Biden's 2024 election vulnerabilities and strengths
Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And a Quick Take to kick off your week on a Monday here in New York City. And yeah, everyone, everyone talking about those polls, New York Times and Siena showing that Biden is behind Trump, not just in overall popularity, but also specifically in how voters in key swing states will vote. And, of course, that's the Electoral College. That's how you actually get elected president of United States. So, yeah, Biden supporters very concerned about that. But we are a year away, so it is early.
Having said that, a few things that I think are worth paying attention to. Number one, 71% of Americans say Biden, 80-year-old Biden is too old to run for president. Look, very few people actually work regularly with an 80-year-old. So I get it. And in a year's time, I'm fairly confident he's going to be a year older. So this is not something that Biden can do much of anything about. And there is material downside. Having said that, Biden is more obviously aging physically where intellectually, you know, one one-on-one in small meetings, he's still actually able to hold down meetings reasonably well.
Trump, on the other hand, at least if you've watched him recently and I've seen a couple of his rallies, is very physically robust, intellectually seems to be losing a lot more of the zip on his fastball. And I suspect that once he gets the nomination, which is virtually certain at this point, he's going to get a lot more real time coverage, more people are going to see that. So it plays definitely against Biden. But I don't think it's quite as dramatic a gap as we presently see.
Other issues out there I think are harder to address. Illegal immigration, for example, which is now not just about border red states, but it's about blue sanctuary cities that were happy being sanctuary cities when they have many illegal immigrants coming in. But you suddenly bring them in. They say, wait a second, we were fine with sanctuary city in theory, but in practice, this isn't going to work. And you see this happening in New York. You see it happening in San Francisco, in Chicago, in a bunch of cities around the country, and also hard to address because you had very limited immigration. While the pandemic was on, people weren't moving. Two and a half years of pent up demand. Now they are. And the willingness of Biden to play hardball, specifically with the Mexican government and the southern Mexican border, which is where the people are coming up through so far, has not been what it needs to be. Hard to imagine that issue gets much better.
The one that can get better for Biden is the economy, where increasingly the US economy is significantly outperforming those of other advanced industrial democracies post-Pandemic. And while inflation is high, it is coming down, though from a high base. And rates, no one expects they're going to continue to be raised by the Fed. In fact, indeed, they may well come down a little bit next year and that soft landing will likely help soften Biden's numbers on that side. Having said all of that, foreign policy is now becoming a vulnerability for Biden in a way that it really hasn't been over the last year or so. And few Americans actually vote on foreign policy. But when you talk about a huge issue, like 100 billion US dollars going to support Ukraine for a war that increasingly looks like a stalemate, where the counter offensive talked about for many months looks like a failure, and where it was a bipartisan issue of support for Ukraine, it's now become a partisan issue of Democrats strongly supporting more money for the Ukrainians. Republicans saying that's been too much money for the Ukrainians. And when Trump gets the nomination, the Republican Party presently voting more with the Dems likely to shift away from that support. And so I can easily see an environment where Ukraine feels like it's getting partitioned, which no one will accept and therefore is an unacceptable reality when Biden is running for reelection. That's been a signature foreign policy of his and he will be vulnerable to the Republicans.
The other issue, of course, is the Middle East. Now, if you can contain the Middle East war to Gaza and Israel, probably won't have much impact come next November. But if it expands, the impact on oil prices as well as the likelihood that US forces in the region are directly involved in some of the fighting with Iranian Shia proxies across the region, Yemen and Syria and Iraq and Lebanon and maybe even with Iran itself. That's a vulnerability too. Not to mention the fact that right now Biden's getting only just above 20% support from Arab American voters in the United States who are really important in places like Michigan, where they're 5% of the voting population, or Pennsylvania, where they're over 2%, both of which are larger than Biden's actual victory in those states back in 2020 elections.
So he has vulnerabilities there. And increasingly, the Biden administration is worried that, you know, this is going to be a challenge and there's not a lot of things they can do to ensure outcomes that are better. So in an environment where domestic policy looks okay, but people aren't focused as much on it, they're not as happy as they want to be on a couple of core issues. And suddenly foreign policy is a vulnerability, that to me feels challenging. Now against all of that, you have the fact that Biden is the president and incumbent presidents always historically do better in the United States, even unpopular ones. They get a bump because they can drive the agenda and they can drive the media coverage. That continues to be true for Biden. It's one of the strongest arguments for him to actually run a second time.
Beyond that, you've got the abortion issue, which continues to play strongly for Biden, very badly for Republicans. It was a conservative Supreme Court with key Supreme Court justices appointed by Trump that rid the country of Roe versus Wade, which ended up which was a quite popular decision by the Supreme Court for the majority of red and blue voters across the country. And there's a backlash that you see there. It's also one of the reasons why Kamala Harris is no longer seen as much of a drag on the Biden administration. In fact, in many ways, Biden is seen as much of a drag as Kamala is, especially in this last vote. And that's because she's been given not just immigration, which is a loser issue, but she's also been given abortion, which has been a winner issue. And as she's talked around the country, she's done better on that front.
Final point, of course, is Trump's unfitness. And while this is all played in 91 indictments, some of which are very real cases, some of which are politicized, but this is going to become a bigger turnoff for independent votes as people spend more time focusing not on Democrat versus Republican, but Biden versus Trump once the nominations happen. That's a vulnerability, too. So a long electoral cycle that no one wants to deal with, with two candidates that most people are very unexcited about. I guess we're going to have to talk about it more. But that's where we stand right now.
That's it for me. I'll talk to you all real soon.