(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden has a yawning early lead in FiveThirtyEight’s new Democratic presidential primary polling average as he ramps up his reelection campaign.
As of Thursday, the new average shows Biden with 65.5% support nationally and controversial environmental advocate and attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. trailing at a distant 14.2%, despite extensive media attention and more than $6 million in donations so far.
Marianne Williamson, a bestselling author and speaker whose campaign is being run by a revolving door of strategists on a shoestring budget, according to financial filings, is not included in the average as she does not meet FiveThirtyEight’s criteria to be a major candidate.
Some of the polls included in the new average show Williamson drawing support in the low single digits.
The average underscores the challenges for Kennedy with Democratic voters even as he boasts membership in one of America’s most famous political dynasties. His bid for the White House has also cast a new spotlight on his history of spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation on public health issues.
Kennedy, whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this story, has defended his odds.
“I’m up against a very, very formidable force — the Democratic Party,” he said earlier this week. “But I also think that I have a lot of paths to victory.”
Williamson, whose campaign also didn’t respond to a request, has likewise contended her chances aren’t so easily dismissed.
“American politics is very, very unpredictable,” she previously told ABC News, casting her lack of political expertise as an asset.
“The problem is not that we don’t have good political car mechanics in Washington,” she said then. “The problem is that we are on the wrong road. And that’s what I know about.”
Biden wields significant advantages of his own, including the trappings of the White House, the full-throated support of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the lack of a primary rival who falls within the Democratic mainstream, with a source familiar with Biden’s campaign telling ABC News there is “zero doubt” from campaign officials or the DNC that Biden will be the nominee of the Democratic Party.
“President Biden and Vice President [Kamala] Harris are running on the best legislative record in modern history delivering for the American people, and they are heartened by the unprecedented unity across the Democratic Party in support of their campaign,” boasted TJ Ducklo, a senior adviser for communications on the Biden campaign.
“In 2020, they assembled a broad and diverse coalition that resulted in the most votes in American history for a presidential ticket. And, coming off of the best midterm for a sitting president since FDR, they will do it again in 2024 and prevail over the MAGA extremist agenda that seeks to rip away basic freedoms from Americans across every state,” Ducklo said.
Biden’s main advantage is that of incumbency, which helps him work directly with the DNC and largely clear the field of mainstream primary opponents.
In a sign of the party support behind him, the DNC is not anticipated to hold any primary debates — irking some activists but sparking few complaints from party members.
That type of tight-knit cooperation is not unique to Biden or even to Democrats: The Republican National Committee held no primary debates in 2020, and many states canceled their nominating contests to smooth the path for then-President Donald Trump.
On top of that, allies note, Biden has the ability to use Air Force One to bounce around the campaign trail and he can roll out policies — including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and funding for microchip manufacturing — from the White House.
“Biden and Harris are running on a strong record and core values that are not only strong, but also given the contrast, it’s not surprising to see such a sizable lead,” said Karen Finney, a former DNC official and Democratic strategist close to the White House.
At the same time, Biden is somewhat constrained by his status as the leader of the Democratic Party in a way that Kennedy and Williamson aren’t, observers say.
The latter two are more free to campaign in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary amid a shake-up over the Democrats’ larger primary calendar, as party officials seek to prioritize other states like South Carolina. That could mean either Kennedy or Williamson may technically win in Iowa or New Hampshire over Biden, if Biden avoids campaigning there out of deference to the DNC — a potentially stinging but only symbolic loss.
The White House and Biden’s campaign have so far steered clear of taking the two on directly, opting instead to focus on governing and preparing for the general election.
“I think the way the White House is handling it is correct. He [Kennedy] is so far out there that no Democratic voters are listening to him, and he is just basically doing MAGA podcasts,” said Democratic strategist Eddie Vale, referencing Kennedy’s penchant for appearing on conservative-leaning platforms along with mainstream media appearances.
When it comes to debates, Vale said he’d only be supportive of having them if the primary was “a close call, or debatable if a primary is competitive or not.”
“But no one is served by having a debate” with Kennedy or Williamson, he said.
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