If President Biden seeks re-election, what will be his greatest obstacle to a second term—public dissatisfaction with the economy? Or his inability to recognize public dissatisfaction with the economy?
It’s becoming increasingly likely President Biden will, in fact, seek four more years in the White House. Dr. Jill is reported to be “all in” for another run for the presidency. Biden himself has induced the Democrats to reschedule the South Carolina primary to be earlier in the election season. This is especially significant—Biden may face a primary challenge from progressive Democrats, if the “Don’t Run Joe” campaign gets off the ground (check out dontrunjoe.org). the 2020 South Carolina primary was his first electoral victory in three tries for the presidency and put him firmly on the road to the Democratic nomination, and Biden evidently hopes the 2024 primary will help him beat back any challengers he might get.
But should Biden win renomination he may well encounter in the general election the biggest obstacle to victory: Public belief he’s mismanaging the economy.
No president has ever won re-election when the public thought he was mishandling the economy. Of course, the public mindset can be grossly unfair. No president truly has the power to have an impact on the economy all by himself. All presidents share their powers with Congress, the Federal Reserve System, and whatever economic forces are at large. But the president always gets the credit for a good economy, and he always gets the blame—and a defeat at the polls—for a bad economy. As President Kennedy liked to say, life isn’t fair.
And the public opinion polls don’t look good for Biden. According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden’s economic policies are considered helpful by only 16% of the public, but hurtful by 46%. Biden’s anti-inflation actions are rated helpful by 26% but hurtful by 44% of the public. These numbers do not augur well for a successful re-election campaign.
Moreover, Biden himself seems clueless. As Karl Rove reports, “The president seems to believe that the GOP’s awful midterm performance was the result of improved Democratic messaging about his administration’s record. When asked after the November election what Mr. Biden would ‘do differently to change people’s opinion of the direction of the country’ as he prepares to run again, the president replied ‘nothing.’ Americans are ‘just finding out what we’re doing, he said. ‘The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is.’ You can read more of what Rove had to say at https://www.wsj.com/articles/georgia-runoff-warnings-for-both-parties-raphael-warnock-herschel-walker-election-red-wave-endorsement-trump-11670449634.
Biden’s “analysis” is bad news for both the country and for his re-election campaign. His apparent inability to see how bad his economic policies seem to the public means he thinks he has no incentive to rein in spending, encourage fossil fuel development, or take any other steps that could improve the economy and tame inflation. And should he be unwilling to take these and other steps, he may well doom his re-election campaign to the sort of defeat visited by the public on presidents rated as failures in economic management.
It remains to be seen whether the GOP can exploit the economic situation and achieve victory at the polls in 2024. The Federal Reserve could conceivably tame inflation, to Biden’s benefit. And given the GOP’s knack for bungling and botching its way to electoral defeat as shown last month, even the most hardcore Republicans must consider the possibility of another defeat in 2024, regardless of economic and other circumstances that might otherwise favor the GOP. But should the GOP win back the White House, it will be in large measure due to public perceptions of Biden’s alleged incompetence in dealing with the economy, compounded by Biden’s own cluelessness as well. In its quest for victory in 2024, the GOP may find that President Biden was its greatest ally.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.