It seems that everyone with a vested interest in propping up Joe Biden is all atwitter about a poll released days ago showing Biden leading Donald Trump by six points in a hypothetical rematch in 2024. Ipso facto, the wishful thinking goes, since this unpopular president is still leading his predecessor – and GOP favorite – by a comfortable margin, according to The Wall Street Journal, even as he is weighed down with inflation, an impending recession, a border crisis, an urban crime wave and the rapidly declining currency of wokeness, then it’s effectively game, set, and match, right? Just think about how far ahead Biden will be, the argument continues, when his approval, already rising from a rock-bottom 31% in multiple polls on the wings of leftist executive orders and legislation, reaches a point of stability. Trump vs. Biden will be a mismatch.
Nice try, but not so fast. The opposite conclusion can just as easily be reached. That’s because three of the last five head-to-head polls conducted over the last eight weeks show Trump leading – and by between four and six points, no less. Indeed, Trump is ahead of Biden by four points according to Harvard-Harris, five points in the latest Trafalgar Group survey and six points according to Rasmussen. In fact, Trump has come out ahead in 75% of polls (27 of 36) dating back to August of 2021.
Because all those surveys showing Trump ahead came out before the raid on Mar-a-Lago, his enemies will claim they are of limited value today. But that assumes that Trump has lost popularity since the raid, when a legitimate case can certainly be made for the opposite. Many informed observers have concluded that the FBI action strengthened his fading presidential prospects, bolstering his argument that he is the victim of political persecution. And a look at the results of polls in three crucial swing states narrowly lost by Trump in 2020 are arguably even more revealing than the national polls.
Trump vs. Biden: States Tell the Story
In Georgia, graveyard for the GOP in 2020, Trump is leading Biden by five points in the latest poll released at the end of August – weeks after the Mar-a-Lago affair – by Emerson, which also reported a five-point advantage for Trump in the perpetually critical battleground of Pennsylvania. Emerson puts Trump three points ahead in Nevada. If those three states were to flip, and Trump holds the states he won in 2020, the 45th president would become the 47th president. Trump has also significantly increased his margins in some critical swing states he carried last time. He is up by 14 points in Ohio, which he won by 8% in 2020, and by nine points in North Carolina, which he previously carried by just over 1%.
Add it all up, and the counterargument to Biden’s current six-point advantage in a single poll – the only other recent survey with Biden ahead is by a one-point margin – is at least as strong as the opposite assertion.
After all, what more other than actual criminal indictment can they do to bring down Trump? Consider the triple play pulled off against him just this summer. First, we had the January 6 show trial, a hate-fest undiluted by a single dissenting voice. Second came the raid on Mar-a-Lago. And then, to complete the evident rule of three, Biden used an eerie, disturbing blood-red backdrop and a Marine quasi-praetorian guard, at the most important historic symbol of freedom – Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were conceived and ratified – to castigate Trump, and effectively the half of the country which voted for him. His later attempt to walk back his condemnation of all who would support his predecessor fell on deaf ears – it is widely viewed as a blood libel against 74 million voters – in the run-up to crucial midterm elections. And this came after he labeled the same people semi-fascists earlier in the week. Given the unrelenting assault on him and his followers, Trump’s apparent belief that any publicity is good publicity will be tested to its outer limits.
But even the left is disturbed by Biden’s demagoguery. CNN actually allowed one of its anchors to criticize this president – not to mention the editorial board of that prominent Washington newspaper with deep ties to the left, which published a rare piece critical of this president, headlined “Biden should invoke patriotism, not partisanship, to make that point.” Only extreme left-wing partisans have come out strongly in defense of Biden’s incendiary rhetoric – but of course, as we learned over endless months of the Russia collusion hoax, these are people who are on board with anybody in any place at any time willing to say or do anything to stop Trump.
The raid on Mar-a-Lago has removed most doubt about whether Trump plans to take a third shot at the White House. And Biden’s angry demagoguery about MAGA Republicans makes it more likely than ever that, despite his age and apparent cognitive decline, the current president intends to run again – Republicans hope so, Democrats not so much. But most crucial in gauging the likelihood of Biden seeking a second term is that, on more than one occasion, he has expressed his belief that he is the only Democrat who can stop Trump – both in ‘20 and ‘24. This has become his mission in life.
So, what would a Trump-Biden rematch look like? Well, Biden no longer possesses arguably the two most crucial advantages he enjoyed in 2020. First was the pandemic, which allowed him to blame Trump for hundreds of thousands of deaths while holding zero responsibility himself. It was, from a political standpoint, the dream scenario for a two-time loser trying to land the biggest job on the planet. Second is that he now has an actual record to defend, one which voters will compare with Trump’s four years. How will the electorate weigh the peace and prosperity of the Trump years against his successor’s stewardship, when Biden can no longer present himself solely as not-Trump as he did in 2020, and has for months been underwater with the public on virtually every core issue?
A second Trump-Biden election should, and may well, ultimately revolve around a simple question and answer which has proven reliable as a gauge of likely election outcomes ever since Ronald Reagan first posed it in his 1980 campaign against Jimmy Carter: are you better off than you were four years ago?