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Voices: Happy birthday, President Biden. Time to panic about your poll numbers

President Joe Biden serves service members and military families from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Gerald R. Ford during a Friendsgiving dinner event at the Norfolk Naval Station on November 19, 2023 in Norfolk, Virginia. (Getty Images)
President Joe Biden serves service members and military families from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Gerald R. Ford during a Friendsgiving dinner event at the Norfolk Naval Station on November 19, 2023 in Norfolk, Virginia. (Getty Images)

When Joe Biden won his first election in Delaware in 1972, he was still not old enough to be sworn in as he only turned 30 a few weeks later, making him the youngest US senator in recent memory.

On Monday, Mr Biden turned 81, solidifying his status as the oldest president in United States history. Democrats have been trying to delicately navigate Mr Biden’s age while his administration has tried to spin it as a positive given his years of experience, especially as he prepares to head into a rematch with former president Donald Trump next year.

At the same time, The New York Times reported that his White House team engaged in a “bubble wrap” strategy to make sure Mr Biden does not take any embarrassing tumbles that would signal his advanced age. Vice President Kamala Harris on a radio show earlier this month implored people to look at Mr Biden’s record “not his birth certificate.”

Tellingly, the White House has dispatched the vice president, an alum of Howard University, to tour historically Black colleges and universities despite Mr Biden’s longstanding ties to Black voters, given his problem with young voters.

Conversely, my colleague John Bowden spoke with former congressman Tim Ryan, who overperformed but still lost in his Senate campaign against JD Vance in Ohio last year, who argued that Democrats should ditch the president.

But while Mr Biden has accomplished plenty as president – signing a spree of Democratic priority bills last year and somehow avoiding too many draconian spending cuts given House Republicans’ inability to get their act together – his latest poll numbers should set off alarm bells.

Last week, we at Inside Washington broke down why Democrats should and should not worry about Mr Biden’s sagging poll numbers in a New York Times/Siena College survey that showed Mr Biden behind Mr Trump in the five major swing states that will decide 2024.

But the latest national poll from NBC News is different. The new survey shows Mr Biden has the lowest approval rating since the start of his presidency at 40 per cent. Voter disapproval has reached 57 per cent, a high since his presidency began. On top of that, 21 per cent of Democrats disapprove of his job performance.

Furthermore, the poll shows Mr Trump slightly beating Mr Biden in a head-to-head rematch with Mr Trump winning 46 per cent of the vote and Mr Biden winning 44 per cent of the vote. While still a close race, it shows how Mr Biden consistently lags behind Mr Trump.

But more alarmingly, Mr Biden seems to be risking his support among younger voters given his full-throated support for Israel in its war on Gaza ever since the 7 October terrorist attack from Hamas in Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to taking around 240 hostages.

The poll showed that 70 per cent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 disapprove of his handling of the war in Israel. Republican pollster Bill McInturff called the poll “stunning because of the impact the Israel-Hamas war is having on Biden.”

It should be noted that Mr Trump had a more hardline stance on Israel than Mr Biden, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, which led to Palestinian Authority Leader Mahmoud Abbas cursing the former president by saying “May your house be destroyed.”

Similarly, during the latest Republican presidential primary debate, almost all of the candidates called for Israel to go as far as it needed to go, with Gov Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who leads a state with a sizable Jewish population, saying Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should “finish the job.”

In the same vein, US support for Israel is one of the few refuges for bipartisanship in US politics. Any US president would likely take the same approach Mr Biden has. The bipartisan consensus has existed as long as Mr Biden has been a senator.

Nevertheless, he is still the president and voters hold him responsible for some of the most gruesome images from Gaza. Mr Biden has attempted to thread the needle on Israel. Over the weekend, he wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post, attempting to tie Russia’s aggression against Ukraine with Hamas’s aggression against Israel while at the same time supporting a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

But it’s unclear if these attempts to split the difference will resonate with younger voters, who are more ethnically diverse and include many more progressive voters.