November 2, 2021 - 1:20pm

Joe Biden was a popular President. Not anymore. In the jargon his approval ratings are now “underwater” — meaning that more people disapprove than approve of his performance. 

After the chaos in Afghanistan, the supply chain crisis and his own visible frailty, it’s not surprising that his numbers have taken a hit. However, what does stand out from recent polling is that the biggest fall in support is among the youngest voters. As recently as June, 18-to-24-year-olds gave Biden the highest ratings of any group, but now it’s the lowest. 

It’s not that younger voters are showing any signs of voting Republican. Rather, the big threat to the Dems is turnout. In a report for NCBLX, Noah Pransky looks at the evidence that this is already affecting actual election — in particular the recent recall election in California:

…even though overall turnout for the recall election was down 28% from 2020’s presidential race, the drop-off among voters under 30 (48%) was four times higher than the drop-off among voters over 60 (12%).
- Noah Pransky, NCBLX

Of course, the result of the California vote wasn’t even close. However, in the crucial mid-term elections next year a lot of the contests will be much tighter. The Democrats could lose control of both Houses of Congress. 

If that happens, the Biden Presidency will be dead in the water. Unless his personal ratings stage a miraculous recovery, the pressure on him not to run again in 2024 will become irresistible. Or at least it would do if it wasn’t for the unpopularity of his obvious successor — Vice President Kamala Harris.

She was unpopular when her boss was still popular, and she’s still unpopular now. According to The Times, she’s now rarely seen at his side. Whether she’s avoiding him or he’s avoiding her, I don’t know. What is clear is that the voters don’t like either of them. 

If the Democrats want to be re-elected in 2024, then it’s increasingly likely that they’ll need someone other than Biden or Harris. However, that would break with precedent. The last time that either the Democrats or the Republicans retained the White House without a sitting President or Vice President was 1928. 

Whether or not the Democrats stick with one or both halves of their existing ticket, the Republicans have got to fancy their chances. So who’s the fresh face they’re most likely to put up in 2024? Let’s take a quick look at the field… oh. 

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.