Scroll to the top

by ian bremmer

Jess Frampton

Global leaders are gathering in Dubai for COP28, the 28th annual United Nations climate summit, starting tomorrow through Dec. 12. But before the meeting even begins, I can already tell you one thing: Just like every COP that came before it, COP28 will fail to resolve the central debate on “solving” climate change.

At the heart of this failure lies a trillion-dollar roadblock: disagreement between developed and developing countries over who’s to blame for the problem – and who should foot the bill to fix it. The US and Europe blame Chinese and Indian coal plants and call for their immediate phase-down. China and developing countries blame the West’s historical emissions and insist on compensation for their mitigation and adaptation efforts. Africans and Indians assert their right to develop their economies as Westerners did. Vulnerable nations demand reparations to cope with the harmful consequences of the global warming that’s already baked in. Neither side wants to make concessions.

Read moreShow less
Jess Frampton

It has now been over a month since the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists infiltrated southern Israel from Gaza and brutally murdered or kidnapped over 1,400 men, women, and children. And frankly, the war is not going all that well for Israel, which is finding itself increasingly – and dangerously – isolated.

Read moreShow less
Jess Frampton

A year out, the 2024 election looks like a coin flip.

National polling averages from 538 and RealClearPolitics currently have President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump – the two major parties’ presumptive nominees – in a statistical dead heat. Because of the Electoral College, though, the outcome of US elections is determined not by the national popular vote but by the states – and, increasingly, by a very small number of voters in a handful of swing states. Trump carried most of these in 2016, and Biden flipped most of them in 2020. The former was decided by about 78,000 votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; the latter, by about 44,000 voters in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Georgia.

The 2024 election is likely to be just as close. Polls consistently show that most Americans dislike both Biden and Trump and would rather not have to choose between them. That both candidates will have a narrow path to victory is guaranteed. The only surprise at this point would be a landslide for either.

Momentum is against Biden

Trump is still just as unpopular as he was in 2020 (if not a bit more), but Biden is significantly weaker than he was then. The president’s approval rating and performance in head-to-head polling against Trump are trending in the wrong direction, driven by growing concerns about Biden’s age and brewing discontent about the direction of the country under his watch.

A New York Times/Siena College poll of registered voters in battleground states released over the weekend found that Biden trails behind Trump in five of the six closest states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada). This is largely driven by a massive – almost implausible – erosion in Biden’s support among young and nonwhite voters, who were core components of the coalition that put him in the White House. While this result (and all individual polls) should be taken with a grain of salt given normal polling errors and the very small samples of less politically engaged minority groups surveyed in each state, Biden’s growing weakness with these demographics – which make up a growing share of the electorate – has been confirmed time and again in multiple surveys.

Interestingly, the poll also shows that Biden the candidate is substantially less popular than Democrats in general. An unnamed, generic Democrat leads Trump by eight points in swing states, whereas Biden trails by five. Meanwhile, the deeply unpopular Vice President Kamala Harris outperforms Biden in horse-race matchups against Trump by two points (!). Democrats’ strong performance in Tuesday night’s off-year, state-level elections seems to confirm that their biggest problem is having Biden at the top of the ticket.

The NYT/Siena poll does suffer from a key flaw in that it did not poll either of the two potential spoiler candidates, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West, by name. With both major parties’ candidates deeply unpopular, 2024 will be the most favorable environment for third-party candidates in a generation. Kennedy is currently polling in the teens; West pulls in mid-single digits. While the far-left West will likely siphon off a few Biden supporters, particularly in the wake of the Israel conflict, polling so far suggests that Kennedy will draw significantly more from Trump’s voter base than from Biden’s – and at a larger scale. This could shift margins in closely contested swing states in Biden’s favor.

The election is also a full year away; much can (and will) change between now and then. That’s why early polls have tended to be not very informative, even if they have gotten a bit more predictive in recent, more polarized times. Voters aren’t giving much thought to the election this far in advance, when the general campaign hasn’t even gotten underway. At this point in 2011, President Barack Obama faced a similar polling gap to Biden’s, and he went on to win reelection a year later.

Still, even if the poll overstates the extent of Biden’s troubles, this is all pretty bad news for the president.

Trump’s unpopularity is Biden’s saving grace

Despite his low approval ratings and current polling headwinds, Biden still retains a slight edge over Trump. For starters, Biden is the incumbent president; even weak incumbents like him benefit from being able to drive the national agenda and shape media coverage to their advantage. Moreover, Biden already beat Trump once – and that was before he incited the Jan. 6 insurrection and the conservative Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which made democracy and abortion winning issues for Democrats. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Trump is a uniquely unfit candidate who will assuredly take the spotlight from Biden over the next year. Let me explain why that will help the president.

Recently, Biden has been driving the news far more than Trump has, and not for good reasons. Although from personal experience I can tell you that mentally he’s still pretty solidly there, Americans (and even Democrats) nearly universally believe Biden is too old for a second term. Although the economy is doing well (yes, really) and most voters report feeling positively about their own financial situation, Americans’ perceptions of the US economy as a whole are extremely negative. And although few Americans actually vote on foreign policy, it has gone from a major strength to a weakness for the president on account of a stalemated and divisive war in Ukraine and an expanding war in the Middle East. These are vulnerabilities the president can do little to nothing about.

If Biden were running against almost any challenger other than Trump, the election would be a referendum on him and his first term. With the current environment as bad as it is, the president would be a significant underdog. Yet Trump’s unrivaled baggage, deep unpopularity with independent voters, and pathological compulsion to make himself the center of attention is Biden’s saving grace. As the campaign gets underway, Trump’s legal troubles, refusal to shy away from his unpopular efforts to overturn the 2020 election, and his own age-related mental decline (underrated in my opinion) will weigh on the former president and make Biden look comparatively better.

Indeed, if there’s a silver lining for Biden in the New York Times/Siena poll, it’s that the young and nonwhite voters who have soured on him since 2020 nonetheless dislike Trump and seem to be fairly open to Democrats other than Biden, maybe even more than they were in 2020. If Biden can win back those traditionally Democratic-leaning voters by reminding them of just how much they dislike Trump, he’ll go a long way toward recreating the coalition that elected him in 2020.

That said, it is far from guaranteed that Biden will be able to pull this off. And it’s not entirely (or even mostly) up to him. An economic slowdown in 2024, further age-related decline for Biden, deeper fractures over Israel among Democrats, or early mistrials or acquittals for Trump would reduce Biden’s slim advantage. Conversely, a soft landing of the US economy (aka no recession), clearer signs of age-related decline for Trump, more abortion overreach from Republicans, or an early criminal conviction in one of Trump’s several trials would tip the scales further in the president’s favor.


🔔 Be sure to subscribe to GZERO Daily to get the world's best global politics newsletter every day on top of my weekly email. Did I mention it's free?

Jess Frampton

President Joe Biden woke up on Oct. 7 to find himself thrust into the middle of the second major foreign-policy crisis of his term. His response since has been guided by two conflicting imperatives: support Israel and prevent the crisis from escalating into a broader regional war.

Biden’s strong embrace of Israel is principled and non-negotiable. It reflects the longstanding bipartisan consensus in Washington as well as current public opinion across America. Polls show that most Americans side with Israel in the conflict and approve of both Israel’s retaliation against Hamas and US support for it. While Republicans tend to be more supportive of Israel than Democrats, who have become more sympathetic toward Palestinians over the past several years, majorities of both parties are broadly supportive of Israel.

Read moreShow less
Art by Jess Frampton

An Israeli ground incursion into Gaza has been inevitable from the moment Hamas launched its shocking Oct. 7 surprise attack into southern Israel, where it brutally massacred more than 1,400 Israeli citizens and took over 200 to Gaza as hostages. Israel’s objective: to destroy Hamas once and for all, ensuring it can never pose a threat to Israeli security again.

Read moreShow less
Image by Jess Frampton

Hamas’ unprecedented terrorist attack on Israeli soil on Oct. 7 left many with two burning questions: Was Tehran behind it? And if so, would the war between Israel and Hamas expand to include Iran?

Iran had a lot to gain but even more to lose

So far, the answer to the first question appears to be no.

The day after the Hamas attack, citing Hamas and Hezbollah sources, the Wall Street Journal reported that Iran not only gave Hamas the green light but in fact helped the terrorist group plan the operation. However, a few days later the New York Times reported that Tehran was actually surprised by the attack, citing US intelligence. Washington and Jerusalem, meanwhile, have denied having hard evidence of direct Iranian involvement in the Oct. 7 operation.

Read moreShow less
Jess Frampton

Four days ago, on Oct. 7, Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2006, launched a surprise invasion of Israel by land, sea, and air, killing over 1,300 Israelis, injuring over 3,000, and taking more than 150 to Gaza as hostages. This was the most significant attack on Jews worldwide since the Holocaust.

For the first time, Hamas managed to attack deep into Israeli territory, overrunning two military bases and terrorizing countless towns and neighborhoods. For a country of under 10 million, the 1,300 killed are the equivalent of over 45,000 in the United States, dwarfing 9/11’s toll. Unlike in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, civilians rather than soldiers accounted for nearly all Israeli deaths.

Read moreShow less

Subscribe to our free newsletter, GZERO Daily

Listen now | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer - the podcast
Watch Puppet Regime - award-winning comedy series

Most Popular Videos


Subscribe to GZERO's daily newsletter