Joe Biden fatigue undermines Democrats’ strategy of relying on anti-Trump voters

This year’s election, more than any in modern political history, is shaping up as a question of which candidate voters dislike least.

The presence of an anti-Trump vote has been part of the political scene since 2016, but political pros say there’s a growing Biden fatigue that threatens to undercut Democrats’ most powerful weapon in the last three federal elections.

“Rather than anti-Trump, the migration is somewhere between anti-Biden or pro-Trump,” said Don Levy, director of the Sienna College Research Institute.

He said Biden voters are significantly less energized than former President Donald Trump’s supporters, which only adds to Mr. Biden’s other problem of a majority of voters saying he’s too old to be an effective president.

Less than 40% of Mr. Biden’s voters say his policies have helped them personally, while 83% of Mr. Trump’s supporters say he helped them.

Mr. Biden’s State of the Union address this week aimed at juicing those Biden-weary voters. The president joked about his age, pointedly stayed well into the night after the speech to shake hands, and delivered a stark reminder to the left about the dangers he sees in allowing Mr. Trump back into the White House.

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He also touted a positive vision of the country right now.

The problem, analysts said, is that his own troops often don’t see it that way.

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said the anti-Biden sentiment is being driven by the fact that people are not feeling the accomplishments that he has touted.

“The demographics that Biden needs to win in a landslide are not overwhelmingly coming home in the polling today. It may change,” he said.

Mr. Paleogos said it will be a challenge for Mr. Biden to win states such as Georgia, Pennsylvania and Michigan with large cities where he cannot reenergize young voters and minority communities.

“Without that nucleus of a Black landslide in those urban areas, how do you win?” he said. “If you don’t come out of those cities with a big margin to offset the counties that are red, where else do you win in those states?”

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In head-to-head match-ups, Mr. Trump outpaces Mr. Biden on issues at the top of voters’ minds such as the economy, inflation and immigration.

It’s a major reversal from 2020 when pollsters say an anti-Trump vote powered Mr. Biden to the White House.

Exit polling showed Mr. Biden outperformed Mr. Trump by 38 points among voters who said they cast their ballot mainly out of spite for the alternative. They made up about a quarter of the vote.

Mr. Biden believes they’re still out there, and many of them were the ones voting for Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s chief opponent in the GOP presidential primaries.

Donald Trump made it clear he doesn’t want Nikki Haley’s supporters,” Mr. Biden said after Ms. Haley dropped out of the race. “I want to be clear: There is a place for them in my campaign.”

Biden backers point to Ms. Haley’s significant share of the vote in places like Virginia and New Hampshire as evidence Mr. Trump’s party is full of skeptics.

But Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said some of the GOP primaries allowed Democrats and independents to vote, meaning some Biden 2020 voters likely crossed over to back Ms. Haley.

“If we look at closed primaries where only Republicans could vote, her share was much smaller,” he said.

Chris LaCivita, senior advisor to the Trump campaign, said recent polls show Mr. Trump has not only nailed down the support of Republicans in a major way but is outperforming Mr. Biden in battleground states.

“So whoever is selling that [anti-Trump] narrative is probably coming from another land of wishful thinking,” Mr. LaCivita said.

He pointed to a Sienna College/New York Times poll earlier this month that found Mr. Trump with a 48% to 43% lead over Mr. Biden among registered voters.

The poll found that 97% of the voters who said they backed Mr. Trump in 2020 are still in his corner, while just 83% of the voters who said they backed Mr. Biden in 2020 are behind him again right now.

Another 10% of Biden’s 2020 backers said they have hopped on the Trump bandwagon. Mr. Trump also has an 11-point lead over Mr. Biden with voters that say they sat out the 2020 election.

“You have to give credence to the anti-Biden [sentiment],” said Mr. Levy.

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