The big question in political circles today is how do we account for the fact that, despite four indictments and not participating in the first Republican debate, Donald Trump is even with — or one point ahead of — Joe Biden, as revealed in recent polling by our firm, Schoen Cooperman Research (SCR).
It’s a question that hasn’t been dealt with in any great detail but which deserves a great deal of attention. Our polling shows that the race continues to be close not purely because of the strength of Trump’s candidacy but, rather, because of Biden’s weaknesses.
Indeed, our polling shows that on virtually every issue tested, a plurality or outright majority disapprove of Biden’s performance. This includes issues that are most important to voters: inflation (-41), jobs & the economy (-6), immigration (-21), gun violence (-19), crime (-17), and healthcare (-11).
With an overall job approval at just 44% and a favorability rating at a similar 46%, per SCR polling, as well as a RealClearPolitics average rating on the economy below 40%, Biden is deeply vulnerable, notwithstanding Trump’s mounting problems.
Democrats are basing their campaign on two premises — that voters will realize the benefits of “Bidenomics” and that they will vote on hot-button issues such as access to abortions and gun rights — but this is not enough to safely believe that voters will reelect President Biden.
Elections tend to be a referendum on the incumbent, and with inflation continuing to erode Americans’ wages, our polling reveals that Biden’s efforts to talk about how the economy has turned a corner is falling flat.
Despite the fact that inflation has slowed since last year, perception is negative: less than one-fifth (19%) of voters say inflation has gotten better compared to this point last year, while 71% say it has gotten worse.
Further, voters are not feeling the positive benefits of Biden’s signature legislative achievement — the Inflation Reduction Act — as well as the overall positive impact of his economic policy. By not acknowledging the tough times and the difficulties people are facing to make ends meet, the Biden administration’s rhetoric surrounding the supposed success of “Bidenomics” is unpersuasive at best.
In that same vein, nearly six-in-ten (59%) American voters say Biden has not paid attention to the country’s most important problems, with only about one-third (34%) saying Biden has had the right priorities while in office, speaking to deep-seated skepticism over Biden’s ability to manage the economy — and indeed, the country — for another four years.
For his part, Trump has made the argument that it was his constituency that was indicted, and that this is necessarily a referendum on not only the 2020 election but on elites versus the mass public, particularly working-class voters.
Polling has shown that working-class voters have been steadfast in their loyalty to Trump, and there is some evidence that even voters of color have been moving in the direction of the former president, given their doubts about Joe Biden, which go beyond just the economy.
Further, over 70% of voters — and a similar percentage of Democratic voters — have doubts about Biden’s age and fitness, per AP-NORC polling. With a special prosecutor now empaneled to investigate Hunter Biden, as well as the existence of thousands of emails from Joe Biden allegedly using a pseudonym, it is fair to assume that there will be further revelations which, at the very least, may be damaging to the Biden administration, and perhaps to the president personally.
While there are huge challenges facing Donald Trump legally, and even some politically, it would be a mistake to believe, as many Democrats do, that he cannot win a general election.
To that point, Kristen Soltis Anderson’s recent piece in the New York Times addresses the enduring strength of Trump’s candidacy; she argues that Republicans “really do like” Trump — despite the baggage and losing the 2020 elections and markedly underperforming in the 2022 midterms, ostensibly due to Donald Trump’s influence — and believe he is “their best shot” to beat Biden, whom GOP voters see as “eminently beatable,” a fact Democrats are only beginning to begrudgingly acknowledge.
One of us has previously written that it would be best for the republic if both Trump and Biden stood down and did not run. That said, the reality of the situation is that currently, the most likely candidates for both parties are Joe Biden for the Democrats and Donald Trump for the Republicans.
In that situation, Trump can win. And if, as now is being hinted, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia leaves the Democratic Party to flirt with an independent bid for president with the imprimatur of the “No Labels” movement, that would only enhance the likelihood of a Trump victory and create a real rival among moderates of both parties to Joe Biden.