Why Biden isn’t doomed in 2024 just yet


(CNN)At first glance, the number is striking: A majority — 51% — of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said they’d rather see the party nominate a different candidate instead of President Joe Biden in 2024.

That seems like a catastrophic finding, right? Democrats would rather see someone — anyone — other than Biden as their nominee in the next presidential election. At roughly this time in Barack Obama’s presidency, almost 8 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters (79%) wanted the party to renominate him. Panic! Siren! Chaos!

Except, well, maybe not. While Biden’s numbers here are bad, they are less bad than you might think. Here’s why.

    The polling question doesn’t specifically ask whether respondents want to see Biden or Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren or Gavin Newsom or Kamala Harris as the 2024 nominee. It asks whether they think the party should renominate Biden or pick “a different candidate.”

      That “different” candidate could be by anyone. And that candidate is often very different for, say, a liberal Democrat than a moderate Democrat. Or for a Democrat living in Kansas versus a Democrat living in New York City. Very few voters’ idea of a “different” candidate is the same candidate.

        In fact, those who said they wanted someone other than Biden were asked whether there was someone specific they hoped to see nominated. All told, just 12% of Democratic-aligned voters have a candidate other than Biden in mind for 2024.

        Think of it this way: You go to a restaurant. You order the fish. Your entree comes. You are roughly halfway through eating it — and it tastes a little too fishy for you. The waiter comes over and asks whether you would like to keep eating your fish or whether you would like a different entree. At that point, your mind likely scans through your ideal entree — whether or not they have it on the menu. Your chances of scrapping your current food to go for the new entree — whatever it is you have conjured in your mind — is high.

          Now, consider that same scenario, except that when you are halfway done with the too-fishy fish, the waiter comes over and says that they would be happy to exchange your fish for the chicken entree. Now, you already chose the fish over the chicken for some reason — maybe you didn’t like how it was prepared or maybe you just didn’t feel like chicken. You are FAR more likely to stick with the fish in this scenario.

          How Americans think Joe Biden has done on their most important priorities after one year

          The point is this: The choices in 2024 — assuming there is even a choice on the Democratic side — would be between Biden and a specific other candidate. That candidate — whoever he or she may be — will have their own strengths and weaknesses. For some Democrats desperately looking for an alternative to Biden, that candidate will be the perfect choice. For lots of others, however, that other candidate won’t be at all what they envisioned when they told a pollster that they would prefer someone other than the President as the party’s 2024 nominee.

          Biden won’t be running against a generic “different candidate.” He would be running against another specific politician. And that means he would almost inevitably fare better against that person — whoever it is — than he does against an idealized other candidate.

            None of that is to say that Biden is in a strong position at the moment. He isn’t. Six in 10 independent voters who lean Democratic would rather Democrats nominate someone else. A similar number of liberals — 57% — say the same.

            What it is to say is that these numbers don’t say that Biden would lose a primary in 2024. While Democratic voters may not be thrilled with him, any other candidate who challenged him would have flaws too — and that would mean that he or she would run far less well against Biden than a generic “different candidate.”