Alarmed Democrats flee Biden’s ailing brand in battleground states

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Vulnerable Senate Democrats are distancing themselves from President Biden’s ailing brand after polls show him trailing former President Trump in several battleground states.

Democrats in tough races are breaking with Biden over border security, liquified natural gas exports, the Israel-Hamas war and tariffs on Chinese goods.

They’re staying competitive in the polls despite Biden’s low approval ratings and lagging position relative to Trump, but they are worried the president’s political brand will start weighing them down as Election Day nears.

“If you go out there and do a focus group, the focus groups all say, ‘He’s 200 years old. You got to be kidding me.’ And the worst part about it is for unaffiliated voters or people that haven’t made up their mind, they look at this and say: ‘You have to be kidding us. These are our choices?’ And they indict us for not taking it seriously,” said a Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the alarm sparked by Biden’s weak poll numbers in battleground states.

Polls have shown that 40 percent of registered voters in battleground states were not too satisfied or not at all satisfied with the candidates in the presidential election.

The senator said Democratic colleagues “know this is a problem” but also realize it’s too late to do anything about it and that “this is the ticket we have to get behind and we have to win with this ticket.”

“We’ll see how much gravity we can defy,” the lawmaker said of senators in tough races who are polling better than Biden.

A second Democratic senator, when asked about Biden’s poll numbers, said the president’s age is a persistent concern among voters.

“Biden’s showing his age in ways weirdly more than Trump,” said the senator, who noted that Trump, 77, is only four years younger than Biden, 81.

“People keep saying, ‘Why didn’t he take a pass, he’s just so tired?’” the senator said of constituents who are baffled over Biden’s decision to run for a second term. “That is such a prevalent feeling.”

Biden sometimes appears to walk stiffly or with a shuffling gait, which Republican-aligned critics love to point out in social media posts.

The lawmaker also cited the high costs of basic goods and services as another political headwind facing Biden.

“People are shocked at the cost of a house and the cost of drugs,” said the senator, who pointed out a can of midgrade paint now costs $55 a gallon.

A New York Times/Siena College poll of 4,097 registered voters across six battleground states found Biden trailing Trump in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania and tied with him in Wisconsin.

The same poll, however, showed Democratic Senate candidates leading their likely Republican opponents in four states — Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Rosen emphasizes her independence

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who is narrowly leading Republican opponent Sam Brown, 40 percent to 38 percent, has sought to separate herself from Biden, who is losing to Trump by double digits in the Silver State.

She broke with Biden over his decision to withhold bombs from Israel to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to call off an invasion of Rafah.

Rosen called for the White House to provide Israel with “the unconditional security assistance it needs to defend itself,” telling Jewish Insider “the administration should not do anything that undermines Israel’s ability to defeat Hamas.”

Asked about Biden’s 33 percent approval rating and other poor poll numbers in Nevada, Rosen emphasized her independence and record of working with Republicans.

“For the third year in a row, I’m in the top 10 most bipartisan senators out of all 100. I’m the top three most independent Democratic senators out of now 51, and in the top 10 most effective Democrats. So people in my state know me. They know what we’ve been doing for Nevada. We’re going to continue to let them know,” she said.

“Some of it I’ve agreed with the president, not afraid to stand up to him when it’s not right for Nevada,” she said of her work in Washington.

She downplayed Biden’s poll numbers as “just a snapshot in time.”

Casey splits on some issues

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is running for reelection in Pennsylvania, where Biden is polling behind Trump 36 percent to 40 percent in the New York Times/Siena College survey, has split with Biden on liquified natural gas (LNG) exports and holding up arms to Israel.

“There are numerous occasions where I don’t agree with administration policy. LNG is the most recent example as well as the decision [Biden] made about arms transfer to Israel,” he said.

“Polling across the board at this stage is of limited value,” he insisted.

Casey’s work to distance himself from Biden on key issues appears to be paying off. Polls show him currently leading hedge fund CEO and Republican candidate David McCormick 46 percent to 41 percent.

A majority of voters in Pennsylvania — 54 percent — said they trust Trump to do a better job of handling the economy, while 42 percent trust Biden more.

And more Pennsylvania voters — 47 percent — said they think Trump would better handle the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians than those who trust Biden more on that issue — 42 percent.

“I’ve got to work every day to earn every vote, and that’s true of every candidate. I think in the end the president will carry Pennsylvania, and I think I will too,” Casey said.

Montana and Ohio are tough states for Dems

Biden is a bigger political liability for the two most vulnerable Democratic incumbents running in Montana and Ohio, where Trump is ahead by big margins.

An Emerson College poll of 1,000 registered voters in Montana in March showed 56 percent preferred Trump and 35 percent backed Biden. A SurveyUSA poll of 549 likely Montana voters in February showed Trump leading Biden 51 percent to 29 percent.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who is running for reelection to a fourth term, said he’s running his own race and trusts his brand will play a lot better with Montana voters.

“Biden’s running his race, I’m running mine. I’ve got a good brand, people understand who I am, and we got to remind them who I am and what I’ve accomplished and what I intend to accomplish,” he said. “They really are separate races.”

Tester scored a major legislative victory in 2022 when he spearheaded the push to enact the PACT Act to expand health care eligibility for military veterans, over conservative Republican objections.

The new law has helped more than 4 million veterans get free screenings for toxic exposures and provided more than $1.85 billion in benefits.

“As with every president that’s come down the pipe, we’ve worked with them and we’ve opposed them. And it’s been the same thing with this one, and we do what’s best for Montana and rural America,” Tester said.

Tester has clashed with the Biden administration on several high-profile issues recently, notably the breakdown in security at the southern border.

The Montana senator vented his displeasure over the situation at the border and with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

He told Austin bluntly this month that what’s going on at the border is “not sustainable and it’s unacceptable.”

In a tense exchange last month, he told Mayorkas, “The administration needs to step up, you need to step up!”

Tester this month became the first Senate Democrat to co-sponsor the Laken Riley Act, legislation that has become a Republican rallying cry.

The bill, named after the 22-year-old nursing student whose alleged killer is a Venezuelan migrant, would require federal officials to apprehend and detain immigrants in the country illegally who commit crimes until they can be deported.

And Tester sponsored a resolution with Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to overturn the Biden administration’s decision to lift a ban on beef imports from Paraguay. It passed the Senate 70-25.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who faces a serious headwind because of Biden’s unpopularity in his home state, said Tuesday that Biden didn’t go far enough to protect American workers from cheap Chinese imports.

“While tariffs are needed to level the playing field for American workers, they are not enough to stop a flood of Chinese-government-subsidized products on their own. That’s why the administration must ban Chinese electric vehicles and use every possible tool to stop China’s cheating,” Brown said.

Trump is leading Biden in Ohio by an average of 10 points in recent polls.

Brown broke with Biden in May of last year when he announced he would cosponsor legislation to extend the emergency COVID-19 health policy known as Title 42, which former President Trump invoked to keep migrants from entering the country.

“We need more resources at the border,” he told reporters. “That means everything from military people at the border, police at the border, inspectors at the border, mental health professionals at the border to deal with this situation. It’s troubling.”

GOP signals confidence

Republicans say efforts by Senate Democrats to flee Biden’s brand won’t save them in November.

“President Biden’s favorabilities are the lowest of any president in 70 years. It’s a big problem for the Democrats. They know it,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (Mont.) said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is counting on his vulnerable colleagues running ahead of Biden by running on his accomplishments while dodging his personal negatives.

“If you look at the same polls, No. 1, all of the four battleground states they tested, every one of our Democrats was ahead, and that’s because our Democrats are great candidates. Every week they are implementing the great work we did in 2022, 2021, 2023,” he said when asked about Biden trailing Trump in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, all of which are Senate battlegrounds.

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