by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Currently, next year’s presidential race looks more like 2016’s than 2020’s. Even though it appears likely that President Joe Biden will face off against former President Donald Trump in a rematch, 2024 stands to be more of a rehash — only this time without Hillary.
After dramatically improving the Democrats’ results from years before, Biden has dug himself into a Hillary Clinton-sized pit in just three years. His record-low approval ratings among even Democratic primary voters leave his party with two questions: Are Democrats preparing for the right race? And can Biden dig himself out?
In 2020, Biden won 51.3% of the popular vote and 306 electoral votes. Though his margin in each of the five pivotal states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) was less than 3 percentage points in terms of their popular votes, Biden’s results were a significant improvement over Clinton’s 2016 presidential performance.
Three years later, Biden’s numbers look very different. According to the RealClearPolitics average of national polling, Biden’s net approval rating is a negative 13.7%. The latest Gallup poll shows that the Democrats’ approval rating of Biden fell by 11 points last month to a historic low. Among independents, just 35% say they approve of Biden.
In RCP’s national average of polling on a hypothetical Biden-Trump rematch, Biden trails by 0.7 of a point: 44.1% to Trump’s 44.8%. Even at his peak in March of this year, Biden led Trump by only 45.5% to 44.2% — well below his 4.4-point margin in 2020.
Biden’s numbers now resemble Hillary’s from 2016.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the popular vote by a 2.1-point margin, 48% to 45.9%. However, the five swing states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania) that Biden won narrowly in 2020, Hillary lost narrowly in 2016. As a result, Clinton lost where it counted in the electoral vote, 232 to 306.