The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Joe Biden is gaining ground. But Democrats want someone else in 2024.

President Biden on a visit to St. Croix on Monday. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
2 min

President Biden notched significant victories in 2022: He signed deals on climate change, infrastructure and gun control, and Democrats expanded their Senate majority in the midterm elections.

But despite these accomplishments, only 47 percent of Democrats want him to seek a second term.

Biden’s numbers are trending upwards: In November and December polls, more than 40 percent of Democrats typically said they wanted him to run, while less than 40 percent said the same in September. But more than half of Democrats still say “no” or “I’m not sure” to a Biden reelection campaign.

Follow David Byler's opinionsFollow

That doesn’t mean Biden will lose the 2024 Democratic primary.

Biden might end up running unopposed. He’s the most powerful Democrat alive, and other elected Democrats might not want to earn his ire. Moreover, some of his strongest rivals — such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — have pulled Biden to the left and are happy with his tenure.

Even if Biden does face opposition, he may win. Biden’s proposed changes to the primary calendar — ditching Iowa and elevating Michigan, Georgia and South Carolina — would give Black voters, his most loyal constituency, more power in the earliest contests. And remember that Biden prevailed against a deep, talented, experienced field of competitors in 2020.

But Biden’s lackluster poll numbers do reveal his enduring weaknesses.

Biden is 80 years old in a party that prefers candidates in their 40s or 50s. Democrats elevated him in 2020, in part, because he seemed well matched against Donald Trump — but this time, Republicans might nominate someone else. And, unlike Trump and Barack Obama, Biden doesn’t command that cult-of-personality loyalty that makes renomination inevitable.

A Biden renomination is, at least for now, still the likeliest scenario. His strongest rivals will likely pass on the race, and Democratic voters may settle for him. But if Biden forgoes a second term, Democrats may be just as happy to see him go.