Reports recently surfaced that some Democrats have been privately voicing concern over polls showing that more than two-thirds of the electorate, and members of their own party, believe that President Joe Biden is too old to run for re-election.
There has also been concern over Biden’s declining poll numbers: his approval rating is currently sitting at just 39 percent, while former President Donald Trump has surged in support and is now head-to-head with Biden in multiple recent polls.
Both of those circumstances have raised anxiety levels among some top Democrats about the party’s ability to prevail in the next year’s elections.
Now, a top official is reaching out to party members to allay their concerns over 2024 prospects.
Mike Donilon, a senior White House adviser, is telling Democrats that two issues — Trump and abortion — will propel Biden to re-election, unnamed sources familiar with the conversations told Axios.
According to those private conversations, Biden’s team will dismiss multiple issues weighing on Americans (his impeachment inquiry, his son’s indictment, his age, persistently high gas prices and inflation, a recent auto worker strike) and double-down on messaging about protecting democracy, abortion rights, and low unemployment rate.
For months, many have wondered if the multiple sets of indictments against Trump were intended to help ensure he is on the ballot or keep him off. These latest statements from a top White House advisor suggest they are looking forward to facing Trump in the general election and believe they can easily defeat him.
Biden will continue to tell voters that “democracy is at stake” and “democracy is on the ballot once again,” as he did in a speech this week, attempting to cast Trump and “MAGA Republicans” as a threat to the republic.
Democrats have already been preparing to make abortion front-and-center in hopes of piggybacking on the success they had driving turnout and over-performing in the 2022 midterm elections. Even Republican strategists have sounded the alarm over the impact abortion could have on 2024 election outcomes.
Though the Supreme Court decision simply returned the issue of abortion to the states, some Republicans have now pitched a federal ban, which could have disastrous consequences for next year’s election as a majority of U.S. adults believe abortion should be legal in all or some cases.
Yasmin Radjy, the executive director of the progressive political group Swing Left, recently said during an interview that if Democrats make abortion a key issue, “We’re gonna be telling the same story in December 2024 that we told in 2022.”
Biden’s team says they are not particularly concerned about poll numbers and that they are instead focused on mobilizing direct contact with voters.
“We don’t take the ups and downs of individual polls to heart. What will matter next year is when our voters are fully engaged,” a senior Biden adviser told Axios. “While Republicans are going after each other, we are already reaching persuadable voters in battleground states. Our eyes are focused on the long game.”
Concern over Biden’s age hit a high point last week after David Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, wrote a piece bluntly telling Biden he should not run again in 2024.
“A bad column doesn’t cause big strategy meetings here,” the Biden adviser said. “The basics of governing is what we’re trying to deliver on.”
In some of the private discussions, Democrats expressed fear that Donilon and the White House’s position is hubris, effectively making the argument that Biden isn’t nearly as strong as his advisors project him to be.
Biden officials, however, dismiss such feedback as examples of elite Democrats underestimating Biden, Axios noted.