Will Joe Biden drag down the rest of the Democrats?

Despite Biden’s poor polling numbers, Senate Democrats continue to lead in key Senate races

Eric Garcia
Friday 24 May 2024 22:15
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New Poll Finds Biden and Trump Neck-and-Neck Unless These Things Happen

At this point, President Joe Biden’s dismal polling numbers aren’t anything new.

A new Emerson College poll released Friday spelled even more bad news for the commander-in-chief, with former president Donald Trump taking a narrow, two-point lead. That comes after a New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden losing to Trump in five of the six swing states, leading only in Wisconsin. Other polls show that even as Biden wins so-called “double-haters” — voters who do not want either candidate — he still trails Trump.

The Biden campaign has continually downplayed his poor polling performance, emphasizing that the election is a little less than six months away and voters have yet to make up their minds. But that doesn’t change the fact that Biden has consistently trailed Trump in many of the leading polls.

His weak numbers don’t just pose a threat to him: They could also drag down other Democrats.

At the moment, Democrats have held onto a razor-thin majority in the Senate, with just 51 seats. Republicans are all but guaranteed to flip retiring Senator Joe Manchin’s seat in West Virginia, where Trump won every county. That means Democrats need to win in two other states Trump won twice—Ohio and Montana—and keep seats in states Biden narrowly won in 2020, namely Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Nevada and Arizona.

That’s a tough order given that unlike during the midterms, which see lower voter turnout, Democratic candidates will have to contend with Trump’s voters during the 2024 elections.

But as of now, most Democrats are actually outpacing their Republican opponents in Senate races despite Biden’s poor numbers. The clearest example of this is Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. He and Biden are both natives of Scranton, and Casey’s father, Bob Casey Sr, was a popular governor.

Like many Catholic Democrats, the Caseys historically opposed abortion. The elder Casey is also the namesake of Planned Parenthood v Casey, the 1992 Supreme Court case that reaffirmed the right to an abortion in Roe v Wade, which the Supreme Court also killed with Dobbs v Jackson. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs opinion leaked, Casey came out in support of codifying abortion protections.

That flip-flop hasn’t hurt Casey, who’s maintained a healthy lead against his Republican opponent, former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, who is running for Senate after losing the 2022 Republican nomination to Mehmet Oz, who ultimately lost to John Fetterman.

Despite President Joe Biden’s unpopularity Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has not sustained much damage to her public polling as she seeks re-election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Despite President Joe Biden’s unpopularity Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) has not sustained much damage to her public polling as she seeks re-election. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Republicans are similarly failing to find traction in Wisconsin, where a Times/Siena poll showed Biden with slight lead. There, Republicans are aggressively targeting voters, with the Republican National Convention being held in Milwaukee.

Senator Tammy Baldwin has voted with Biden nearly 100 percent of the time and is arguably to the left of him. But Republicans failed to nab a top-tier candidate to challenge her and instead recruited businessman Eric Hovde. Despite pouring in $8mn of his own money, the Times/Siena poll showed him trailing Baldwin by 9 points.

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Democrats are trying to hold the Senate seat they won in 2018 before Senator Kyrsten Sinema became an Independent. Republicans are set to run Kari Lake, the former news anchor who lost her bid to become governor largely because she promoted Trump’s lies about the election.

The Times/Siena poll put Lake four points behind the Democratic candidate, Marine Corps veteran and Representative Ruben Gallego, while CBS News showed him with a 13-point lead. Biden, meanwhile, trails Trump in Arizona by five points.

The only state where Democrats might face significant headwinds is Nevada—which is also the only state on this list that Trump lost twice. The Times/Siena survey showed that Democratic Senator Jacky Rosen, who flipped a Republican-held seat in 2018, has just a two-point lead against likely Republican nominee Sam Brown, despite Trump beating Biden by 12 points in the same survey.

Similarly, a Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll showed Biden and Trump tied in a head-to-head match.

Of course, voters often do not pay as much to Senate or House races as they do to the top of the ticket. And outside spending or campaign ads tying these Democrats to Biden could cause them to take a hit.

But it does mean that for now, Biden has not caused too much of a drag, which could give Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer a reason to breathe.

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