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Is a Biden comeback quietly underway?

Is a Biden comeback quietly underway?

Unless you are deeply immersed in politics, you likely missed a major development over the last three weeks: Since his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden has seen a marked reversal of his fortunes. 

Indeed, since Biden addressed the nation in early March, polling shows that Biden is gaining ground, as former President Donald Trump now leads Biden by only one percentage point according to the RealClearPolitics polling average — Trump’s smallest lead since January.  

In the Quinnipiac poll released last week, Biden led by three points, 48 percent to 45 percent, bringing the total to 12 national polls showing Biden leading Trump since the SOTU, as Jessica Tarlov noted last week. 

Moreover, Biden’s bounce is being seen not only in national polls but also in the battleground states that will determine the winner. In Wisconsin, Biden now leads Trump (46 percent to 45 percent), a 5-point swing in Biden’s favor since February, per the latest Bloomberg/Morning Consult Swing State Tracking poll.  

In Pennsylvania Biden erased what was a 6-point lead for Trump in February, and the state is now tied at 45 percent apiece, according to the same poll. 

And in Michigan — a state that has been at the center of Democratic angst due to Biden’s support for Israel and the state’s large Arab population — Trump’s 2-point lead in February is now a tie (45 percent each) per Bloomberg/Morning Consult.  

Even Nevada, a state where Trump has dominated the polling — according to RealClearPolitics, Trump has led every poll since October — has slowly but steadily warmed up to Biden. In January, Trump’s lead was as high as 8 points (48 percent to 40 percent), and in February the former president still held a 6-point advantage in Bloomberg/Morning Consult’s poll.  

However, the latest survey shows Biden within the margin of error, trailing Trump by just 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent.  

To be clear, while polling represents how voters feel at a single point in time, the larger trend is clear: Biden’s numbers are improving, albeit slowly, while Trump’s are flat or declining, nationally and in individual swing states.  

In that same vein, Biden is seeing growing enthusiasm outside of the polls. In the 24 hours after the State of the Union speech, Biden took in $10 million in campaign donations, nearly one-third of the amount Trump’s campaign had on hand as of its latest Federal Election Commission filings.  

This was not a one-off. On Thursday, Biden held a fundraiser in New York City with former Presidents Obama and Clinton that raised another $25 million, adding to Biden's already massive cash advantage over his opponent.  

What’s behind Biden’s comeback? While there are a few possible factors, such as Trump spending more time in the courtroom than on the campaign trail trying to win over disaffected Nikki Haley voters while Biden visited five cities in the past week alone, where he made his case to voters.  

However, the main reason for Biden’s bounce is likely even simpler: Negative views on the economy are moderating, and as voters begin feeling better about the economy, it is logical that they would also feel better about the person leading the country. 

As noted in the latest CNBC All-America Economics Survey, one-quarter of registered voters now say the economy is “excellent” or “good,” up from just 19 percent in December and the highest reading since summer 2021. True, this is still a low number, but again, the trend is in Biden’s favor. 

To that end, since entering office, Biden has struggled to communicate just how strong the American economy has been under his administration, particularly our robust recovery from COVID-19 and related economic shocks, despite signs of a strong economy. 

The latest jobs report showed unemployment sitting at 3.9 percent, near historic lows. The stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, has hit 22 record highs this year and just completed its best first quarter since 2019.  

And inflation, which has been a thorn in Biden’s side virtually his entire presidency and remains a problem, has slowed down, with the latest overall personal consumption expenditure reading showing a 2.5 percent rise over the last 12 months — still higher than the Federal Reserve wants, but a significant decrease from February 2023’s 5.19 percent number.  

Most importantly, the latest personal consumption expenditure report has increased the chances that the Fed will lower interest rates in June, which would lower borrowing costs right before the election, and may further juice the stock market, which many Americans use as a visible sign of the strength — or weakness — of the overall economy.  

This is not to say that Biden will cruise into November’s election, nor is it guaranteed that Biden’s comeback is anything more than transitory, as Biden’s overall approval rating at 39 percent, per FiveThirtyEight, is higher only than former President Harry Truman at this point in their presidencies, even trailing Jimmy Carter by 4 points.  

Further, on a slew of other issues, voters resoundingly prefer Donald Trump, including immigration (Trump +48), crime (Trump +28) and inflation (Trump +27) according to CNBC. 

Rather, it is to say that if sentiment towards the economy continues improving, Biden will have removed one of the biggest obstacles to his reelection — the perception that he is bad for the economy and bad for people’s personal financial situation.  

While it remains to be seen whether these trends will continue in Biden’s direction, if they do, Biden may well be able to sustain his growing momentum and present an even more formidable challenge in November. 

Douglas E. Schoen and Carly Cooperman are pollsters and partners with the public opinion company Schoen Cooperman Research based in New York. They are co-authors of the book, “America: Unite or Die.” 

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