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Support For Both Biden And Trump Fell In Oct. — A Blip, Or Opening For Challengers? I&I/TIPP Poll

Will activist, author and lawyer RFK Jr. be the spoiler in 2024 as a third party candidate?

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Photo: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, via Wikimedia Commons

The 2024 election has seemed to be a preordained outcome, with current President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump holding substantial leads in their respective parties. But in October’s I&I/TIPP Poll, both major candidates’ support slipped a bit against their challengers. A one-off fluke, or the start of a trend?

The most recent online I&I/TIPP Poll, taken Sept. 27-29 from 1,262 registered voters, saw slippage for both candidates, though neither will yet be pushing the panic button. The overall poll has a margin of error of +/-2.8 percentage points.

After several months of steady support among Democrats for the party’s presidential nomination, Biden saw his support fall to 34% in October after edging higher from 36% in July and 37% in August to 38% in September.

Since the margin of error for the 560 Democrats surveyed for the poll was +/-4.2 percentage points, Biden’s October support remains within the margin of error when compared to the previous month’s 34% reading.

That said, Biden’s support fell in October. Meanwhile, backing for several of his possible opponents (or, perhaps, replacements if Biden bows out), gained a bit during the month. Biden’s No. 2 rival, former First Lady Michelle Obama, got 11% of Democrats’ support, up from 9% in September, and support for current Vice President Kamala Harris, rose to 8% from 7%. Socialist gadfly and sometime-Democrat candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders took 7% of support in October, also up a percent from September.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has made news recently by vetoing several laws from the state’s far-left Legislature, saw his support rise from 4% in September to 5% in October.

But perhaps of greater concern to Biden’s political advisers is that he runs very weak among some large constituencies: Women (31% support) vs. men (36%), blacks and Hispanics (29% support) vs. whites (38%), and independents (29%) vs. registered Democrats (36%).

Significantly, no single major demographic or political group gives Biden more than 50% support. He could be in a precarious position, especially from an aggressive intra-party challenger among the Democrats, or from a third-party challenge that siphons votes from Biden.

In a three-way race, Biden reduced his lead over Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. from 58 points (68% to 10%) in September to 51 points (65% to 14%) in the current poll.

With regard to the latter, it’s notable that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. seems ready to announce a third-party run for the presidency, which the conservative American Spectator recently called “The Story Of The Year.”

While RFK Jr. has caught on with the media and even among some conservatives for his anti-vaccine stance and staunch rhetoric favoring free speech, he hasn’t caught fire with the Democratic Party as a whole.

Despite glowing media writeups, his Democratic support hasn’t budged, remaining at 4% since June. Based on Kennedy’s recent comments, he apparently believes his presence as a third-party candidate will in fact hurt Trump more than Biden, and thus his third-party effort could save the Democrats.

And this doesn’t even include Biden’s difficulty explaining his apparent blatant corruption while in office, which could lead to a bruising impeachment battle next year that further weakens or even destroys his candidacy, much as happened to Richard M. Nixon.

Who could then take the reins of the party and run? Obama? Harris? Sanders? Newsom? It’s hard to say. Democrat Jimmy Carter, the nation’s 39th president, started his run for the presidency as the virtually unknown governor of Georgia in 1974. But with the Watergate scandal still burning, he was able to beat then-President Gerald Ford as an outsider.

And polls show that, in a head-to-head matchup, Biden is now trailing Trump by a significant amount. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Trump with a 51-42 lead over Biden among all voters.

“President Joe Biden’s job approval rating is 19 points underwater, his ratings for handling the economy and immigration are at career lows,” ABC News summed up. “A record number of Americans say they’ve become worse off under his presidency, three-quarters say he’s too old for another term and Donald Trump is looking better in retrospect — all severe challenges for Biden in his reelection campaign ahead.”

And what about Trump himself? With four indictments, lawsuits and near-nonstop accusations of other misconduct, can he still beat the rest of the Republican field to face Biden or his replacement in November 2024?

With 54% of GOP support in October, down from 60% last month, Trump still maintains a 41 percentage-point lead over his main rival Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, whose 13% reading in October was up from 11% the month before, but still below his recent high of 14% in July.

None of the remaining likely challengers appear to have significant momentum, at least now. Brainy author and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy garners 7%, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley takes 6% and Trump’s former Vice President Mike Pence gets 5%.

A handful of others, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former Texas Rep. William Hurd, current North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, and conservative political commentator and radio personality Larry Elder all get 3% or less. “Not sure” receives 8%.

Despite his fall from 60% in September to 54% in the latest poll, 56% of Republicans see Trump as having the best chance to beat Biden in 2024. His electability last month was also 56%.

So Trump is still way ahead, and seems safe from challengers. At least for now. Let him be imprisoned for any of the alleged crimes that he’s charged with, and there might well be a different story. Still, Trump is far and away the best hope the GOP has.

Some are imploring the also-rans to exit the Republican race. “Time For Every GOP Candidate Not Named Trump or DeSantis to Drop Out,” a recent headline in American Greatness urged. But, a competing headline in Newsweek warns, “Republicans Start to Panic About Trump’s Chances Against RFK Jr.”

What about Biden vs. Trump? If the election were held today, in a head-to-head match-up, both Trump and Biden tie at 42%, with others getting 5%. 11% were not sure.

One thing’s for sure, as the I&I/TIPP Poll shows: It’s still most likely to come down to Biden and Trump, barring Biden’s impeachment or Trump’s imprisonment. Even after October’s dip in support for Biden and Trump, the numbers for the current challengers to win just aren’t there.

I&I/TIPP publishes timely, unique, and informative data each month on topics of public interest. TIPP’s reputation for polling excellence comes from being the most accurate pollster for the past five presidential elections.

Terry Jones is an editor of Issues & Insights. His four decades of journalism experience include serving as national issues editor, economics editor, and editorial page editor for Investor’s Business Daily.

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