Biden wants you to buy ‘Bidenomics.’ Voters aren’t sure why

President Joe Biden speaks about his economic agenda at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, in Milwaukee.
President Joe Biden speaks about his economic agenda at the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, in Milwaukee. | Evan Vucci, Associated Press
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A version of this article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here. To submit a question to next week’s Friday Mailbag, email

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

3 things to know this week

  1. A jury ordered Donald Trump to pay $83.3 million in a defamation case against E. Jean Carroll, who says Trump sexually abused her. Last year, Carroll was awarded $5 million after a jury found Trump was liable for sexually abusing and defaming her. To date, Trump’s legal troubles have only helped his polling among Republicans — though a growing number of independents say they won’t support him in November if he’s convicted. More here.

  2. A leaked draft resolution, proposed by an RNC member, attempted to declare Trump the Republican nominee and effectively end the GOP primary. Nikki Haley quickly denounced it, vowing to stay in the race — and so did Trump, who tried to save face by saying he wants voters to decide. Haley says she sees a path to victory, but time is ticking. More here.

  3. Why are we so polarized? Ezra Klein explains how America gets out of this morass in the latest edition of Deseret Magazine. We should start by being mindful of how much attention we give to national news and politics, and if it overshadows our interest in what’s happening locally, to “recenter” ourselves. More here.

The Big Idea

‘Bidenomics’ is back, baby

For months now, President Joe Biden’s campaign has tried to sell voters on “Bidenomics.” If polls are any indication, it hasn’t worked. Less than 30% of Americans say economic conditions in the U.S. are “excellent” or “good.” Biden’s approval rating sunk below 40% last week. And in a hypothetical November rematch with Trump, who faces over 90 criminal charges, Biden trails by 1 to 6 percentage points.

Economists and pollsters alike are trying to figure out why. On the one hand, Americans’ actions don’t match their outlooks. The vast majority of U.S. adults say the economy is bad, but they are spending, vacationing and job-switching as if economic conditions are good — a paradox The New York Times called “The Great Disconnect.” By many measures, Biden’s economy is very strong: unemployment is as low as it’s been in decades; inflation is decreasing; job satisfaction is up.

But Americans don’t feel that way. Inflation is still pushing prices for everyday items — groceries and gas especially — higher than their pre-pandemic marks. Mortgage rates have skyrocketed over the past three years. High interest rates have pushed up the cost of a car loan. Thus, the futility of the Bidenomics pitch: as one liberal economist wrote, the Biden administration is “telling voters they should be happy when they are not.”

I’ve written about “grocery store voters” before. If early polls are any indication, the 2024 election may be decided not just by swing-state voters, but working class voters in a handful of swing states. Ruy Teixeira has a smart take on this. (Reading the whole thing is well worth your time.) But this quote from Roger Lowenstein is particularly interesting:

The typical household’s living standard improved during the three Trump years before the pandemic. Under President Biden, Americans have (at best) struggled to keep even with inflation. … (I)t is one thing to loathe Mr. Trump and hope for his defeat. It is another to wish away his successes or, as has become common, to ascribe his popularity to voter prejudices or weaknesses of character. The leitmotif in such arguments is that blue voters are rational political actors voting on merit while Trump is appealing primarily, if not exclusively, to irrational semi-citizens devoid of even self-interested calculation.

If Biden chooses to pivot the race to focus on abortion, he has to make Trump and his ilk out to be women-haters. If it’s about democracy, he has to pitch Trump as an insurrectionist. But if Biden makes the race about the economy, he has to make the case that Americans are better off financially in Biden’s America than in Trump’s.

The Biden campaign seems to slowly realize this. A new report from Politico this week suggests a new take on the Bidenomics pitch: instead of pushing inflation and unemployment, Biden is taking Trump to task on his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. As March’s State of the Union approaches, Politico’s Adam Cancryn reports White House officials are teeing up a referendum of Trump’s tax cuts as a central theme.

It’s presumably a stronger pitch to working-class voters — a “decidedly populist turn meant to overcome voters’ doubts about the state of the economy by moving the debate away from a referendum on Biden and into a choice between the two main parties,” Cancryn writes.

Will the strategy pay off? Only time will tell. But if current polling is any indication, American voters are blaming Biden for what they can’t afford — and Biden, in turn, can’t afford to sink any lower.

What I’m reading

Trump-Kennedy 2024? The New York Post reported over the weekend that Trump’s team reached out to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about a joint ticket. The Trump campaign quickly denied the reporting, saying they never, ever contacted RFK Jr. (and never, ever will). It would be an odd pairing — bedfellows in their joint love for disrupting political norms, but near-opposites on issues ranging from the environment to abortion. Donald Trump’s campaign says Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. won’t be his running mate pick (David Jackson, USA Today)

Biden won Georgia in 2020 thanks to a pair of high-profile Senate races and smart organizing by Stacey Abrams and others. But in 2024, polls show Biden trailing, and Democratic operatives in Georgia are fearful he could lose the swing state. Why Democrats’ Georgia Bright Spot Could Be Trouble in 2024 (Dan Merica and Amie Parnes, The Messenger)

Not to be a buzzkill, but the American news industry appears to be crumbling. The LA Times, Time and Sports Illustrated all went through massive layoffs last week, on the heels of a huge buyout among staff at The Washington Post. When these cataclysms occur every few years, the media responds with a series of obituaries for the industry and doomsday predictions. For my sanity, I tend to avoid them. But here is an interesting take from one of the industry’s top media writers, who asks the right question: Yes, journalism will survive; but how? The News Business Really Is Cratering (Jack Shafer, Politico)

One last thing — a reminder to follow our new On the Trail 2024 Instagram account!

Have a question for the next Friday mailbag? Drop me a line at

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.