Joe Biden returned to the campaign trail on Saturday for a rally with union members in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the first major political event for the US president since he announced his re-election bid in April.
Biden, who grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was warmly greeted by the crowd. But Democrats fear there is a lack of enthusiasm for the 80-year-old president’s bid for a second term.
Biden faces no serious challengers for his party’s 2024 nomination. The only two Democrats to have launched primary campaigns against him so far are environmental advocate and vaccine skeptic Robert F Kennedy Jr and author self-help Marianne Williamson, who election experts say has no real path to the party’s nomination.
Yet national opinion polls show that, combined, the two candidates command the support of more than 20% of the Democratic electorate, while Biden battles consistently low approval ratings. According to the FiveThirtyEight website’s national opinion poll average, 40.6% of Americans approve of the job Biden is doing, while 54.9% disapprove.
“There is a weakness there for Biden, no doubt,” said Kyle Kondik of the nonpartisan Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, who pointed to several recent surveys showing a majority of Democratic voters would prefer someone. one other than Biden as the party’s nominee in 2024.
“There is a risk for the party that there will be a competitive primary,” Kondik added. “But there’s also a risk if Biden settles for the nomination and is still in a weak political position come the fall of an election year.”
Biden’s allies argue that having already defeated Donald Trump once, he is in the best position to face his predecessor in 2024. However, several recent opinion polls – including one published this week by The Economist and YouGov – show Biden and Trump in a statistical link in a hypothetical head-to-head contest.
Wayne Lesperance, a political science professor and president of New England College in New Hampshire, a key early-voting state in the Democratic primary race, said there was “genuine nervousness” among local party activists about of Biden as the presumptive candidate.
Many are warning that Biden could face an embarrassing, albeit largely symbolic, loss to Kennedy in New Hampshire and Iowa if those states go ahead with their first nominating contests, despite efforts by the Democratic National Committee to change the timeline so that the South Carolina goes first. Biden’s team suggested he wouldn’t be on the ballot in Iowa and New Hampshire if they defied the schedule changes.
Kennedy — the son of the late Sen. Robert F Kennedy — has embraced conspiracy theories that are widely dismissed by mainstream Democrats, including members of his own family. Analysts say his relatively high poll numbers — he has the support of 16% of grassroots Democrats, according to Real Clear Politics’ latest average — is in part due to his famous last name, coupled with positive media coverage. conservatives.
But they also acknowledge that at least some elements of his support reflect Democratic voters seeking an alternative to Biden.
“I don’t know if it goes so far as to say buyer’s remorse, but there’s definitely a concern that by staying with Joe Biden, Democrats are putting themselves at risk of not winning the House again. White?” said Lespée. “There is always a reference to age and ability. . . every time there’s a video of him tripping or falling, it feeds into that.
Biden earlier this month tripped over a sandbag and fell to his knees on stage during a graduation ceremony at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado. The stumble fueled public attacks from Republicans and private dithering from Democrats already nervous about Biden running for another term that would end in 2028, when he turns 86.
“We hope and wish Joe Biden a speedy recovery from any injuries he may have suffered, but we also wish the United States of America a speedy recovery from the injuries it has suffered because of Joe Biden and his politics,” Ron DeSantis, the 44-year-old Republican governor of Florida, said in a campaign speech in New Hampshire after the fall.
DeSantis takes a distant second place behind Trump, 77, in an increasingly crowded field of Republicans vying to be their party’s nominee in 2024.
On Thursday, DeSantis pushed Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, to enter the race and challenge Biden.
“Stop dragging your feet. Will you throw your hat in the ring and challenge Joe? Will you come in and do it? DeSantis told a laughing crowd, referencing Newsom. “Or are you just going to sit on the sidelines and chirp?”
Newsom, 55, is in his second term as governor of California and is often cited as a future Democratic presidential hopeful. After easily winning re-election in last November’s midterm elections, he set up a new fundraising vehicle using leftover money from his 2022 campaign.
Newsom has repeatedly said he is not running for president and has endorsed Biden’s candidacy for another term. This week he appeared on Fox News for an interview with Trump ally Sean Hannity and praised Biden’s record in power.
But Newsom also said he would be willing to participate in a public debate against DeSantis, and was slightly hesitant when pressed by Hannity on “how many times” his phone “ping(s) a day” with people. calling him to participate in the 2024 race.
“I’m not answering,” Newsom replied.
Newsom is not the only Democratic governor whose name is being floated as a potential presidential candidate. Gretchen Whitmer, who won re-election in 2022 by an 11-point margin in the swing state of Michigan, is also considered a rising star in the party.
But Whitmer is the official co-chairman of Biden’s re-election campaign. While she set up her own fundraising vehicle – the “Fight Like Hell Pac” – this week, her advisers insist that money raised by the political action committee can only be spent to support Biden and other Democratic candidates, not on a hypothetical Whitmer campaign.
Analysts say the Democrats’ continued unity behind Biden stems in part from the party’s better-than-expected performance midway through last year.
“He’s done a lot not only to clean up after Donald Trump, but also to deliver on his campaign promises,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic operative. “I think we’ll see a shift in the polls as Joe Biden, the White House and surrogates come out and start telling this story more and more.”