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Biden Tries to Find Enthusiasm in South Carolina – HotAir

Four years ago, Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary and revived his faltering campaign, thanks in large part to James Clyburn. Almost 540,000 voters went to the polls in 2020, and Biden won just under half of them — but took more than two-thirds of the delegates. Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer finished with double digits but far behind Biden, and the nomination was all but settled.

Four years later, with runaway inflation still doing damage and questions about Biden’s competence getting louder, how many will show up today to endorse the incumbent? Biden’s team screwed up in New Hampshire and ignored Iowa, but they have put on the full-court press in South Carolina in an effort to bolster a president with the worst re-elect Gallup numbers in more than 30 years:

Fewer than four in 10 U.S. registered voters say President Joe Biden deserves to be reelected, while less than a quarter say the same about most members of the U.S. House. As is almost always the case, voters are more inclined to believe the U.S. representative from their own district should be returned to Congress, with 55% holding that view. …

In January of prior incumbent reelection years, Gallup asked whether former Presidents Donald Trump, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush deserved reelection. The same question was asked about George W. Bush (October 2003) and Barack Obama (December 2011) late in the years before they sought reelection.

Of these, the younger Bush (who won reelection) had the highest reelect figure, at 53%, while two incumbents who lost, Trump at 50% and the elder Bush at 49%, scored just below. Although Biden’s current rating ranks lowest among the readings for the past six presidents, his 38% is most similar to Clinton’s 44% and Obama’s 43%, both of whom won a second term.

As I commented briefly last night, 38% is not similar to either 44% or 43%; it’s worse. I didn’t mention that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had other things going for them, too — a good reserve of personal likability. Biden trashed that in August 2021 with his despicable abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan and his miserable demagoguery ever since.

Don’t believe me? FiveThirtyEight has the aggregate data on Biden’s favorability scores, and they’re atrocious. The graph lines crossed over into unfavorability immediately after the Afghanistan bug-out and Biden’s personal standing has never recovered. At the moment, Biden’s at 39/55 on favorability, and he’s running well below every single one of his predecessors at the same stage of his presidency. Clinton may have had a 44% re-elect number at this stage but he had a 49% favorability rating; Obama had a 48% rating.

And, of course, the polls show Biden trailing Donald Trump at the moment too, albeit by less than two points in the RCP aggregate.

What Biden needs is another big burst of enthusiasm from South Carolina to shake up perceptions of his presidency and campaign. As NBC News reports, Democrats ignored Iowa and New Hampshire to make the Palmetto State its official 2024 campaign launch just to make sure Biden gets the biggest boost possible:

Joe Biden’s glide path to the Democratic presidential nomination begins Saturday as South Carolina, the state that rescued his struggling campaign four years ago, kicks off the party’s official primary season.

Biden stands as the overwhelming favorite to win the South Carolina primary against comparatively weak opposition: U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota and Marianne Williamson, an author who ran unsuccessfully in 2020. Early voting in the state began on Jan. 22. Polls close 7 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Apart from the fundraising advantages that flow from incumbency, Biden is the favorite of South Carolina’s Democratic establishment, notably Rep. James Clyburn, a power in Congress and a leader in the Black community.

I noted Wednesday how hard Clyburn has been working to vault Biden’s standing in South Carolina. Notably, the White House has kept Kamala Harris out of it, though. According to that previous NBC News profile of Clyburn’s tireless efforts for Biden, the only contribution Harris has made is to high-five some University of South Carolina athletes at a women’s basketball practice. If they’re hiding Harris, the campaign must really believe that Biden needs an enthusiastic turnout today.

Will they get it? The weakness of the challenge plays against it; Biden isn’t threatened by Dean Phillips or Marianne Williamson, and everyone knows it. Some voters who might have engaged in a more competitive Democrat primary may prefer to wait for the GOP primary in three weeks, when they can cast a ballot for Nikki Haley or Donald Trump instead. (The lack of competitiveness in that contest might help Democrats today, though.) It’s tough to see how a deeply unpopular president who can barely speak for himself coherently in public any longer will generate anything near the level of participation and support he received four years ago.

Clyburn’s a master politician, but he ain’t a magician.

Polls close today at 7 pm ET, and again our partners at Decision Desk HQ will have the live numbers. You can expect the AP and other media outlets to call this at 7:02 pm ET, but that’s not the real question. How many people will bother to show support for a doddering incompetent incumbent? If it’s 350,000, Democrats will declare a moral victory. I’ll take the under. Let the games begin ….

Note: I’ll be tied up at church tonight, so I won’t update this until very late, if at all.

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