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Larry Donnelly Polls are now showing that if Biden and Trump ran now, Trump would win

Our columnist says Biden is not for turning and this could be the undoing of the Democrats in a year’s time.

DEMOCRATS IN THE United States were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief after so-called “off-year” elections around the country this past Tuesday. Generally, it was a successful night that offered some cause for optimism ahead of upcoming presidential and congressional campaigns, as well as vital contests at state and local levels.

For instance, the Democratic Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear, was seen as vulnerable to the challenge of the state’s Republican Attorney General, Daniel Cameron. Donald Trump crushed his opponents there in 2016 and 2020. He rowed in behind Cameron, a deeply conservative African American. Yet Beshear cruised to a relatively easy triumph.

In Virginia, Democrats took control of both houses of the state legislature, notwithstanding a concerted GOP effort led by well-liked Governor Glenn Youngkin to flip seats in order to push a right-wing agenda. And in Ohio, which has morphed into a red state, 56% of voters opted to enshrine the right to access abortion in the state’s constitution.

Battles heating up

One truth can be gleaned from these results: post the Dobbs case nullifying the seminal Roe v Wade precedent, abortion is a potent motivating consideration not only for progressives but also for many moderates, who regard total bans as draconian.

In battleground territory, Republicans had been able to use the hottest of all hot button issues to their advantage by pointing to Democrats’ typical refusal to identify a single restriction on the procedure they could endorse. Now, they are on the back foot, and at odds with the clear majority, when called upon to defend proposals that would only allow abortion in a small window and lack exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

Joe Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, was buoyed by the outcome. She claimed that it was further evidence that the people “overwhelmingly side with President Biden and Democrats’ vision for this country.

The same choice will be before voters again next November, and we are confident the American people will send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to the White House to keep working for them.”

If they do give Joe Biden and Kamala Harris a second term, that pick may rest upon their support for at least some access to abortion or revulsion at the thought of Donald Trump getting a second stint as commander-in-chief, freed from any political constraints whatsoever. For recent data indicates that the incumbent does not inspire confidence in the electorate.

Biden’s poor showing

An NBC News survey shows that nearly half of those asked favour Republicans to handle economic issues; just 28% think Democrats would do a better job. 59% of that cohort are very critical of President Biden’s economic track record. A contemporaneous New York Times/Siena College poll signals prevalent negativity on the economy. 81% say it is either fair or poor; merely 19% say it is good or excellent. 57% contend that the economy will be the most important factor when they cast ballots in 2024.

More troubling, still, 71% of New York Times/Siena College respondents opine that Joe Biden is too old to be an effective president and 62% think he is not mentally sharp enough to do the job. Despite plenty of slip-ups as of late, only 38% deem Donald Trump too old and 54% assert that he remains mentally sharp.

The NBC News and New York Times/Siena College numbers correlate strongly with the standing of the two men in crucial states. Biden trails Trump by 10 percentage points in Nevada, by 6 in Georgia, by 5 in Arizona, by 5 in Michigan and by 4 in Pennsylvania. If this forecast came to pass, Trump would prevail, comfortably.

Some Democratic strategists have been dismissive. They have posited that it is much too early in the process to be asking voters about whom they will back, that overreacting to what they would describe as a blurry snap shot is foolhardy, that the polls demonstrate the devastating impact a criminal conviction could have on presumptive Republican nominee Trump’s candidacy and that other sitting presidents have been in far worse position and gone on to win.

Their statements minimising the implication of the findings ring hollow, however. In fact, Democrats have fretted privately for many months that President Biden’s advanced age and his concomitant physical and mental decline would pose a significant problem. How he was able, nonetheless, to stave off would be insurgents is equally a mystery and an indictment of the party’s inner workings.

A comfortable Trump win?

The New York Times/Siena College analysis reveals that an unnamed, generic Democrat would beat Trump in all of the aforementioned states and hence win the presidency. Conversely, a Biden victory could be largely dependent upon Trump’s being convicted in federal or state courts in Washington, DC, Florida, New York or Georgia.

Yes, previous incumbents have reversed their fortunes in the face of low approval numbers and broad discontent with harsh economic conditions. That said, they were not simultaneously combatting inescapably negative, popularly held conclusions with respect to immutable, individual characteristics as President Biden is.

Indeed, one poll does not warrant panic. Its shockwaves, though, reverberate in a subsequent Emerson College questionnaire likewise reflecting the reality that Biden is in bother in the locations that matter most in US presidential races.

Much has been made of the tacit ultimatum delivered by President Barack Obama’s erstwhile chief adviser, David Axelrod, on Twitter/X. “Only @JoeBiden can make this decision. If he continues to run, he will be the nominee of the Democratic Party. What he needs to decide is whether that is wise; whether it’s in HIS best interest or the country’s?”

The quandary for Axelrod and worried fellow Democrats is that, in all probability, what’s done is done. President Biden is not for turning. Even if he were, it does not appear a viable option.

Given the impending deadlines to get onto primary ballots and the practical difficulties of setting up fundraising and other key operations, it would be a straight uphill struggle for Vice President Kamala Harris, California Governor Gavin Newsom or Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to mount a last minute bid.

My suspicion is that countless Democrats are wistfully conjuring up a scenario in which, months ago, Joe Biden had announced that, having vanquished a president his country needed to be rid of and restored dignity to the highest office in the land, he would step aside for a new generation. The 46th President of the United States would have been widely lauded as a genuine patriot. He certainly would have occupied an eminent place in the annals of American history.

Musings as to what might have been aside, one year is an eternity in politics. To put a different spin on Donald Rumsfeld’s maxim, it is full of unknown unknowns. It bears repeating that Joe Biden is a thoroughly decent human being. He has been a good president. His detractors have always underestimated the man. They may be doing so now.

But at this juncture, it seems that the best those terrified at the prospect of an increasingly unhinged Donald Trump once again becoming the leader of the free world can hope for is that the long arm of the law will take him down and that President Biden will benefit decisively as a consequence.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston lawyer, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway and a political columnist with TheJournal.ie.

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