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What are Joe Biden's real reëlection chances?

In 2019, Joe Biden was hugely popular. He was known as the competent and resourceful vice president of the Obama administration. He had been one of the most prolific senators in the US Congress, holding the seat for nearly forty years. In the primaries of the Democratic Party, which were held the following year, the voters rewarded him and the coalition that he managed to compose also determined his success in the elections which he won against Donald Trump. This time, Joe Biden arrives at the announcement of his re-candidacy for the presidency in a somewhat different position.


When he was elected in 2020, Biden was already the oldest elected president in US history at 78 years old. If re-elected in the November 2024 presidential election, Biden will be 82 years old. At the end of his second term, he will be 86 years old. Not a youngster, and US voters, even Democratic ones, are legitimately concerned about his physical health, as well as his mental health. Someone, perhaps with too much concern for the electorate and perhaps a bit of tactlessness, also seemed to be excessively concerned. During an interview with Fox News, the candidate in the Republican Party primaries, Nikki Haley, said that US voters must be aware that a vote for Biden is actually a vote for his vice president, Kamala Harris, because, according to Haley, Biden could not make it to 2024. I'm convinced he can do it but Biden is actually and visibly losings shots.



Joe Biden during a campaign event in Cesar Rapids, Iowa, on September 2019.


According to an NBC News poll conducted between April 14 and 18, 70% of US voters did not want Biden to run for a second term. An enormity. But perhaps the even more worrying figure concerns the voters of the Democratic Party: 51% did not want Biden to be the candidate of their party. These are unprecedented percentages. When Donald Trump chose to run again, 73% of Republican voters supported the choice of the then-incumbent president. For Barack Obama, they were 75% of the voters. The negative data for Joe Biden is not finished. His approval rating, according to poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, has been in negative territory since August 2021. Currently, 52.5% of US voters do not approve of his administration. But that wasn't always the case.



On the day of his swearing-in, January 23, 2021, 53% of voters liked then-elected President Joe Biden, who had a net approval rating of +16.9. It was the days following the assault on Congress by Donald Trump's supporters. It is likely that Americans were simply relieved to have finally elected a reassuring man to the presidency of the United States. In August, with the daring withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the explosion of infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the United States and the consequent and further collapse of the economy, the honeymoon was over. Since then, US voters have never made peace with Biden again, despite a string of major milestones his administration has achieved and despite a congressional composition not exactly supportive of the legislative action he has attempted to pursue.



Joe Biden’s approval rating according to FiveThirtyEight.


The US newspaper POLITICO wrote an article about the electoral promises that Joe Biden has kept and also those that he has betrayed. In the highly polarized US society, it is not enough. Joe Biden is currently paying for inflation at an all-time high for almost fifty years; a real risk of recession; the restriction of the rights of American women, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which regulated access to abortion practice at the federal level; and the betrayal of the promise to guarantee the right to vote for black voters, endangered in some American states. There seem to be many reasons why Biden should not have run again for the presidency of the United States. Why did he do it? Or perhaps better: why did the Democratic Party accept that the oldest and one of the most unpopular incumbent presidents in US history decided to run again?



The answer probably lies in a quote that Biden loves to repeat, and which he attributes to his father, Joseph Robinette Biden Sr .: «Don't compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative». Joe Biden chose to run again because he bet that the alternative, as in 2020, will be Donald J. Trump.



The video in which Biden announces his decision to run again revolves around a word that has historically been linked to the imagination of the Republican Party: freedom. The GOP was the party of freedom, of the free market, of detaxation. Things have changed but the freedom Joe Biden talks about is that of choice for one's own body, the freedom to go to the polls without having to worry that the administration of one's state will try to limit one's sacrosanct right to vote, which are allowed only in a democratic state. The reference to the MAGA wing of the Republican Party could not have been clearer. In the video, Biden never names either Donald Trump or his most credible challenger in the GOP primaries, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, but, since the opening of the video, the images recall the assault on Congress on January 6, 2021, the protests following the decision of the conservative-majority Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, to social and civil rights which, according to Biden, a president elected by the Republican Party could endanger. His final appeal to voters could also be the slogan of his election campaign: let's finish the job. When he ran for president in 2019, Joe Biden said he was a bridge to the next generation of leaders, implying that once he fulfilled his task of restoring credibility to US institutions, he would step aside. That bridge will eventually be longer than expected, but Biden believes that his work to protect democratic institutions from the illiberal shift that Trump would like to try to impose is not over. In 2019, Biden told his constituents they were in the midst of a battle for the soul of America. In 2023, Biden told his constituents that the battle isn't won yet, that he's still ready to fight it, and that the job isn't done.



Joe Biden’s electoral campaign slogan. To see the video, click here.


If the challenger were to be Donald Trump, could we take Biden's victory for granted? No, but the bet revolves around the belief that democratic and independent voters, in order to prevent Trump from becoming president again, are willing to vote for a candidate who does not excite them. It's a risky gamble and could fail miserably, but the 2022 midterm elections showed that voters are indeed disinclined to vote for candidates close to President Trump, especially in states where abortion rights are under threat. In a poll commissioned by the Wall Street Journal and conducted in mid-April, Biden leads Donald Trump by 3 percentage points in the popular vote, while he is trailing by as many percentage points against Ron DeSantis. In both cases, the gap between the two candidates falls within the margin of statistical error, but it is clear why Biden prefers Trump to challenge him. Moreover, in 2024, Trump will be 78 years old and the attacks from the GOP about Biden's age may not be as incisive if the alternative is an equally elderly candidate.



Winning the popular vote, however, is no guarantee of success in the United States. For a candidate to be elected in the presidential election, he must roll at least 270 out of the electoral college's 538 voters, and historically, they reward Republican candidates. In the last 6 presidential elections, the Democratic candidate has won the popular five times but has only been elected on three occasions (Obama v. McCain; Obama v. Romney; Biden v. Trump). There is a large current of thought among analysts and pollsters who believe that the story could be different in the next presidential elections and that the Republican Party runs the risk of winning the popular vote, but losing the electoral college and therefore not electing its candidate. In 2020, Biden won the popular vote by 4 percentage points. The three states that decided his election were Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, where he won by less than a percentage point. It is possible that they will still be decisive in 2024 and for Biden to be re-elected it is enough to win one.



US Electoral College map in 2020 presidential election (Map by The New York Times)



There are 555 days to go, making predictions makes no sense and it probably wouldn't make sense even if there were 100 to go. Anything could happen. The United States could actually go into recession, the conflict in Ukraine could evolve in any direction, and the friction between China and the United States around the island of Taiwan could take unexpected turns. In 2020, Donald Trump seemed destined for an easy re-election, but when Covid arrived, his management of the pandemic crisis was bad and he lost that election. It's the classic black swan. It should be noted, however, that 555 days before the presidential elections, Biden appears to be a slight favorite for re-election.


Edited by: Ritaja Kar

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