Another new poll released Wednesday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has better news for Biden, where he’s statistically tied with Trump among likely 2024 voters. But “statistically tied” is a confounding result for diehard Democrats who can’t square that result with the fact that Trump is under felony indictment in four jurisdictions in the country, including right here in Georgia.
Elected Democrats, leaders and activists told me the Georgia poll results this week are no surprise. They, too, see the president struggling to galvanize the young, diverse coalition that helped him win three years ago. Whether it’s a public relations issue or a fundamental split among the coalition, all agree the Biden campaign has serious work to do.
“Right now, this minute, yes, I think he’s in trouble,” Kendra Cotton told me Tuesday. Cotton is the CEO of the New Georgia Project, which works with progressive grassroots activists to register and turn out the same people Biden needs to come out for him a year from now. But Cotton said poor White House messaging, along with Biden’s age, are dampening what should be an energized base.
“I’ll just talk about the elephant in the room — we’re hearing it at the doors that age really is a factor with folks,” she said.
Beyond being 80 years old, which Biden can’t change, Cotton urged the White House to take credit for programs she said are working for progressive voters. That’s doubly true in a Republican-dominated state like Georgia where statewide cheerleaders are few and far between.
“(Biden’s) administration is inarguably one of the most successful first-term administrations, policy-wise, that we’ve seen in a generation and that is irrefutable throughout history,” she said. “So what I’m saying is it’s a messaging problem, because nobody would know that.”
A New Georgia Project staff member recently texted her a picture of a local infrastructure project getting underway, with a homemade wooden sign posted next to it that read, “Thanks, Joseph Robinette Biden.” That’s something the White House should be doing itself, she said.
Where Cotton sees a messaging problem, others like state Rep. Ruwa Romman, a Democrat from Gwinnett, sees a substance problem for Biden, especially since the war in Gaza began.
Romman, 30, is the only Palestinian-American in the General Assembly. She said that she’s seen the war reveal tensions on the left that were simmering long before the conflict began.
“I have never seen a cratering of support for a party like this before and I’ve been doing this for 10 years,” she said of her decade in progressive politics. She described hearing a sense of betrayal among progressives for values they thought all Democrats shared, but didn’t see in the White House response to Palestinian casualties following Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza.
“When the president of the United States is questioning the death toll among Palestinians after people are posting about their own families dying, we have to ask, did he ever even care at all?”
That sense of betrayal has been exacerbated by Democrats in Washington, she said. “We can’t spend money on health care, but we have millions to spend on weapons?”
While she credits Biden with “keeping us from falling financially off a cliff” after COVID, “I don’t think they’ve adjusted to the reality that a majority of voters in 2024 will be Gen X, Millennial and Gen Z voters.”
Other Democrats say it’s too soon to know what Donald Trump’s real appeal will really be a year from now, if he wins the GOP nomination, and that a face-to-face match-up between Trump and Biden will bring out anti-Trump Georgians no matter their party.
“I think they’re taking it seriously, but I don’t think they think it’s final,” said a Democrat who works with the Biden campaign, but is not authorized to speak for the campaign. “But I think that they would have to at some point, draw real contrast with Trump” to pull ahead of the former president in polls
To that point, the president’s current ad buy in Georgia features a positive message about Biden’s success in bringing down the cost of some prescription drugs. Add a negative comparison to Trump and the former president’s numbers should drop, the Democrat said.
So you’re sleeping well at night? I asked. “No, not really.”
Republicans have their own perilous, well-documented internal split to deal with, too. But as the week’s polling shows, they’re not alone in struggling to unite their party behind their candidate, let alone Americans, with just one year until election day.