Why Biden Should (Or Shouldn’t) Be the Democrat’s Nominee in 2024

With President Joseph Biden announcing his campaign for re-election in 2024, and the Democratic Party seeming set to put him forward as the nominee, a question needs to be asked: is Biden definitely the best choice?


Here is President Joseph Biden speaking at Georgetown Law School in 2016. (Photo Credit: The White House, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Of all the comments that citizens have made about Joseph Biden’s presidency since he first announced he was running back in 2019, his age has always been at the forefront of the issue. At the time when he was inaugurated, He was already older than any other president, at 78. If he is elected for a second term, he will be leaving his final term in office at 86.

Whether his age should be a significant factor in the outcome of the 2024 presidential election or not, to let Biden stay in office that long is playing with fire. At that age, it is easy to envision anybody, even Biden, would most likely be prone to health issues — it would be surprising if he made it through all of his second term with no health scares or concerns.

Yet, the major issue with a candidate as old as Biden is not whether he’s going to be up for the job for another four years — it’s about whether people are willing to vote for someone of his age.

In a Biden-Trump rematch — which is seeming more and more likely as time goes on — Biden’s age probably won’t stop him from winning. After all, Donald Trump is also pretty old, and if 2020 showed us anything, in that scenario, it’s not about whether voters want a president in their 80s; it’s about not wanting four more years of Trump.

But if Trump isn’t the nominee, things are a little different. It’s no longer about voting against a specific candidate; it’s about whether the Republican nominee offers swing voters something worth rooting for. And if Biden is put up against someone like Ron DeSantis, who is a lot younger, fresher, and at least seems like a good change of pace for Republicans, that might be a bad sign.

The question is: do the Democrats have anyone better than Biden running for the presidential seat? 

The potential candidate most voters have heard of is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer: she’s thirty years younger than Biden, and she performed better in her home state than Biden did in the 2020 election. Then there’s Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s current Secretary of Transportation, who is half his age. Despite being relatively unknown, with his only background being mayor of South Bend, Indiana, he did pretty well when he ran in 2020. He previously had not had much of an audience or voter base, yet he managed to gather 17% of the popular vote when he dropped out of the race in March.

But neither of those candidates seem ready to throw their hat in the ring. But even if they were, are any of these candidates a better bet than Biden? Probably not. Biden has the incumbency advantage: whether Americans are satisfied with how the country is doing or not, the incumbent wins the presidency a majority of the time. It’s not a guarantee, especially if he goes against someone other than Trump — especially DeSantis — although the latter has been losing ground in GOP primary polls recently.

But Biden is not the only factor to consider in his re-election: he’s carrying extra baggage by keeping Kamala Harris as his running mate. Whether that’s good or bad for his re-election, prospects are up in the air: he originally picked her, in part, because he needed to get more of the vote from women of color, something that is difficult to do on his own as a white man.

Harris is also much younger than him. This is a good quality to have when he’s going to end a second term in his mid-eighties. But there are a lot of problems with keeping Harris as his running mate as well. Her net approval rating currently stands at -14%, though, while that is low, Biden currently stands at about the same net approval.

But how do polls fare for Biden in a general election so far? They seem to be all over the place. In a hypothetical race against Trump, the margins show that Biden is anywhere from up 15 points to down 6 points. Against DeSantis, the margin ranges from +15 to -5. So while the numbers vary a lot, they’re still pretty clearly in favor of Biden.

Other numbers look less promising for Biden, however. An NBC News poll from April 23rd, 2023 found that 51% of Democrats don’t want Biden to run for a second term. A lot of that comes back to the age issue, something that was already a problem in 2020. Although, if it didn’t stop him from winning the first time, it’s not certain to make or break his campaign this time around (after all, Trump doesn’t appear to be in better health than Biden is). 

However, early polling is rarely telling of anything. Right now, the best way to predict the future is to, instead, look at the historical context. Let’s go back to the incumbency advantage: of the 31 incumbent presidents in history, 20 won re-election. Those numbers are improved greatly outside of presidential races–in the 2022 midterms, for example, very few incumbents lost their seats, despite clear discontent from voters throughout the election season.

Then, look back at approval ratings: while Biden’s numbers might look a little grim at the moment, they aren’t much worse than Reagan, Clinton, Obama, or Trump’s numbers were at the same time in their presidency — of which only one lost re-election. And Biden’s numbers could still look much different when polls open a year and a half from now.

Even if Biden’s approval rating stays down through Election Day, it won’t necessarily mean people won’t vote for him — Biden’s appeal as a candidate in 2020, and potentially in 2024, is less that he is the ideal candidate, and more that he’s a safer bet than Trump is.

There’s no way of knowing for sure whether the factors that made Biden win three years ago will continue in the same pattern of success for him again. At this point, it looks like no major opponents are going against Biden in the Democratic primary. All that’s left for Democrats to do is hope he’s the right choice. 

There’s no way of knowing for sure whether the factors that made Biden win three years ago will continue in the same pattern of success for him again.