Morning Consult: Biden down nine points against a generic Republican, but ...

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

First thought: Only nine? Given the confidence-crisis cascade Joe Biden has suffered for months and is currently accelerating, one might expect any Republican to easily push Biden into retirement. Today’s Morning Consult poll actually has less happy news for Republicans when the questions get more specific, too:

A poll published on Wednesday found that almost half of those surveyed said they would vote for a generic Republican candidate over President Biden if the election was held now, but he would face a close race against former President Trump.

In a hypothetical match-up, the generic Republican candidate beat Biden by almost 10 percentage points in the new Politico-Morning Consult poll. When asked how they would vote, 46 percent of respondents said they would vote for the Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential election, while 37 percent said they would vote for Biden. The remaining 16 percent had no opinion or didn’t know.

In fairness, a 37% re-elect number for any incumbent is a disaster, perhaps especially for a Democrat with party-registration and media coverage advantages. In any other office, such outcomes would likely prompt a retirement announcement using the usual “spend time with my family” template. That number also aligns pretty well with Biden’s latest job-approval numbers, although a bit below the 42/55 in this Morning Consult iteration.

What happens when pollsters ask about real Republicans rather than just a generic candidate? That’s where it gets less optimistic for the GOP:

The respondents were more evenly split when Biden was matched against Trump, with 45 percent saying they would vote for the current president and 44 percent saying they would vote for his predecessor. Biden was also statistically tied in the poll when placed up against former Vice President Mike Pence.

In fact, there isn’t a Republican that outpolls Biden in this survey, even with the 42% approval rating and disastrous showing against a generic opponent. If anything, the competition allows Biden to slightly overperform his job approval level:

  • Biden/Trump: 45/44
  • Ted Cruz: 45/39 Biden
  • Mike Pence: 44/42 Biden
  • Ron DeSantis: 44/39 Biden

So what does this show? Much of Biden’s confidence crisis comes from his own party, which may think Biden stinks … but that doesn’t mean they’ll turn Republican. Politics is too polarized these days for that kind of crossover to happen lightly or quickly. These are the same voters who bought Biden just over a year ago, after all. They may be unhappy that he’s proven incompetent at delivering their agenda, but they still support their agenda.

Interestingly, Trump scores best in this competition, but that may not mean a lot either. With the election almost three years off, this comparison serves at least to some extent as a buyers-remorse measure. Given Biden’s own chaos, drama, and incompetence, it looks like Trump voters feel vindicated and at least a significant number of Biden’s voters lament the results of Biden’s victory in their own lives. (The Zogby poll is the only significant explicit measure on that question, but more may follow.) Pence’s relatively closer performance than Cruz or DeSantis could reflect more comfort with a man who carries the promise of fulfilling the only mandate Biden had — to reduce the drama and chaos and get back to responsible governing.

But who knows? It’s awfully early for this kind of polling to have specific meaningful predictive value. What it does show is that voter dissatisfaction with Biden won’t be enough in 2024, even if it might suffice in this year’s midterms. The Republican nominee had better have a solid platform and a clear message against Biden, or Kamala Harris, or whomever Democrats stick with the task of holding the White House in the next term. It’s time for Republicans to get to work.