ROMANO: Biden’s weakness exposed

President Joe Biden would only garner 60 percent of Democratic Party and Democratic-leaning voters in the latest CNN-SSRS poll taken May 17 through May 20, with his main challenger, Robert Kennedy, Jr. garnering 20 percent. Marianne Williamson gets 8 percent.

Interestingly, among Biden voters, 42 percent say they “might change [their] mind about supporting Biden” during the primary, indicating that Kennedy and Williamson have significant upside potential in competing against Biden.

Most devastatingly, a gargantuan 37 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters said they would “probably not vote for him” (21 percent) or “definitely not vote for him” (16 percent). That’s up from 22 percent in Dec. 2022 who said they would “probably not vote for him” (16 percent) and “definitely not vote for him” (6 percent).

Overall, a whopping 57 percent of Americans in the same poll said they have an unfavorable view of Biden, underscoring the President’s continued weakness headed into 2024, where he might be squaring off against former President Donald Trump or Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, the two leaders in the GOP primary.

And with continued sticky inflation, regional bank failures, unemployment starting to tick upwards, continued chaos at the southern border and rising violent crime, overall economic and public safety concerns will certainly be at the forefront in 2024.

Plus, at 80 years old going on 81, Biden is not getting any younger, whose own frailty and lack of vigor as a candidate contribute to his perceived weakness. In an interview with Sirius XM’s Michael Smerconish, Kennedy predicted that Biden would not even bother competing against him in either Iowa or New Hampshire, states he lost in his 2020 bid.

The difference between 2020 and 2024, of course, is Biden is the President now, and so how the incumbent performs throughout the entire contest is both magnified and has serious ramifications for how the Democratic Party will perform overall when the election finally does come.

The most serious point of concern for Democrats must be with independents, who were included in the CNN poll, who have either already given up on Biden or would be open to another candidate.

For Republicans, that also creates a challenge and an opportunity, especially if Biden ultimately prevails against Kennedy and Williamson, to scoop up disaffected Democratic and independent voters in 2024, who were also instrumental in victories for Donald Trump in 2016, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and Richard Nixon in 1972.

To defeat an incumbent president is incredibly difficult. Usually, it takes a recession — see: Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and Donald Trump — or some other intervening factor. And it often requires exhibited weakness in a party’s nominating process. Hoover, Carter and H.W. Bush all had significant primary challenges. Trump didn’t, but Covid and the recession were enough for Biden to eke out a narrow victory by a scant 43,000 votes in Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona to win the Electoral College.

For Biden’s part, it appears he will have both a recession or at least a very weak economy — the inflation-adjusted Gross Domestic Product (GDP) slowed down to 1.3 percent growth annualized in the first quarter of 2023 — and a strong enough primary challenger that it makes general election voters think twice about whether Biden should continue, particularly, given his age, or if he should be defeated regardless of who the Republicans nominate.

There’s a moment of critical mass that can be achieved that largely determines the fate of incumbent presidents. Sometimes it’s close, as in 2020, and sometimes it’s a wipeout, such as 1980 and 1932.

All that said, as the incumbent, Biden would still be favored to win in 2024. For his part, the question is whether he can mobilize enough support in swing states to overcome what could be a strong Republican surge among independents. Time will tell, and for Biden, time may be running out.