What Can Biden Do?


The president’s strategic options for 2024.

With President Biden having fallen behind Donald Trump in the early 2024 polls, Trump’s strategy seems fairly straightforward: more of the same. Trump will portray Biden as old, inflation as high, immigration as out of control and the nation as weak. All these arguments play into the concerns of many voters.

But what might Biden do to improve his position over the next year? Today’s newsletter looks at four possibilities.

Since Trump took office in 2017, the Republican Party has struggled nationally. In 2018, it lost control of the House. In 2020, Trump lost his re-election bid. In the 2022 midterms, Democrats did better than expected.

Michael Podhorzer, a political analyst and a former A.F.L.-C.I.O. official, argues that this pattern stems from the emergence of “an anti-MAGA majority.” Americans under 30, for example, have been voting at higher rates since 2016, partly because of their opposition to Trump, Podhorzer notes. Other analysts have pointed to suburban voters who are turned off by Trump’s attacks on democracy. This pattern helps explain why Trump-endorsed candidates in swing states like Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania did so poorly in the 2022 midterms.

Today, Trump is leading in most swing states, according to the latest Times/Siena College poll. Once the campaign picks up, though, Trump’s behavior will get more attention, partly because some of his criminal trials will likely have begun. In the Times poll, about 6 percent of voters in battleground states — enough to swing the result — said they would abandon their support for Trump if he were convicted on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and sentenced to prison.

Another cause of Democrats’ recent election wins is the unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s 2022 decision overturning Roe v. Wade. That ruling has allowed Republicans to nearly ban abortion in many states, and most voters oppose those bans.

I do think Democrats sometimes exaggerate the political impact of abortion. In 2022, many Democratic candidates tried to beat Republican incumbents by emphasizing the issue. In red states like Florida and Texas, the strategy generally failed — a sign that most Americans don’t vote based on only one issue.

That said, in swing states like Michigan, the Republican Party’s extreme abortion position did apparently influence enough voters to decide some close elections last year. And Biden needs to win states like Michigan, not red states, to be re-elected.

Perhaps Biden’s biggest advantage is that he could overtake Trump simply by winning back disaffected voters who normally support Democrats, as my colleague Nate Cohn explained in yesterday’s newsletter. Beyond abortion, a populist campaign — emphasizing the low taxes that many rich people pay — might also help Biden, given that many disaffected Democrats have modest incomes, Nate says.

A pound of bacon costs an average of $7.08 in the U.S., 21 percent more than when Biden took office. The price of coffee beans has risen 33 percent. A gallon of gas is 72 percent more expensive. And because inflation affects everyone, it can damage the public mood more than almost anything else. (Yes, inflation has fallen sharply this year, but most prices have not fallen. Only their rate of increase has.)

A president can’t do much to bring down prices in the short term, yet Biden has taken steps to reduce energy prices. He approved an enormous new oil project on federal land in Alaska, while enacting billions of dollars of subsidies for clean energy. He is pursuing the sort of all-of-the-above energy policy that many Americans favor.

But he has been strangely unwilling to brag about the Alaska project, as Matthew Yglesias noted in a recent Substack newsletter. Biden seems more focused on avoiding criticism from climate activists than on winning over swing voters who can help re-elect arguably the most climate-friendly president ever.

There is a similar dynamic on immigration. Undocumented migration to the U.S. surged after Biden took office, partly in response to his welcoming campaign rhetoric, and many Americans are unhappy about the surge. Although Biden has since taken steps to reduce the surge, he rarely emphasizes these popular steps. Again, he seems more focused on progressive activists than on swing voters.

Immigration is indeed a problem for his campaign. In the Times poll, 53 percent of voters in battleground states said they trust Trump to do a better job on the issue, compared with 41 percent who trust Biden. When respondents were asked if they supported building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, 53 percent said yes.

Another major concern among voters is Biden’s age. He can’t make himself younger, but he could spend more time in public, demonstrating his energy and engagement. Instead, his staff has kept him cloistered and fed impressions that he isn’t up for the job, as Maureen Dowd, the Times Opinion columnist, has written: “There’s something poignant about watching a guy who used to delight in his Irish gift of gab be muzzled.”

Of course, there is one other potential strategy for Democrats who are panicked about a second Trump presidency. Other Democrats could challenge Biden for the nomination. Time is running out, though. The deadlines for getting on the ballot in seven early primary states, including California and Florida, arrive this month.

  • “We’ll win in 2024 by putting our heads down”: The Biden campaign shrugged off the results of the Times/Siena College Poll.

  • Some Democrats expressed anxiety about the poll. “No one is going to have a runaway election here,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

  • Trump’s support has surged among Black men. Overall, about 20 percent of Black voters say they would back him over Biden.

  • Biden is struggling with young voters and those concerned about the economy, Politico writes.

  • Have a question about the Times poll? Ask it here and our reporters will answer.

In Gaza City.Abed Khaled/Associated Press
  • Israel said its military had encircled Gaza City and was conducting a large attack above and below ground.

  • Gaza is again in a blackout, and it is unclear where Israeli forces are fighting.

  • A BBC journalist reported intense strikes and the main Palestinian news agency said Israel was conducting raids near hospitals.

  • Israel accused Hamas of operating out of more hospitals. The World Health Organization said Gaza’s health care system had been struck more than 100 times.

  • A photographer lost four of his five children in a strike. His surviving son, who is 1, was being treated in a crowded hospital corridor.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu quickly suspended a minister who suggested dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.

  • In the north, at its border with Lebanon, Israel is fighting with Hezbollah. See maps of the escalating clashes.

  • Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, made unannounced visits to the West Bank and Iraq. He is working to prevent wider war and to protect U.S. troops in the region.

  • Some American officials are concerned Israeli settlers could use U.S. weapons to force Palestinians from land in the West Bank.

  • Donald Trump will take the witness stand today at his civil fraud trail in Manhattan.

  • Brandon Presley, Elvis’s second cousin, is campaigning to become the first Democratic governor of Mississippi in over 20 years.

  • A Russian strike on Ukrainian soldiers at a military awards ceremony was a war crime, Volodymyr Zelensky said.

  • A top Haitian police official was grocery shopping when he recognized a fugitive linked to the president’s assassination. He summoned armed officers, who arrested the suspect.

  • China is investing in manufacturing instead of real estate.

  • A far-right candidate in Argentina needs the youth vote to win a runoff election. The fans of Taylor Swift and BTS stand in his way.

Javier OrtizMatthew Callahan for The New York Times
  • U.S. troops who fought the Islamic State returned with shattering mental and physical problems that the military has struggled to understand.

  • A.I. chatbots invent information at least 3 percent of the time, and some as much as 27 percent of the time, research from a start-up found.

  • Tyson Foods recalled nearly 30,000 pounds of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets after people said they found small metal pieces in them.

  • Some psychiatrists are prescribing weight-loss drugs like Ozempic to counteract weight gain from mental health drugs.

Eric Adams’s hires have brought corruption and scandal to New York City, Mara Gay argues.

Here are columns by David French on Speaker Mike Johnson and Nicholas Kristof on the West Bank.

Illustration by Daniel Zvereff, Photo by NASA

Space: The James Webb telescope has made stunning discoveries, including about the birth of planets like ours.

English mysteries: Who killed the innkeeper with a sword in 1315?

Climate change preparation: Hoboken, N.J., is building for a rainy day.

Metropolitan Diary: Living out a Macy’s fantasy.

Lives Lived: Helen Marcus was a late-blooming photographer whose evocative portraits of literary figures and film and television personalities graced book jackets and magazine covers for decades. She died at 97.

N.F.L.: The Cincinnati Bengals surged past their A.F.C. rivals the Buffalo Bills, 24-18, for their fourth straight win.

N.B.A.: James Harden, traded to the L.A. Clippers last week, will make his debut tonight.

U.S.C.: The Trojans fired their defensive coordinator, who oversaw a disappointing two-year stretch in Los Angeles.

At Sotheby’s.via Sotheby’s

“Must-See TV”: Ahead of major auctions, teams at Sotheby’s and Christie’s prepare roving cameras and sophisticated lighting to broadcast the bidding to the world. It began as a way to do business during the pandemic lockdowns. Now, millions watch live online, riveted by how the one percent spends its money.

“Twenty years ago, people thought you had to be the member of an elite club to walk through an auction house door,” said Adrien Meyer, one of Christie’s chief auctioneers. “Now you can see a sale sitting on your couch in your underpants.’’

  • Missy Elliott and Sheryl Crow are among the latest inductees to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Joe Lingeman for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Cyd Raftus McDowell.

Bake this spiced cake for Election Day tomorrow.

Embrace the morning light now that the days are shorter.

Find the perfect winter boots. Here’s how.

Take our news quiz.

Here is today’s Spelling Bee. Yesterday’s pangrams were goodnight and hotdogging.

And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle, Sudoku and Connections.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

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