I’ll repeat what I said last night: He absolutely can win again. At this point, given Biden’s terrible polling and the pitiful weakness of the Democratic bench, I think we’d have to call him a favorite.
But that doesn’t mean these numbers should be taken at face value, and not just because it’s Trump’s own pollster who’s responsible for them. Trump might very well win Michigan and Wisconsin in 2024 but he ain’t winning them by double digits. Rather, I think Tony Fabrizio’s poll should be taken as more of a referendum on Biden. When some people answer the “Trump or Biden in 2024?” question, they’re not (yet) seriously confronting the prospect of returning Trump to office. What they’re doing, I suspect, is reframing the question in their minds this way: “Are you so unhappy with Biden’s performance that you’d even consider voting for that other guy again?”
A lot of people are unhappy.
The five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — delivered a total of 73 electoral votes in 2020, enough to produce a decisive Electoral College victory for Biden. Since then, Trump has held four rallies, endorsed dozens of candidates and played a key role in shaping contests that could put his allies in top offices in those states in 2024.
Trump’s shadow campaign also recently polled Trump-Biden matchups in the five states, all of which were decided in 2020 by fewer than 3 percentage points. According to the poll, a memo of which was obtained by POLITICO, the former president led Biden in Arizona by 8 percentage points, Georgia by 3 points, Michigan by 12 points, Pennsylvania by 6 points and Wisconsin by 10 points…
“Poll after poll clearly demonstrates that former President Donald Trump is still the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP and would be its 2024 nominee should he run,” said Fabrizio, who confirmed the numbers for POLITICO but did not provide them. “This new data clearly shows that today the voters in these five key states would be happy to return Trump to the White House and send Biden packing.”
Was that poll leaked as a warning shot to Biden — or to certain other people? Democrats are aware that Trump is “still the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP.” Ambitious young Republican politicians, however, might need a little reminding:
Trump World, as the Twitter bard called it, is laying a marker as there’s been increased activity by other 2024 candidates. But @TonyFabrizioGOP numbers always worth looking at https://t.co/x80WaixA7t
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 23, 2021
Fabrizio doubtless realizes that there are various would-be GOP nominees who would outperform Trump in 2024; the earth-shaking Glenn Youngkin victory in Virginia is proof of concept. He’s trying to head those people off at the pass by sidestepping the question of whether Trump is the strongest nominee the party could field to argue instead that he’s still capable of beating Biden, whether he’s the strongest or not. Which is true.
The killer for Biden in this poll is how swing-state voters responded when asked about infrastructure. Democrats just passed a bipartisan roads-and-bridges bill that eluded Trump during his presidency even when Republicans had total control of government, yet Trump is more trusted to handle infrastructure in all five states polled than Biden is. Maybe that’s because Trump is a more consistent messenger on the subject, having talked frequently about infrastructure during his term, or maybe it’s because voters just aren’t crazy about the details of the bill that Biden recently signed. In each swing state polled by Fabrizio, they were evenly split or even narrowly opposed when asked whether they support the package.
Infrastructure was supposed to be the thing that turned Biden’s political fortunes around. What if it’s a bust? Democrats have their own recent data pointing in that direction, in fact:
“Voters couldn’t name anything that Democrats had done, except a few who said we passed the infrastructure bill,” the center-left group Third Way and its pollsters said in a report, obtained first by POLITICO, on focus groups they ran in Virginia…
[T]he ominous development for Democrats is that the infrastructure and social spending policies they’re preparing to run on, despite generally polling favorably, show few signs of helping them at the ballot box. Fifty-seven percent of Americans support the infrastructure bill, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last week. And a similar majority supports Biden’s social spending plan. But Biden’s job approval rating in the same poll was a dismal 36 percent. The disconnect shows up in almost every poll. In an ABC News/Washington Post survey, 63 percent of voters support Biden’s infrastructure bill, yet only 35 percent of voters say he’s accomplished much…
“It’s an issue that people support, but it’s not a life raft,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Clearly, there’s a perception that things are still not working well in Washington, and that is a broader and even harder problem to solve.”
After the Build Back Better reconciliation package passed the House last week, one Democratic strategist told Politico, succinctly, “Too late. We’re f***ed.” The party’s unsolvable (near-term) problem is that their agenda is a mismatch with the things Biden got elected to do — defeat COVID, restart the economy, restore normalcy. It’s possible that he’ll deliver on all of that next year as we finally — finally? — achieve some degree of herd immunity, but as long as the country experiences waves of infection and death and as long as inflation and supply-chain issues persist, the sense that he failed in his remit will persist too.
If you want some healthy skepticism about Trump’s appeal in swing states, though, read this CNN piece from a few weeks ago about some of his own allies urging him to stay away from certain Senate races next fall. It doesn’t follow from the fact that he’s capable of beating Biden that he’s a net asset to the party on the campaign trail, especially in places where the Republican candidate is counting heavily on Youngkin-esque support in the suburbs to carry them through.