DANIEL VAUGHAN: Biden's 'State Of The Union' Pivot Failed

 March 13, 2024

Before the State of the Union address, I wrote that it was Biden's "do-or-die" moment. Heading into March 7, Biden was fighting off a growing push within the Democratic Party to remove him from the ballot. Biden also had to contend that after his left flank, he was severely behind in the polls. The new baseline for this race is that Trump is winning.

Heading into the State of the Union, Biden had a choice: fight back against the elite consensus trying to push him out of the race or pitch a broad speech that attempted to right his political ship. Biden opted to appeal to the pundits to get the "step down now" pieces to die down. In that respect, his speech was successful. The number of pieces demanding he steps down cooled after he shouted and sped through a speech to win those writers back.

But despite that, nothing else in the race has changed. Trump is leading the 2024 polling averages. Why is this important? In 2020, Biden led in the polling averages for the entirety of 2020. In the final six-month stretch, Biden routinely polled at around 50% in national polls.

The final RealClearPolitics average of polls had Biden as a 7.2-point favorite heading into Election Day. This margin overstated Biden's support, with the popular vote being a 4.5-point margin for Biden. Much like in 2016, the race was decided in a handful of states, with less than 100,000 votes separating Trump and Biden in the electoral college.

At the time I'm publishing this, March 13, 2024, Trump is leading Biden by 1.7 points in the RealClearPolitics average. Biden is struggling to stay near 45% in support compared to Trump. Compared to where the polls finished in 2020, Trump has improved by nearly nine points compared to Biden.

The State of the Union did nothing to move public sentiment—all of Biden's problems are still present, he's solved none, and Americans are unmoving. Because this is a rematch, emphasizing the closeness in the polls is helpful, but it misses a scarier fact for Team Biden: he's nearly ten points down from where he was in 2020.

Beating Trump by seven points in polls is a big difference from losing to him by two points. Elite media hasn't entirely caught up to these issues yet. The big focus on Nikki Haley in the primaries was a helpful scapegoat for the Biden campaign. They could point to the various weak points of Trump's coalition while ignoring their own problems.

That coverage is gone. Both candidates have locked up the delegates they need to win the convention. The primaries are officially over. We're in the general election, and it's clear where things stand right now: Trump is winning, and Biden is losing.

Biden's speech was only a success if you measure it by the opinion pieces published in the New York Times. If you measure it by trying to fix the Biden Campaign, the State of the Union speech failed.

Another way to measure that the speech was a failure is the refusal of the media to focus on it. The main storyline of Biden's speech was when he called Laken Riley "Lincoln," called her killer an illegal, and implied that "undocumented migrants" killing Americans wasn't a big deal.

Instead, Democrats are trying to make Alabama Senator Katie Britt's speech the most essential thing from that night. I hate to break to every Democrat voter out there: no one who has delivered a response to the State of the Union has ever mattered. Ever.

I repeat: no one in that position has ever mattered. 

Everyone tuned in to watch Biden, judge his performance, and go from there. And until Biden successfully moves the polls in a positive direction, he's done nothing. We're right where we were at the beginning of the month.

Election coverage is in a weird spot with all these facts. Elite consensus is lagging behind the fact that Biden is losing. Nate Silver writes that Democrats are banking on a "the polls are flawed" theory of the case. That's certainly possible. In 2020, the polls overestimated Biden's strength. They could be underestimating him this time. 

But polls could also be overestimating Biden's support again - or the polls could nail it. Occam's Razor says the simple explanation is that Biden is losing, and Trump has the inside track to win back the White House. Eventually, elite media outlets will start panicking that Biden is losing. 

Biden used the State of the Union to push back his Democratic detractors. What happens if he continues losing to Trump in the polls as we head into the summer months? Will Democrats stick with him? Or will we see the reappearance of the "he should step down now" pieces? 

Time will tell. However, the polls have consistently shown that Trump is winning and Biden is losing. Nothing has happened to change that. If you're trying to win an election, that means Biden's State of the Union was a failure. 

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