President Joe Biden continues to insist that he is running for re-election in 2024, despite the fact that a significant majority of Americans, including a majority of Democrats, believe that he is "too old" and have legitimate concerns about his increasingly apparent decline in physical and mental health.
Now a New York Times columnist, ostensibly a Biden ally, has warned that the "decrepit-seeming president" could potentially lose the 2024 election in a rematch against former President Donald Trump, according to Breitbart.
While Biden and the White House will either dispute or ignore that nightmare scenario for them -- and quite possibly accuse the anti-Trump NYT columnist of betrayal -- the columnist was not at all wrong in his assessment of the current situation.
In a New York Times op-ed published Saturday, columnist Ross Douthat sought to query why President Biden was so consistently unpopular and began with the conclusion, "Joe Biden is an unpopular president, and without some recovery, he could easily lose to Donald Trump in 2024."
He suggested that "it’s been hard to distill a singular explanation for what’s kept his numbers lousy" but proceeded to offer up a handful of plausible explanations, including inflation and economic uncertainty, the presence of even more unpopular Vice President Kamala Harris, the veritable insanity of far-left activists who drive controversial issues amid the Democratic Party's base, and, of course, Biden's advanced age and questionable health.
"Maybe the big problem is just simmering anxiety about Biden’s age," Douthat wrote. "Maybe his poll numbers dipped first in the Afghanistan crisis because it showcased the public absenteeism that often characterizes his presidency. Maybe some voters now just assume that a vote for Biden is a vote for the hapless Kamala Harris."
"Maybe there’s just a vigor premium in presidential campaigns that gives Trump an advantage," he continued. "In which case a different leader with the same policies might be more popular. Lacking any way to elevate such a leader, however, all Democrats can do is ask Biden to show more public vigor, with all the risks that may entail."
Douthat also made mention of the "pall of private depression and general pessimism hanging over Americans, especially younger Americans, which has been worsened by Covid but seems rooted in deeper social trends," but failed to see how Biden would be able to actually address that in any substantive way.
"Biden got elected, in part, by casting himself as a transitional figure, a bridge to a more youthful and optimistic future. Now he needs some general belief in that brighter future to help carry him to re-election," he concluded. "But wherever Americans might find such optimism, we are probably well past the point that a decrepit-seeming president can hope to generate it himself."
According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, President Biden's approval dipped into negative territory following the Afghanistan withdrawal in August 2021 and has remained there ever since, and currently sits at 42.3% approval and 54.1% disapproval, a spread of -11.8%.
As Douthat noted, there are likely a number of reasons why that is the case, but his advanced age and questionable health are certainly at the forefront, as was acknowledged last week by The Washington Post.
That outlet pointed to numerous public polls over the past few years and showed how American opinions in that regard have worsened for Biden over time, so much so that upwards of three-quarters of all Americans, including up to two-thirds of Democrats in some instances, now feel that Biden is "too old" and incapable health-wise of effectively serving a second term in office.
Of course, given President Biden's age and health, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Democrats will decide to replace him as the party's 2024 nominee, his insistence on running for another term notwithstanding. Likewise, given the multiple criminal indictments against former President Trump, to say nothing of similar but less pressing concerns about his own age and health, may ultimately not be the Republican nominee, despite him clearly leading the GOP field by a wide margin currently.
All of that said, should the 2024 election turn out to be a rematch of 2020, the RCP average of polls shows that Biden and Trump are locked in what is essentially a statistical tie in which they are separated by just 0.2%, with Biden edging out Trump by a margin of 44.5% to 44.3%.