Just a few months ago, Democrats were looking to move on from President Biden. The daily news was full of reports that the now 80-year-old self-proclaimed “gaffe machine” faced historic losses in the House and Senate amid a dismal economy and soaring inflation.
But then that didn’t happen on Election Day 2022. Not even close. While former House Speaker New Gingrich had predicted Republicans could pick up as many as 50 seats in the House, they got just nine. And Democrats held the Senate, even though some pollsters said they might lose as many as seven seats.
Mr. Biden‘s approval rating is still wavering in the high 30s and low 40s, but with the better-than-expected showing, nearly 3 in 4 Democrats (71%) now say Mr. Biden could win if he runs for another White House term in 2024, according to a USA Today-Ipsos poll. That’s an 11-point jump from August.
Half of the Democratic voters surveyed in the latest poll believe Mr. Biden “should be the nominee and deserves reelection.” That’s up 6 points from August.
The poll indicated overall that Democrats are feeling better about Mr. Biden after Democrats pulled off surprising wins in key races nationwide, fending off Trump-backed candidates in high-profile contests in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Arizona.
“The USA Today-Ipsos poll found that voters’ perception that Biden can win in 2024 jumped notably among women (55% in August to 71 percent in November) and among voters aged 18-34 (53% in August to 69% in November),” The Hill reported.
That’s a big change from July, when a CNN poll found that 75% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters wanted the party to nominate someone other than Mr. Biden.
“The poll comes as Mr. Biden’s approval ratings remain low and most Americans are discontented with the state of the country and the economy. Inflation remains high and a new report released Tuesday showed consumer confidence slipped for the third straight month,” CNN reported then.
“Twenty-four percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they want someone else because they don’t think Biden can win in 2024, up from 18% in a poll conducted in January and February. Thirty-two percent feel that way because they don’t want Biden to be reelected, up from 16% earlier this year. Twenty-five percent said they prefer Biden as the nominee, which is a steep drop from 45% in January/February,” the CNN poll found.
But there’s another major dynamic at play. Democrats just don’t like Vice President Kamala Harris.
A recent survey from Morning Consult found that just 28% of Democratic voters would vote for Ms. Harris in a Democratic presidential primary without Mr. Biden on the ballot, down from 33% in a poll last year. Those numbers do not get you into the White House.
The very liberal Slate magazine came out with a scathing piece about Ms. Harris last week.
“As Joe Biden weighs a run for re-election even as he becomes the first octogenarian U.S. president in history, he should think back on what it was like to watch the Harris campaign flame out,” Christina Cauterucci wrote.
“Harris, a proven dud of a presidential candidate who has done little to distinguish herself since is not a good choice for the Democrats’ top billing. For his second term, should he seek one (he shouldn’t!), Biden should tap someone else.”
Ms. Harris, it turns out, is even more unpopular than her predecessors.
“As the country has become more partisan, vice presidents have been less likely to enjoy broad support among the public. [Mike] Pence, for example, had a net favorability of roughly zero for much of his four years in the White House. Joe Biden, Dick Cheney and Al Gore all began their tenures with higher ratings than Harris currently enjoys,” the Los Angeles Times wrote last week.
And Capitol Weekly openly derided Ms. Harris in a piece headlined “Memo to Democrats: Beware of Kamala Harris, in 2024 or beyond.”
“Despite her obvious intelligence, Harris just isn’t very good, I’m sorry to say, either as a candidate or communicator,” Democratic strategist Garry South wrote. “When it comes to Harris and 2024 — or beyond — Democrats would be wise to bear in mind the old time-honored caution, caveat emptor.”
Twisting the knife, the Slate piece included this devastating passage: “If Harris cares about the future of the Democratic agenda, she should gracefully step aside. The vice presidency is a valuable mechanism for soft-launching future presidential hopefuls. Democrats cannot waste it on a candidate who has already failed to launch.”
With all the buzz, Ms. Harris was forced last week to comment. “Look, as the president said, he intends to run. And if he does, I will be running with him,” she said.
But Democrats will have the last word, and they just don’t like her.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.