Skip to content

Does Joe Biden need a miracle or just a bit of good luck?

Upcoming debate, economy and independents are wild cards

President Joe Biden has terrible approval ratings, but there is still a path to re-election for him.
President Joe Biden has terrible approval ratings, but there is still a path to re-election for him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With public opinion polls of the 2024 presidential contest ranging somewhere between unreliable and delusional, it’s difficult to know exactly where the contest now stands.

As they have for months, a small group of states — most notably Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — are still likely to pick the next president. A few other states bear watching, including Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and possibly North Carolina, but the Great Lakes states remain the key.

President Joe Biden’s job approval numbers remain terrible. His approval has recently ranged from 36 percent to 39 percent, not exactly where an incumbent president would want to be. 

Biden and his opponent, Donald Trump, have both served as president and have total name identification. Neither one is very popular, so the question is which man can appeal to the relatively small pool of undecided voters and who can turn out supporters in November.

All of this presents a slightly bigger problem for Biden than for Trump. After all, Biden is the incumbent, so voting for him in November is a vote for the status-quo. 

If you are a voter worried about crime or the price of groceries and gas for your car, it’s very easy to blame Biden and his party, since they are “in charge” now. 

Of course, Biden and the Democrats are not really “in charge,” since the GOP controls the House, and Senate Republicans can block legislation by filibustering. Earlier this year, Republicans blocked a major legislative initiative on the southern border just to keep the issue alive for the next election.

A late April ABC News/Ipsos poll found adults had greater trust in Trump than in Biden on the economy, inflation, crime, and immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of course, Trump isn’t exactly your ideal “change” candidate — not after four years in the White House and many years on television and in the news.

So, does Biden need a miracle to win in November? No, he doesn’t need divine intervention. He just needs a bit of a break.

Biden still needs to change the trajectory of the 2024 elections, which means he must change some voters’ minds — always a difficult thing to do if opinion has already solidified.

Biden continues to have problems locking down Black men and younger voters, while Trump is still having problems with a chunk of well-educated, suburban Republicans who find the former president vulgar, dishonest and a threat to democracy.

Is Biden losing more voters who went Democratic in 2020, or is Trump losing more voters who supported him four years ago?

The presence of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Jill Stein, and Cornel West in the race complicates the election’s arithmetic.

Third Party candidates often lose support as Election Day approaches and voters decide against “wasting” their vote for someone who can’t win. But the unpopularity of both major party nominees could change the normal dynamic.

The upcoming debate on June 27 gives Biden an opportunity to make the election about Trump, but it also carries risk. 

Biden looks more frail, and if he stumbles answering questions, his message about Trump and democracy will be obliterated by weeks of media chatter about Biden’s age and ability to do the job.

But Trump is also taking a risk, particularly given the ground rules of the debate.

While Trump looks more vigorous than Biden, the former president invariably comes off as pompous and bombastic. His recent rallies in Arizona and Las Vegas sometimes sounded like nasty comedy routines aimed at his critics.

Trump often rambles in answering questions, and he spouts untruths almost each time he opens his mouth. He attacks opponents repeatedly, often using foul language and creating an environment of chaos.

The more voters see Trump, the more some of them will be put off by his language, tone and views. That is particularly true if Biden starts to get any credit for the economy.

Trump invariably comes off as an authoritarian who is a threat to our democracy, and that is exactly what Biden needs to complete his contrast with Trump. 

As November approaches, crucial voters in key states may reconsider their options. The presidential contest could become less about Biden and more about Trump’s character and the risk of electing him president.

And that could be just what the incumbent president needs.

Recent Stories

Summer COVID surge isn’t cause for alarm, experts say

At the Races: New guy on the ticket

Vance says Republicans are done ‘catering to Wall Street,’ puts financial policy in context of social issues

‘Took a bullet’: Lawmakers, delegates predict a Trump coronation in stark contrast to 2016 RNC

Biden backers dismiss party rift as ‘family discussions’

Capitol Lens | Republican National Convention, Day 3