Vox: At least Biden's not as unpopular as Trump!

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

That’s one hell of a metric — and even that might not be accurate. Vox attempts an explainer to its readers about Joe Biden’s plummeting popularity, apart from the obvious conclusion that Biden and his team are incompetents. After a begrudging concession about Biden’s botched Afghanistan retreat without mentioning once that Biden abandoned thousands of Americans, Aaron Rupar settles on COVID-19 as an explanation:

The proximate cause of Biden’s slide seems to be the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the critical coverage it prompted. More broadly, however, Biden’s approval ratings slipped throughout the summer as optimism about the end of the Covid-19 pandemic gave way to the grimmer news about the delta variant and rising cases and hospitalizations.

“One thing that we’ve seen in our polling not just of the president — we also track approval ratings of all 50 governors — one thing that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic is that regardless of the policy decisions that are made, there’s a pretty strong correlation between the Covid picture and a governor’s approval rating, and therefore a president’s approval rating,” says Morning Consult senior editor Cameron Easley.

Ahem. That contention is all but directly rebutted by the chart that appears below this paragraph. While Biden’s approval gap narrowed somewhat in Morning Consult’s polling in early June (which may have been the result of weighting changes anyway), Biden was still up 51/45 on August 14th. The chart shows Biden down 48/49 in the August 29th MC survey, but for some reason doesn’t include the latest MC polling, which has Biden down 47/50.

RealClearPolitics’ aggregation of Biden’s job-approval polling produces a nearly identical average (46.1/50), but their chart more robustly demonstrates that this isn’t a Delta-variant issue. The bad news on Delta came in late spring and especially early summer, and the big reversal on Biden’s “mission accomplished” moment came on his promised July 4 return to normalcy. Does that even impact this chart?

At the beginning of August, Biden’s RCP aggregate approval stood at 51.3/43.5. Prior to August 8th, Biden hadn’t been underwater on job approval in one single national poll tracked by RCP. Since the end of August, however, Biden has only gotten above water in six of nineteen polls — and none of those outside of the margin of error.

Biden’s polling crash is clearly being driven by Afghanistan, not the pandemic. It’s opened up Katrina-sized hole in the myths of Biden’s competence and his compassion. Abandoning Americans behind Taliban lines is not something one just shrugs off, and just as Hurricane Katrina did with George W. Bush, the Afghanistan disgrace appears to have triggered a cascade effect on confidence in Biden. Bush and the GOP didn’t recover from that cascade, and Biden seems even less capable in reversing it.

Rupar then offers Vox readers a comparison to Trump as a way to contextualize this flop as less worrisome than it is:

While circumstances vary, this sort of erosion happening six to eight months into a president’s first term is far from unprecedented.

President Donald Trump, you might recall, sunk below 40 percent approval in the late summer and fall of 2017 after he pushed an unpopular bill to repeal Obamacare that failed by a single vote in the Senate, then followed that up by defending white supremacists who rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia. Perhaps more analogously for Biden, in August 2009, President Barack Obama’s approval rating dipped below 50 percent for the first time (according to Gallup) as Republicans publicly agitated against his push to pass health care legislation.

Even if that’s true, it’s small comfort. What happened the next year? Republicans got shellacked in the midterms and lost control of the House, and then went on to lose the presidency and control of the Senate two years after that. Being slightly more popular than Donald Trump isn’t supposed to be a goal for Biden. As for the comparison to Barack Obama, Rupar might just as well compare Biden to Bill Clinton as well, two men who lost their first midterms but had the political savvy and energy to rebound. Does that sound remotely like Joe Biden?

And by the way, Biden may not be even slightly more popular than Trump at the moment. New polling reported exclusively by The Hill from Harvard/Harris shows Trump edging his successor, albeit within the margin of error:

President Biden and former President Trump are statistically tied when it comes to their favorability among U.S. voters, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey shared exclusively with The Hill on Monday.

Forty-eight percent of respondents say they have a positive view of Trump compared to 46 percent who say they have a favorable opinion of his successor. Biden’s favorability is slightly underwater, however: 49 percent of those surveyed said they have an unfavorable view of the current president, while slightly less — 47 percent — report an unfavorable opinion of Trump.

The findings are a remarkable shift for Biden, who repeatedly outperformed Trump’s favorability numbers throughout the early months of his presidency.

Democrats appear to have hitched their wagon to an imploding star. And now they have three-plus years to live with the regret of choosing an obvious and decades-long incompetent as their nominee out of convenience, only to have him predictably fall apart once in charge. Unfortunately, so do the rest of us.