It happens every four years, as inevitable as death and taxes: the “silly season” of presidential politics. With 16 months until voters pick the next president and six months until the first Republican caucus, political reporters are grasping at stories that tell us little about what might happen in 2024 — and ignoring one of the best indicators about the current mood of the electorate.
First, there was the Robert F. Kennedy Jr. boomlet, pushed along by polls that showed the political neophyte winning up to 20% of the Democratic primary vote. What followed was a series of splashy profiles and a feeding frenzy so intense that political reporters were turned away from accompanying him to campaign events.
If political reporters want to give their audience a sense of what the electorate is thinking, they should point to this week’s special election in Wisconsin.
A month later, the bottom has fallen out. A recent poll of New Hampshire Democrats shows Kennedy with a favorability rate of 9% and unfavorability rate of 69%. Those are “Vladimir Putin in Ukraine” numbers.
Odd as it might seem, a candidate who praises Donald Trump, promotes insane conspiracy theories and takes positions more popular with Republicans is not faring well among rank-and-file Democratic voters.
Next came the usual Democratic hand-wringing over the incumbent president’s prospects for re-election. Why aren’t Biden’s polling numbers better? Why isn’t he getting credit for the strong economic recovery? According to a recent CNN report, “conversations keep happening — quiet whispers on the sidelines of events, texts, emails, furtive phone calls” with prospective Democratic candidates in case President Biden decides not to run for re-election.
The problems were “clear,” said CNN: Biden’s re-election effort lacks energy. In particular, “multiple big donors aren’t locking in” and “grassroots emails are sometimes bringing in just a few thousand dollars.”
Days later, the Biden team reported that the president had raised $72 million for the second quarter of 2023 — with $77 million in cash on hand. That total was more than double former President Trump’s fundraising haul for the same period. And, whatever you want to say about Biden, a new internet ad featuring an unexpected endorsement of his legislative accomplishments from House Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene su