Republicans Debate but Biden Leads

While Wednesday night’s Republican presidential debate featured a livelier discussion than many expected, a new national poll continues to find that President Joe Biden leads his Republican opposition despite a majority believing he is unfit for the job.

The GOP candidates sans Donald Trump gathered in Milwaukee, debating in the very arena that will host the 2024 Republican National Convention. Post-debate analysis seemed to indicate that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy performed best.

Perhaps the evening’s biggest surprise was who the other candidates attacked and who stood above the fray. Mr. Ramaswamy, moving up in the polls to the point where most Republican ballot tests see him in third place if not second, was the participant the others routinely targeted. The harshest attacks came from former Vice President Mike Pence and ex-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley about his inexperience in the political arena and lack of foreign affairs knowledge, respectively.

While pre-debate predictions suggested that Gov. DeSantis would be under heavy attack, no one launched any verbal assault in his direction.

Yesterday, a new YouGov survey for the Economist publication was released. The international online pollster regularly polls for the Economist, featuring long and largely issue-based questionnaires.

This particular survey (8/19-22; 1,500 US adults; 1,309 registered voters; online) again produces a familiar response pattern. President Biden scores poorly, but still leads the tested Republicans in general election ballot tests.

Overall, the Biden job approval ratio is 41:54% favorable to unfavorable. Pertaining to isolated issues, the President fails to score in positive territory on any tested question.

He records a 40:51% positive to negative ratios on jobs and the economy; 31:58% on immigration; 38:49% for his handling of foreign policy; 41:47% concerning national security; 40:45% in relation to education; 33:52% on crime; 32:49% about criminal justice reform; and 33:59% regarding inflation.

Yet, turning to a straight ballot test question when individually paired with former President Trump and Gov. DeSantis, the respondents still favor Mr. Biden for re-election.

In a YouGov national survey conducted just before the one analyzed above (8/17-21; 1,665 US adults; 1,115 registered voters; online) the President scores a 47-41% split opposite Mr. Trump and posts a 45-40% lead over Gov. DeSantis.

This is consistent with the aforementioned survey that finds 44% of those respondents saying they would vote for the Democratic candidate and 40% for the eventual Republican nominee. On the generic congressional vote, the results are similar with 45% choosing the Democratic congressional candidate while 42% would support the Republican.

The presidential ballot test numbers are somewhat astonishing in that just 50% of questioned Democrats and Independents say they want to see President Biden renominated and only 26% of the entire polling sample believes Mr. Biden is “fit to serve another term as president.”

Furthermore, of those who feel the President is unfit for another four year term, 34.4% say he is “incompetent,” 27.6% believe he is “too old,” and 20.7% label him as “corrupt.”

Yet, with these negative impressions, a strong majority of Democrats and Independents (69%) would vote to renominate him in the party primary, and he records an average 5.5 percentage point edge over the two leading Republican nomination candidates.

These numbers, which are consistent when perusing various polls, suggest that the Republicans must develop a more compelling message if they hope to overcome the President’s current re-election advantage. This, despite majorities from the representative samples expressing negative opinions of the current incumbent’s performance.

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