Forget the Matchup Polls. This Number Is What Should Terrify Team Biden.

When it comes to elections, polls are the most common tools we have to assess the state of the race, and there is no shortage of polls to look at and pick apart. National polls, state polls, direction-of-the-country polls, generic ballot polls, etc., etc. Based on the bulk of national and battleground state polls, it’s easy to see why Trump is clearly favored to win the 2024 election.

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But what if those polls aren’t the best indicator? Is there something better that is far more informative than matchup polls? As Paul Bedard at the Washington Examiner notes, “Ever since Dwight D. Eisenhower’s reelection in 1956, the pros have looked to approval ratings as the key to an incumbent’s chances.”

And how do the numbers look for Joe Biden? Really bad.

“While he is even or leading former President Donald Trump in some racehorse polls, Biden’s approval rating is about 10 points under the previous record low of a winning incumbent,” Bedard writes. “That was former President George W. Bush, who beat then-Sen. John Kerry, despite having a 48% approval rating.”

In a new Hill/DDHQ survey, just 38.6% approve of Biden, 58.1% don’t. In the Gallup tracking poll, Biden is at 40% approval.

Pollsters such as Gallup have said that an approval of 50% or higher is the key to reelection. Drop below, and chances shrink to just 50-50.

Bush had the lowest approval rating in decades, but a recent Gallup analysis noted that “he registered multiple 50% readings earlier in the month and had a 51% approval rating among likely voters in that final survey.” Biden hasn’t seen 50% since late July 2021.

The closest presidential approval rating of an incumbent to Biden today is former President Jimmy Carter, who had a 37% approval rating entering the election. He lost in a historic landslide to former President Ronald Reagan.

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“Biden’s reelection chances do not look very favorable in early 2024,” Gallup noted back in February. “His job approval rating is lower than all recent incumbents at the same point, including those who ultimately lost the election, and key national mood indicators are more in line with those for past losers than winners.”

Related: The State Trump Really Should Make a Play For

If Biden’s reelection chances hinge on his ability to pull off a comeback and get back over 50% approval, then he’d have to pull off the greatest comeback in history. Does anyone believe he can actually do that? This week, we learned that economic growth slowed in the first quarter of 2024 while inflation grew, sparking concerns of stagflation and possibly a recession. Meanwhile, concerns about Biden’s advanced age and cognitive health persist. His recent reading of a stage direction during speech certainly didn’t help. Meanwhile, Biden is struggling with the Israel-Hamas situation, as the antisemitic wing of his party has forced him to take a more aggressive approach to Israel publicly, which may be backfiring.

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Pretty much the only thing that helps Biden is that voters don’t seem to like Donald Trump either. However, the juxtaposition of their two terms and the observable contrast between the two clearly benefits Trump, as voters remember that things were significantly better on Trump’s watch. 

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