After a few days of bad polling news for the president, his party had a pretty good night in the “off-year” elections on Tuesday.
After a couple of news cycles that were dominated by very bad polling news for President Biden — including a much-cited New York Times/Siena College poll that showed Biden behind in most major swing states — voters went to the actual polls on Tuesday, and it was a great night for the president’s party.
A Democratic governor, Andy Beshear, was re-elected in the deep-red state of Kentucky, defeating Republican rising star and Trump endorsee Daniel Cameron. Democrats re-captured both houses of the state legislature in Virginia. In addition, voters in the increasingly red state of Ohio voted to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. Overall, per an ABC News analysis, the abortion issue continues to have major salience for voters post-Dobbs, in a way that helps Democrats.
The Virginia result was a setback for Gov. Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who was elected two years ago in what was seen as part of an early backlash to the Biden presidency. Youngkin has also occasionally been mentioned as a possible last-minute presidential contender, but has stated in recent months that he was focused on Virginia and the midterm race.
Meanwhile, Democrats gained state legislative seats in New Jersey, two years after Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy was nearly defeated for re-election. It doesn’t appear voters were in the mood to punish the party for the corruption indictments against Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who has refused calls to resign or abandon his re-election bid.
Republicans did enjoy some wins, including the re-election of Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves over a Democrat who happened to be a cousin of Mississippi native Elvis Presley.
“Going into 2024, the energy is still on Democrats’ side. As long as Republicans embrace unpopular abortion stances and run extreme candidates, they will continue to under-perform. Fortunately for Democrats, the GOP seems unwilling to course correct,” Democratic strategist Lis Smith told ABC News.
The Democrats’ successful night came in spite of recent polling that shows the president unpopular, with his advanced age a concern for voters of both parties.
“Tuesday’s positive results for Democrats seem to fly in the face of recent public polling showing major issues for Biden, the leader of his party, raising concerns that he could be an anchor at the top of the ballot next year,” the ABC analysis said. “However, Democrats have consistently performed well in non-presidential elections since he took office, including during last year’s midterms and several specials this year.”
The presidential election is still nearly a year away, and there are constant variables still to be determined, including the primary seasons themselves, and whether each of the frontrunners — the two oldest presidents in the nation’s history — can actually make it to the finish line. The state of the economy, as well as the status of Trump’s criminal proceedings, also seem likely to play a big role in the outcome of the 2024 race.
“Across the country tonight, democracy won and MAGA lost,” the president said Tuesday night on X, the former Twitter. “Voters vote. Polls don’t. Now let’s go win next year.”
An email to the Biden campaign’s mailing list Wednesday morning kept up that theme, along with the president’s campaign’s references to “MAGA extremism.”
“Over the last few days, we have seen the pundit class breathlessly making prediction after prediction about November 2024 based on polling. Take a step outside the beltway, though, and you’ll see that the best measure of how voters feel is how they are actually voting,” the email, from campaign communications director Michael Tyler, said.
“Yesterday, voters across the country overwhelmingly proved the pollsters and pundits wrong once again and turned out to reject the MAGA extremism that has come to define today’s Republican Party.”
Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.