It may be the hottest topic of conversation in American politics, but New Hampshire Democrats don’t want to talk about it.
Is Joe Biden too old to run for re-election in 2024? Is he too old to serve now?
Granite State voters have answered that question loud and clear. In an April New Hampshire Journal poll, 54 percent of respondents said they didn’t believe President Biden is “physically and mentally up to the job” if there is a crisis.
In the new UNH Survey Center poll, 65 percent said they don’t want Biden to run in 2024. More significantly, just 54 percent of self-identified Democrats want Biden on the ballot in two years, down from 74 percent a year ago.
That’s bad. But a jaw-dropping nine percent– as in “single digits” — of independent voters saying they want Biden back? That’s worse. In fact, that’s disastrous.
It is worth noting the voters most opposed to Biden running again are those who know something about the effects of aging. Voters over 65 are overwhelmingly opposed (70 percent) to another run by “Scranton Joe.”
Biden supporters point to the fact this same poll shows Biden would still beat Donald Trump in New Hampshire in a theoretical match-up, and by the same seven-point margin as in 2020. But Biden also loses to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) by a point.
New Hampshire voters have one more thing to say about Biden, and they have been saying it in poll after poll: He’s doing a terrible job as president right now.
When NHJournal’s poll in May found Biden’s disapproval rating at 57 percent, it looked like an outlier. But in the UNH poll, he was at 26 percent approve/56 percent disapprove.
So, that is what the people of New Hampshire are saying. What about their elected officials? What do the four Democrats who represent the Granite State in D.C. — and work with the Biden administration every day– have to say about Biden’s ability to lead? Whether he should run again and if they would support him?
NHJournal asked them, the entire delegation. Six times. Over the course of a week. And every time, the same answer: No comment.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, Rep. Chris Pappas, and the rest simply declined to respond to the question.
Which may be the most telling response of all.
NHJournal reached out to more than 20 Granite State Democrats, and only a handful would go on the record regarding Biden’s performance or fitness for office. As for another run, the recurring theme was that “it’s still early” — except, they weren’t talking about the time before the election. They were referring to Biden’s insistence that he will seek a second term.
“He can’t say anything else until after the midterms,” one Democratic insider told NHJournal. “And even then, what does he do, endorse Kamala? [Vice President Harris] Her polls are even worse.”
It’s true. In the latest UNH poll, just 23 percent approve of the job Harris is doing. Among independents, it’s 11 percent.
Other Granite State Democrats, on the other hand, were willing to offer Biden a few kind words.
Former Ambassador Terry Shumaker, a Biden booster going back to his 1988 presidential campaign, responded with a quote from Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Asked about his non-responsive response, Shumaker offered another historic quote: The infamous Chicago Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro (D-Manchester), another Biden backer, also reached back in history for his response. “I think President Reagan was right: ‘Do not hold his age against him. I will support President Biden.”
At age 77, Reagan was younger when he left the White House than Joe Biden was the day he was sworn in (78).
“I believe Joe Biden will run for reelection in 2024,” said longtime Granite State Democratic strategist Jim Demers. “I also think Donald Trump will, too. I like Biden’s odds against Trump (again). I have known Joe Biden for over 37 years. He’s a good decent man and I plan to support him again.”
The question remains: Why won’t Hassan or Rep. Annie Kuster say the same?
Instead, when asked recently if she would campaign with Biden, Hassan was careful not to actually say his name. “I would always welcome the president of the United States to New Hampshire.”
Pappas, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to use the “B” word. On Tuesday he tweeted: “I’ve been calling to suspend the gas tax for months. Yet the Biden Administration and House leadership continue to drag their feet.” (Biden has since announced his support for a gas tax holiday.)
The lack of enthusiasm for Biden is palpable and, given his poor performance in the 2020 Democratic primary, perhaps not surprising. Biden’s share of the primary vote only reached double-digits in one county: Coos, at 10.5 percent. When he came to Portsmouth in April, Biden spoke to a handful of Democratic die-hards in a nearly empty warehouse. He never appeared on stage with any Granite State Democratic candidate.
Contrast that to the warm welcome Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker received at the Democrats’ fundraising dinner last Saturday. Chairman Ray Buckley’s reaction was caught on a hot mic. “What the hell? I never expected that.”
“I think he should be our next president,” said Johnna Davis, co-chair of the Belknap County Democrats. “He’s got great energy. He’s perfect.”
Try to find a New Hampshire Democrat who will say that about Joe Biden today.