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Political Horse Race: Post-Debate Polls Predict Democrat Disaster

A dip, a downturn, or a demise?

In the wake of President Joe Biden’s disastrous debate performance in Atlanta on June 27, a slew of polling has been carried out to assess the damage. For any Democrat hoping that a few lines of spin in a friendly Fourth Estate ear would tamp down concerns, the results of six major surveys carried out after the fateful event paint a grim picture for the commander-in-chief and his cohorts in Congress.

A Grim Prediction for Democrats

Of the six polls carried out since June 28, five favor the former president over the current – with one tie – spiking his average lead to a heady 2.4% nationally. Why this matters is that during both the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, Donald Trump failed to get a national lead even once.

Harvard-Harris gave Trump a four-point advantage over Biden and additionally asked respondents their take on Biden’s performance in key areas of political significance. Shockingly for the president and his campaign team, the results showed him underwater (as in less than 50% approval) in every single metric. In fact, on the two biggest voter concerns today – immigration and the economy – he scored a paltry 34% and 38%, respectively. The poll also revealed that of the 2,000 registered voters questioned, more than half (52%) approved of the job the former president did while in office.

Regarding Biden’s fitness for office, the results were blunt and damning. In the space of just one month (or, one could say more rightly, in the space of 90 minutes in Atlanta), concerns were up nine points (from 54% to 63%). More than 70% say his cognitive lapses were getting more frequent, with 61% suggesting this was dangerous for the nation.

This poll was far from an outlier in its deliverance of bad news for Biden.

Age Concerns

A Data for Progress survey (a Democrat poll) took the temperature the day after the debate to figure out how Biden performed in the eyes of the public. When asked whether they were more concerned with Biden’s age or Trump’s criminal charges, respondents chose Biden’s infirmity with 53% — a figure that was up 3% over last month.

GettyImages-2158937171 Donald Trump

Donald Trump (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Most notable in this survey was not that in a head-to-head match-up, Trump beat Biden by three points but that Trump beat all top Democrats in such a contest. According to the poll, Trump came out on top against VP Kamala Harris (by 3%), Pete Buttigieg (by 3%), Gavin Newsom (by 3%), Gretchen Whitmer (by 2%), and a whole host of other big names who placed second behind 45.

But it is not national polling that ultimately matters. The 2024 election will be won or lost in a handful of swing states, and it is here that Biden is really struggling.

A Swing State and a Miss

Of the seven major swing states* polling put Trump ahead in six – only Wisconsin seems immune to his campaign charms (it is currently a dead heat according to the RealClearPolitics polling average). His overall average across the states was 3.3% over Biden. Trump’s lead was outside the margin of error in four of these locations, which, if the election were held today, would likely be enough to end Biden’s presidency.

On June 26, Biden had a betting average of around 35% (or 4/7) vs. Trump’s 51% (even money). After the debate, the president’s odds cratered to 19.7% (roughly 4/1). It seems even the cash bettors are abandoning the incumbent.

A stream of polls does not predict the outcome – remember 2016! It does, however, offer a glimpse at voter thinking and perhaps tells the candidates which demographics they need to shore up before Election Day. A lot can happen between now and Nov. 5, and in reality, the race is still undecided. But Biden had better hope that his allies do not get spooked by the negative surveys and try to take the decision to play out of his hands.

*Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Georgia.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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