Democrats express deep anxiety as polls show Biden trailing Trump

White House officials on Sunday dismissed weekend polls that showed President Biden trailing former President Donald J. Trump, even as Democrats said they were increasingly worried about Mr. Biden’s chances in 2024.

The new poll from The New York Times and Siena College found Mr. Biden losing in a one-to-one race with former President Donald J. Trump in five key states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Mr. Biden leads by two percentage points in Wisconsin.

While the poll is worrying for the president, Mr Biden still has a year to campaign, his team stressed on Sunday. They noted that polls have historically failed to predict the results of elections when conducted a year in advance.

“Gallup predicted an eight-point loss for President Obama only to win easily a year later,” said Kevin Munoz, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign. “We’re going to win 2024 by putting our heads down and getting the job done, not by worrying about a vote.”

But the poll results, and other recent surveys showing similar results, are prompting public statements of doubt from Democrats.

David Axelrod, a Democratic strategist who has raised concerns about Mr. Biden in the past, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the new poll “will send shivers of doubt” into the party.

“Only @JoeBiden can make that decision,” Axelrod wrote, referring to whether the president would drop out of the race. “If he continues to be a candidate, he will be the candidate of the Democratic Party. What he must decide is whether this is wise. if it is in HIS interest or the country’s?’

In an interview, Mr. Axelrod said he believed Mr. Biden, 80, had accomplished a lot in the past three years but was rapidly losing support, largely because of concern about how his age was affecting his performance.

“Give me his record and cut 10 to 15 years off, I’d be really confident,” Mr. Axelrod said. “People judge him on his public performance. This is what people see. That’s where the corrosion was. It lends itself to Republican messaging.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he was concerned “before these polls.”

“And I’m worried now,” he said.

“These presidential races the last two terms have been very tight,” he said. “No one is going to have an election here. It will take a lot of hard work, concentration, resources.”

Donna Brazile, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a supporter of Mr. Biden, said, “don’t count Joe Biden out” on ABC’s “This Week.” But he added that Democrats should heed the Times polls.

“I would say a wake-up call once again to remind Democrats that they need to get back out there, pull together the coalition that allowed Joe Biden to break new ground in 2020, especially in Arizona and Georgia, but more importantly to bring support to this coalition,” he said. “Without that coalition, it’s going to be a very, very difficult fight.”

Mr. Munoz declined to comment on the details of the Times/Siena poll.

Julie Chávez Rodríguez, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, said in a memo released Friday — before the Times poll was released — that it would be “crucial” for Mr. Biden to show strength among key parts of his coalition. in order to win.

The weekend poll results, including a 10-point deficit behind Mr. Trump in Nevada, strike at the heart of the argument the president’s campaign advisers have been making for a year: that voters will support Mr. Biden once they are presented with a clear choice between it and its predecessor.

In her memo, Ms. Rodriguez said that “voters will choose between the extremism, divisiveness and incompetence displayed by extreme MAGA Republicans — and President Biden’s record of accomplishment.

“The American people are on our side when it comes to this choice,” he wrote.

Times polls gave voters that choice, and many of them, including Democrats, said they would choose Mr. Trump if the election were held today.

Already, there have been signs that the campaign is trying to address the vulnerabilities shown in the poll among young, black and Hispanic voters.

Last month, the campaign quietly launched two pilots aimed at boosting support among Democrats in two key swing states, Arizona and Wisconsin. In each state, the campaign has hired 12 full-time staff members to test their assumptions about how Mr. Biden is viewed by certain groups and what he needs to do to win their votes.

In Arizona, new staff members in two offices in Maricopa County will focus on Latino and female voters in that state. In Wisconsin, staff members will work from an office in Milwaukee to evaluate the president’s message to black and young voters in the state.

Campaign officials say the idea is to use the next few months to test new ways to reach those voters. These include the use of “micro-instituents” popular on social media platforms and “relational” campaigning, in which the campaign reaches voters through their network of friends rather than through impersonal advertisements.

One of the central arguments of the Biden campaign is the belief that polls taken now, by definition, do not take into account the strong campaign that will unfold over the next year.

Mr. Biden has already built a major war campaign. The president and Vice President Kamala Harris have $91 million in cash and are expected to raise hundreds of millions more to use during the general election campaign that begins in earnest next summer.

Aides to the president’s campaign say they are confident the polls will swing in Mr. Biden’s direction once that money is used to attack Trump (or another Republican if Mr. Trump loses the nomination) and reach voters.

This is similar to the argument Mr. Axelrod made in September 2011, when Mr. Obama was trailing badly in the polls.

“The president remains ahead or deadlocked with Republican candidates in battleground states that will decide the 2012 election.” Mr. Axelrod said then. “And ultimately it’s in those battleground states where voters will choose, 14 months from now, between two candidates, their records and their visions for the country.”

But Mr. Axelrod said he believes Biden is further behind now than his 2011 running mate.

He said he believed Mr. Biden would continue to run for re-election and likely end up facing Mr. Trump again next year. He urged Mr. Biden and those around him to begin attacking Mr. Trump politically to make it clearer what a Trump victory in 2024 would mean for the country.

That kind of “competitive context” is more important now, Mr. Axelrod said, than trying to tell people about Mr. Biden’s accomplishments.

“I think he will run,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I think he will be the candidate. If so, they need to throw the whole campaign into a very, very tough competitive context very quickly.”

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