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Maps, issues and incumbency favor Democrats as Biden re-runs

Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe their country is on the “wrong path.” The incumbent will be 81 on Election Day 2024, and more than half of his party’s voters do not want him to run for re-election.

However, as President Biden begins his second-term campaign, Democratic officials are convinced he is starting on Tuesday on a far stronger footing than his personal stature would suggest. Democratic unity has even killed signs of rebellion within the party. The issues that dominate national politics largely favor Democrats. The battleground has been narrowed to just a handful of states, meaning the 2024 campaign will run on favorable terrain for Democrats, at least for now.

“I’m always going to worry because we’re a very divided country and the presidential race is going to be very close, no matter who’s in,” said Anne Caprara, who helped lead Hillary Clinton’s super PAC in 2016 and now Currently Chief of Staff to Illinois Democratic Governor JB Pritzker. “But for the first time in my career, I think the Republicans are painting themselves as a bad situation. They’re losing, but they don’t seem to see it.”

There’s no question that Mr. Biden’s personal debt is pulling Democrats’ time-tested worries. Despite low unemployment, a remarkably resilient economy and enviable legislative accomplishments in his first two years, the octogenarian never quite won over the nation or even his own party. A new NBC News poll shows Mr. Biden losing to a rank-and-file Republican presidential nominee, 47% to 41%.

“President Biden is in a very weak state for an incumbent running for re-election,” said veteran Republican pollster Bill McIntulf, who co-directed the NBC News poll.

Republicans plan to take advantage of the uncertainty by harping on Mr Biden’s age and frailty and painting him as the weakest incumbent presidential bid for re-election since Jimmy Carter tried 44 years ago. Former President Donald J. Trump’s campaign has set its sights on the upcoming Republican nomination race, contrasting what it sees as the strength of character of an aggressive challenger with a fragile incumbent.

“It’s a choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump,” said Chris Lacivita, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, adding, “If they think that’s their greatest advantage , they will have a long and miserable year.”

But the political fundamentals look much better than Mr. Biden personally admits.

By avoiding a tough primary challenge, Biden will not fight members of his own party next year on thorny issues such as immigration, crime, gender and abortion in a way that could turn off swing voters. Instead, he can spend time attending the ribbon-cutting and ground-breaking ceremonies for roads and bridges, semiconductor factories, electric carmakers, and solar projects that arose out of his three major legislative achievements — the infrastructure bill, the “chips and science” law, and The Inflation Reduction Act, with its huge tax breaks for clean energy.

Mr Trump’s presence in the Republican primary is helping Democrats frame the 2024 campaign as a choice between the two parties rather than a referendum on the incumbent president, a more difficult challenge for the party in power , said Jim Messina, who managed the last successful presidential re-election campaign, that of Barack Obama in 2012.Early polls are all in key states like wisconsin Nationally, Mr Biden has a narrow lead over Mr Trump, but is either tied or behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Republicans’ narrow control of the House of Representatives also makes Mr. Biden a foil in the months leading up to a Republican presidential nominee, just as the Republican Congress helped Mr. Obama.

Then there’s the map.

The 2022 midterm elections should have been a disaster for a president with low approval ratings. Instead, the Democrats have significantly strengthened their influence and electoral infrastructure in two key states, Pennsylvania and Michigan, winning gubernatorial races in both states, with the House of Representatives in Pennsylvania falling to Democrats, Michigan The legislature fell into Democratic hands. First time in nearly 40 years.

At the start of the 2024 campaign, two-thirds of the Midwestern “blue wall” Mr. Trump broke down in 2016 and Mr. Biden rebuilt in 2020 appears to favor Democrats.

Battlegrounds such as Florida, Ohio and Iowa have tilted firmly toward the GOP as partisanship between Democratic and Republican states intensifies, but other battlegrounds such as Colorado, Virginia and New Hampshire do appear to be Democratic.

That leaves a handful of states that could be decisive next year: Wisconsin, the third brick in the “blue wall”; Georgia, a once-reliable Republican; Arizona; and Pennsylvania, especially if the political winds swing for the GOP Favorable words. If Mr. Biden can seal off Pennsylvania, he only needs to win one of the other major battlegrounds — Wisconsin, Georgia or Arizona — to secure the necessary Electoral College votes in 2024. Even if he lost Nevada, he would still win as long as he secured New Hampshire and didn’t split Maine’s Electoral College vote.

Wisconsin made a split decision in 2022, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers winning re-election and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson also winning. But this month, the Democratic-backed candidate won by 11 points in a costly and hotly contested race for the state Supreme Court in Wisconsin, a remarkable margin.

A Democrat wins Arizona’s governorship in 2022. While they lost the gubernatorial race in Georgia, they scraped through the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.

These recent electoral successes point to another major factor that seems to be working in Democrats’ favor: questions. The erosion of abortion rights continues to dominate election results in key states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion hasn’t gone away, in large part because the socially conservative core of Republican voters keeps pushing red states and conservative judges to move forward on abortion restrictions.

The brutal drumbeat of mass shootings has also kept gun control high on the political agenda, an issue Democrats say will help them appeal to suburban voters in key swing states and trap Republicans who don’t want to compromise on gun rights. The voter base and the broader electorate increasingly support restrictions.

Republicans also have issues that could work in their favour. Crime helped win House seats in New York and California, securing the Republicans’ slim majorities in the House, and transgender politics may help the party win some swing voters. A National Public Radio poll last summer found that 63 percent of Americans oppose allowing transgender women and girls to play on teams that match their gender identity, and broader support for LGBT rights will only gain ground.

But the hotly contested primary could drag the eventual nominee to the right, even on issues that might otherwise favor his party. Mr. DeSantis, widely seen as Mr. Trump’s toughest challenger, signed his state’s abortion ban six weeks later, the threshold at which many women know they are pregnant.

Ms. Caprara, the Illinois governor’s chief of staff, said that at some point Republicans’ opposition to transgender people and their focus on social issues can look like bullying — or simply out of touch with the real issues in the lives of swing voters far. .

“There’s this toxic soup between abortion, guns, gay rights, library books, African-American history,” she said. “People just thought, ‘Who are these people?'”

The biggest problem, however, may be the storm clouds on the horizon that may or may not break out – the economy. In 2020, Mr. Biden became one of the few presidential candidates in modern history to beat a candidate with more confidence in the economy in opinion polls.

Since then, a surge in job creation during the trough of the coronavirus pandemic has shattered monthly employment records, while unemployment — especially among workers of color — is at or near record lows. Inflation peaked at nearly 10% and is currently around 5%.

However, Mr Messina, a former Obama campaign manager, warned that Mr Biden continued to receive low marks for his economic management and those scores could worsen as the Fed continues to curb inflation with higher interest rates. A new CNBC poll found that 53% of Americans expect the economy to get worse, compared with 34% when Biden took office.

“Today, I’d rather be Joe Biden,” Mr Messina said. “But I wish I knew where the economy was going because that’s one thing nobody can control.”

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