US 2024: Biden’s prospects

Amr Abdel-Aty, Saturday 8 Jul 2023

As the incumbent US president Joe Biden expresses his intentions to run for a second term, his chances for re-election come into focus.

Biden s prospects

 

US President Joe Biden’s announcement on 25 April that he intends to run for a second term in November 2024 has sparked widespread controversy among Democratic and, more generally, American public opinion.

Despite his administration’s accomplishments during his first term, including a number of bills of major public concern that won bipartisan approval, Biden’s age has many people wondering whether he has the wherewithal to conduct a campaign, let alone serve for another four years. In November 2024, he will be 82, making him the oldest presidential candidate in US history.

The forthcoming election season will be unlike the one in 2020, when Covid-19 lockdowns restricted in-person appearances and physical contact with voters. Biden largely ran that campaign online, out of his home in Delaware, and debates with other candidates were cut to a minimum. The 2024 campaign will be much more physically demanding. He will have to hold meetings and rallies in most states while continuing to attend to his duties as president. He may also have to go up against a much younger candidate, such as the 44-year-old Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, in which case the Republicans will certainly make his age a campaign issue.

Although Biden has undergone medical exams that confirm he is “fit for duty,” he is vulnerable to the infirmities of age. For example, he has spinal arthritis and a consequent stiffness in his gait, and he has recently stumbled in front of the camera on more than one occasion. More disconcertingly, he increasingly fumbles or forgets the names of officials in his administration and things he had previously said in speeches and press conferences, which has resulted in some embarrassing moments.

On 28 June, Biden made two slips of the tongue in one day. Putin was “losing the war in Iraq,” he told journalists as he was leaving the White House on his way to Chicago, seemingly unaware of his mistake. But he caught the second slip, made during a fundraising campaign, in which he referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “You probably saw my new best friend — (laughs) — the — the prime minister of a little country that’s now the largest in the world, China — I mean, excuse me, In- — India.”

Such incidents recall of how Biden has become more and more reliant on “cheat sheets.” On 26 April, closeup footage of Biden speaking during a joint press conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol showed him holding a note card that included the name and photo of the Los Angeles Times reporter Courtney Subraminian, instructions on how to pronounce her family name, and the question she was likely to ask. Nor was this the first such incident. Deft photojournalists were able to capture such note cards on several occasions in the past two years, leading not only his Republican adversaries but also Democrats to question the president’s cognitive well-being.

During his first two years in office, Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 economic relief package, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, the $369 billion climate investments bill as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, as well as other legislation designed to reduce medical expenses for the elderly and to expand healthcare benefits for veterans. Despite such landmarks, a Gallup poll published two days after he announced his candidacy for a second term showed him starting off his campaign with the lowest public approval ratings since he came to office: 37 per cent among the public at large and only 31 per cent among independents. This was nine points lower than a previous poll, conducted in February. Biden’s prospects for winning a second term will therefore depend heavily on his ability to win over swing voters.

Democratic voters themselves are divided over his candidacy for a second term. Most would prefer a younger candidate, more in tune with their generation and ideas. Enthusiasm for him within the Democratic Party might dwindle further if the Republicans pit a much younger candidate against Biden. University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock has shown that Democratic voters in general, and younger ones in particular, are ready to transition to a new and more dynamic generation of political leaders than the establishment politicians who currently control the Democratic Party. A Suffolk University/USA TODAY survey showed that 75 per cent of Americans wanted their president to be under 65, and 50 per cent felt the ideal age was between 51 and 65, while 25 per cent said they would prefer someone under 50.

Between now and November 2024, Biden will be facing tougher challenges from the Republicans who, having won a narrow majority in the House of Representatives in the congressional midterm elections, will try to thwart his legislative agenda in 2023-2024. They will simultaneously turn their glare on what they claim is his administration’s poor foreign and domestic performance, especially as concerns the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, illegal immigration, government spending, violence and hate crimes.

The investigations that the Republicans on the House’s Oversight Committee are conducting into the Biden family’s domestic and international business dealings may also prove a thorn in the side of the re-elect Biden campaign. The committee has been primarily focused on Hunter Biden’s alleged influence peddling using his father’s name and position and other corruption allegations involving foreign business partners. But the Republican lawmakers on the committee have recently claimed they have evidence that might implicate Joe Biden himself in these dealings during the time he served as vice president under Barack Obama.

In addition, the Republican-led House has initiated impeachment proceedings against President Biden. On June 22, the House voted 219 to 208, strictly along partisan lines, to refer two articles of impeachment — one on abuse of power and the other on dereliction of duty — to the Homeland Security and Judiciary Committees.

As formidable as the challenges may appear, especially if the Republicans field a younger candidate as opposed to former president Donald Trump, who will be 78 in 2024, and despite the Democrats’ desire for a younger candidate, the likelihood is that Democrats will still rally strongly behind Biden. After all, the same factors that led them to unite behind him in 2020 still exist to a sufficient extent to cause them to unite behind him again in November 2024.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 6 July, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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