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Prime Politics: Election Year Insights | President Biden's Reelection Campaign


Joseph R. Biden ran in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as an established, proven candidate who could stop then-President Trump from securing a second term. Candidate Biden characterized the race as a “national ultimatum,” highlighting the Trump administration’s divisive policies and delivering a message of “unity.” That strategy helped Biden win back key battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Arizona to secure the White House. With Biden on the top of the ticket, Democrats also maintained control of the House of Representatives and took back control Senate in 2020.

President Biden now faces the prospect of another campaign squaring off against Trump. This time, it is the record and policies of Biden’s administration that will come under daily scrutiny and his leadership that the Republican Party will attack. This issue of Prime Politics will analyze where Democrats may find success in 2024 and the issues Biden will face in his reelection bid.

The first job confronting President Biden upon taking the oath of office was the task of pulling the U.S. out of the COVID-19 lockdowns and associated economic recession. By early March, Biden had secured Congressional passage of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP), legislation that funded vaccine development and deployment, and $1 trillion in economic stimulus monies, plus an interest moratorium on student loans. While the cash infusion from the ARP fueled the quickest recovery of any Group of 7 nation, itis also pegged as a key contributor to dramatic increases in consumer prices. Through 2022 and2023, rising inflation ate into family budgets causing public confidence in Biden Administration to fall and diminishing Biden’s favorability ratings, threatening his reelection.

At the turn of 2024, however, Biden’s economic record may be tilting in his favor. The current 3.6% unemployment rate and the 3.3% GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2023, combined with inflation easing, have the U.S. in a strong economic position.

Without question, Biden has some impressive accomplishments from his first term that he can tout in his reelection effort. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) he signed in November 2021 has invested nearly $1.2 trillion in America’s roads, railways, airports, and public transit projects. Though the bulk of these projects will not be completed by Election Day, the dirt is flying, jobs are being created, and more money is on the way across all 50 states.

In addition to the IIJA, expect the Biden campaign to remind voters of another big first-term win. The Inflation Reduction Act, with billions of dollars in tax incentives aimed at aiding a national clean energy transition and addressing climate change, has already attracted tens of billions of dollars in private-sector investments to advance job-creating clean energy projects. The IRA also contained a series of provisions that are cutting costs of health care services and medications for millions of Americans. Both the IIJA and the IRA could be considered double-edge swords. The administration’s push to transition to clean energy has been met with staunch criticism by opponents who argue that the rush to green is undermining domestic energy security.

Biden will aim to distinguish his vision from that of Trump to court both the Democratic base and swing voters. The Biden camp is sure to advertise the President’s executive actions to forgave student loan debt for almost 3.9 million borrowers, his vocal support of women’s reproductive rights, his strong support of unions, his commitment to NATO, and his efforts –successful or not – to try to find common ground with those who oppose him.

Biden’s presidency certainly has not been unblemished; a number of his decisions and actions have created vulnerabilities for his candidacy. His border policies, lifting a bevy of Trump-era restrictions and enabling a wave of immigrants to flow across the southern border, have earned him criticism not only from Republicans but also from many of his fellow Democrats.

His handling of the 2021 withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan left a black mark on Biden’s foreign policy record. Voters may well be reminded in campaign ads of the drone strike at the Abbey Gate, the chaos that unfolded at the Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) where thousands fled to escape the Taliban, and the pleas to rescue trapped Afghan nationals who risked their lives to aid the U.S. military. Then too, of course, there are the ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza. How the administration navigates those conflicts in the coming months will affect the elections in real time.

All the policies, decisions, and actions aside, voters’ choices are invariably shaped by their party allegiance, their own experiences and attitudes, and their personal perceptions of the candidates. Attacking a candidate’s age has long been a weapon wielded by political strategists to portray opponents as too young and inexperienced or too old and feeble. With Biden at81 and Trump at 77, the age card is on the table. Qualities including stability, volatility, truthfulness, loyalty, morality, compassion, relatability, and integrity will all be factors on voters’ minds that could shift the tides of the campaigns and are difficult to measure in polling.

Also tough to gauge are external factors that can sway elections. Relatively unchecked and unregulated social media is one such factor that is certain to have a huge influence on this election cycle.

So, too, is the possibility of a third ticket. No Labels, a bipartisan political organization, founded in 2010, has been courting members of both the Republican and Democratic Parties to create what it is labeling a “unity” presidential ticket. In an election year when so many voters feel disenchanted with the leading candidates of both major Parties, such a ticket could be a paradigm shift. Stay tuned.

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