2024 Electoral College Ratings: New Year's Update
The fundamentals narrowly favor Biden, but a brutal 2023 has taken its toll.
About a year ago to the day, Joe Biden looked strong politically.
It feels like it was a lifetime ago, but it was real. At the start of 2023, Biden was in the strongest position he had been since the fall of Kabul. He had just completed an expansive legislative agenda. His policy of massive military support for Ukraine seemed to be bearing fruit with dramatic battlefield successes. Inflation had been declining for six months straight. Not only was Donald Trump being hit by humiliating headlines about the Mar-A-Lago documents scandal on a near-daily basis, but he also looked set to face a costly, brutal primary against a high-polling Ron DeSantis. And, most importantly of all, the Democratic Party had just seen a historically successful midterm election, humiliating Republicans and demonstrating middle America’s deep distrust of the far right. Everything was coming up Joe Biden. His team, as reported by the media, felt a swaggering sense of vindication, and the party was ready to unite around him into 2024.
While this momentum would be abruptly, and very ironically, blunted by the revelation of Biden’s own classified documents scandal, the President still managed to stay in a decent position through the beginning of the year. While not rising as rapidly as it had during the summer of 2022, his approval rating slowly inched up. By mid-March 2022, his net approval had risen to only -7 points, his best numbers in well over a year. While he didn’t look particularly strong, he didn’t look extraordinarily weak, either. This was the context in which I wrote my preliminary electoral college ratings roughly nine months ago. While I wasn’t at all convinced that Biden was a strong candidate in his own right, he seemed inoffensive enough to serve as a serviceable proxy for the Dobbs effect. For that reason, I had him on track to win by a robust margin.
Things have changed. As it turned out, March 2023 was the high point of Biden’s entire post-Kabul presidency. Since then, a constant stream of bad news has beaten down Biden’s approval rating to the point where it reached an all-time low earlier this month. It’s been enough to send Democrats into full-blown panic mode. Those that believe (or, more accurately, want to believe) that Biden is perfectly fine have come forth with a never-ending stream of inaccurate excuses and wishful thinking. Those who aren’t as confident have put together an unconvincing narrative wherein a biased media and ungrateful online leftists have ensured a Trump victory by not being nice enough to Biden. This entire song and dance has only served to obscure the more disconcerting truth for Democrats about the 2024 election. This is that Biden, based on all the information we have right now, is a uniquely weak presidential candidate.
It’s the only honest conclusion you can come to. There are no obvious signs that the polls showing him down right now are broken or defective. In fact, many of the surveys with the worst numbers for him are coming from the most accurate pollsters of 2022. There’s even less evidence that TikTok and a selfish corporate media have ushered in a new era of conservatism. At the same time that Biden has struggled, non-Biden Democrats have continued to excel against Trump Republicans both at the polls and at the ballot box. The simple fact is that voters want to vote for Democrats, especially against Trump, but they’re also very reluctant to vote for an octogenarian they broadly dislike, see as a failure, and don’t think is capable of governing. The election is set to be an extremely high-stakes collision between a stoppable force and a movable object. For Democrats to have any hope against Trump, the tailwinds that have been pushing their party forward since Dobbs will have to win out against the human sandbag set to be at the top of their ticket.
Are these tailwinds set to overcome Biden’s increasing unpopularity? Even if they are, does this mean that he’s on track to actually win a second term? As of now, the answer is still yes—even if Trump isn’t convicted before the election.
Ettingermentum Prediction Map: January 2024. No Tossups.