with Trump regarding a 2024 matchup. In several national polls, Biden has had a slight advantage over Trump, while the former president has also posted leads, with both parties recognizing that a potential rematch is likely to be close once again.
But a recently-released set of New York Times/Siena polls of 6 key swing states showed Trump ahead in 5 of the states. In 2020, Biden won all of the polled states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — but in the most recent survey he only came out ahead in Wisconsin.
While many party leaders have brushed off Times/Siena poll, arguing that Biden has months to get back on solid footing in these critical states, some Democrats are privately concerned that the White House is not being vigilant about the president's precarious political state.
Biden's 2020 victories in Arizona and Georgia, especially, represented major triumphs as those states for decades had shunned Democratic presidential nominees. But the president's foundation for any victory in 2024 rests in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, making the Times/Siena survey a tough pill to swallow for many of his supporters.
Another major caveat is voter concerns over Biden's age, as the president would be 82 years old at the start of a potential second term and 86 at the end of a second term. Those concerns have led to a sizable bloc of Democrats expressing a desire for a new presidential nominee, even with Biden running for reelection next year.
The 2023 elections showed that Democrats can prosper on individual issues and with candidates tailor-made for their districts and states. But Biden's struggles with voters across the board threatens the party's momentum from Tuesday unless he can turn around his own political fortunes.
The GOP has cratered in the suburbs, but Biden remains in a shaky position
In 2016, Trump's presidential candidacy saw many onetime Republican-heavy suburbs shift to the left.
By the 2018 midterm elections, former GOP strongholds outside of cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Washington soon saw themselves either backing Democratic candidates or coming close to doing so. The 2020 presidential election and the 2022 midterm elections accelerated this political realignment, with highly-educated voters leaving the Republican Party in droves over issues like abortion and the preservation of democracy.
Last night, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin sought to reassemble the coalition of Republicans and independents that helped propel him to the Executive Mansion in 2021.
But it didn't work. Democrats flipped the Virginia House of Delegates and held onto their majority in the state Senate, with the most notable gains made in former GOP strongholds like Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia exurbs.
With Trump likely to be back at the top of the GOP presidential ticket in 2024, the party's brand in suburbs once friendly to their candidates will remain their biggest challenge as they look to win back the White House and retain their majority in the US House. However, Biden's sagging numbers among independents (and even many Democrats) that don't want him to run in 2024 threatens the very coalition that helped propel the former vice president over Trump in 2020.
Democrats not named Biden are largely performing well in the suburbs, but the president being on the top of the ticket in 2024 could cause a down-ballot drop-off if the White House isn't able to turn around his political fortunes soon.
The war in Israel isn't helping Biden's case
Following a terrorist attack that killed over a thousand Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023, Biden and his administration have unwaveringly backed Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israel's military response to the attacks, however, may have thrown a serious wrench to Biden's reelection plans: The Israeli military has since decimated the Gaza Strip, leading to 10,000 deaths, many of whom were women and children, in the lead-up to a ground invasion at the end of October.
While Biden said he's been "blunt with the Israelis," pushing its government to resist bombing areas of the Gaza Strip, his reluctance to publicly admonish or punish Israel for rampantly killing thousands of civilians has led to drops in polling in some regions of the US he can't afford to lose in 2024.
According to recent polling from the Arab American Institute, support for Biden's presidential run among Arab Americans has been hit significantly hard, decreasing from 59% support in 2020 to just over 17% in 2024.
Combined with the non-Arab section of the American electorate who's similarly opposed to how Biden's handled the war in Israel, the decrease in support for Biden on this issue alone could be especially detrimental in a state like Michigan, which has hundreds of thousands of people of Arab descent living there. Biden won Michigan by nearly 3 points in 2020, making it a key state in his 2024 political calculus.
Despite Biden's own party coasting to victory in several key elections, his inability to separate himself from Trump in national polls should cause the Democratic Party to broach a tough conversation: Is Biden the problem?
And if not Biden, who?
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