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Could Biden’s underwhelming lead against lesser primary foes open the door for others?

pIncumbent Joe Biden may still face a tougher-than-expected primary campaign before turning his attention to his Republican rivals.

So far, Biden has drawn two rivals within the party, self-help guru Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Neither is considered a serious threat, but they are getting a surprising amount of support in early polls.


“I’m not following this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told the Washington Examiner’s Christian Datoc when asked if Biden was upset or frustrated that Williamson had jumped in the race

He then politely declined the campaign.

“If I had a, what’s it called?, a little globe here, a crystal ball, I could tell you. A Magic 8 Ball, whatever, if I could feel its aura,” Jean-Pierre continued. “But I just don’t have anything to share about it.”

However, polls show Biden faces a tougher challenge than Jean-Pierre’s response suggests. An April 27 Emerson College poll found Biden with 70% support, Kennedy with 21% and Williamson with 8%.

By historical standards, these are exceptionally high numbers.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at an event where he announced his candidacy for president on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in Boston.

Josh Reynolds/AP

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton faced only token primary challengers, none of whom received more than 5.5% of the vote, and each of these presidents won a second term.

George HW Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter saw their primary challengers gain double-digit support, and all lost their re-election bids.

Biden should be bolstered by the fact that neither Kennedy nor Williamson have ever held elected office before, and voters may not be familiar with them.

“My guess is with Kennedy, they’re reacting to the name and I doubt they know much about him or his anti-vaccine crusade,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “They hear Robert. F. Kennedy, and all they can see is Bobby Kennedy. The more they get to know him, I predict the numbers will start to drop.”

On the other hand, if the little-known numbers can pull 30% support from Biden, that could signal an opening for a big-name challenger if he’s interested.

Biden’s approval ratings have been in the low 40s for more than a year, and the same Emerson poll found that only 37 percent of independents approved of the job he’s doing.

The president has alluded to his poll before. He often says in speeches, including at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative,” and for now, there is no serious alternative within of the Democratic Party.

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) might be the Democrat best positioned to try, and has targeted his red-state counterparts on several occasions. Last year, Newsom launched a billboard campaign in red states advertising abortion in California. In a series of tweets at the time, he called out Republican Govs. Kristi Noem (SD), Greg Abbott (TX), Mike DeWine (OH), Eric Holcomb (IN), Tate Reeves (MS), Henry McMaster (SC), and Kevin Stitt (OK) for their “restrictive” laws on the ‘abortion.

However, Newsom has repeatedly voiced his support for Biden’s 2024 campaign and offered his support to the incumbent president.

There has been some buzz about former First Lady Michelle Obama’s candidacy, though she has not yet responded to those overtures. Gov. JB Pritzker (D-IL) has also seen his name mentioned and could flex a lot of financial muscle, but he too has repeatedly denied interest in running.

“I don’t think there’s anybody who’s seriously considering running against Joe Biden because he’s done such a good job,” Pritzker said in March.

Polls have consistently shown that most voters don’t necessarily see it that way, with a recent NBC News poll finding that only 26% of respondents wanted a second term for Biden, compared to 70% who don’t . But in a hypothetical 2024 showdown, Biden narrowly leads former President Donald Trump 43 percent to 41 percent. So the president may be content to sit back for now and let Republicans grab the negative headlines.

Biden also seems willing to skip the primary debates, which is a common tactic for incumbents and something he shares with Trump.


Still, some are calling for a bigger challenge to Biden as the Democratic front-runner in 2024.

“I think people should try to think about the possibility that the left could benefit from a challenge to Biden even if the challenger doesn’t win the primary,” Bernie Sanders spokeswoman Briahna Joy Gray tweeted. on April 28. “But they will not win is not an argument against the value of a challenge.”

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