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Has Biden’s electoral coalition fractured?

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It’s not exactly breaking news that Joe Biden is historically unpopular, which is why a lot of Democrats from Manhattan to Malibu and everywhere in between just want him to wave goodbye and go home.

So it’s no big shock that the recent New York Times-Siena College poll has Donald Trump beating Biden in five of six key battleground states. Biden’s poll numbers are underwater for a whole bunch of reasons — inflation, the chaos on our southern border, crime, those lingering questions about the president’s frailty, both physical and mental. 

And then there’s Sen. Joe Manchin, who may join Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein running as third-party candidates, causing who-knows-what kind of turmoil. 

But it’s more than all of that. There’s another number in the poll that may not only sink Joe Biden’s chances of winning next year, but could jeopardize his party’s chances of winning the White House for many years to come.

It’s a number that, if it holds up, would be historic — historic enough to create a great big crack in the liberal coalition that Franklin D. Roosevelt forged nearly 100 years ago. 

According to the poll, 22 percent of Black voters in those battleground states say they’d vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden in next year’s presidential election. 22 percent may not sound like a lot, but it’s a number with huge implications.

“The drift in support is striking,” the Times reports, “given that Mr. Trump won just 8 percent of Black voters nationally in 2020 and 6 percent in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. A Republican presidential candidate has not won more than 12 percent of the Black vote in nearly half a century.”

Black voters in South Carolina brought Biden’s 2020 primary campaign back to life and propelled him to the nomination. And then Black voters nationwide remained overwhelmingly loyal to Biden and the Democratic Party in the general election, giving him 92 percent of their vote.

Polls, as the saying goes, are only a snapshot in time, and so what’s true today may not be true tomorrow, let alone a full year away. But the clock is ticking. As the Times reports, “if numbers like these held up across the country in November 2024, they would amount to a historic shift: No Democratic presidential candidate since the civil rights era has earned less than 80 percent of the Black vote.”

It’s too early to know if the potential defection of such a key piece of that coalition is a problem tied uniquely to Biden, a reflection of his overall low approval numbers or if it presents a problem for his party more broadly — one, as I say, that could keep Democrats out of the White House for a long time.

But the defection of Black voters (at least for now) isn’t the only crack in the party’s base that may soon have Democrats hitting the panic button and telling the president that, for the sake of his party, he has to drop out. There’s also the war in Gaza, which is creating even more fissures in the party’s coalition.

Because of his support for Israel, President Biden could lose Muslim votes, especially in Michigan, one of the key battleground states. He could lose progressive voters in general and young voters in particular — two more key components in the Democratic coalition. He might even lose support of another bloc that historically has voted (overwhelming) for Democratic presidents — Jewish voters, who believe that there are elements in the Democratic Party that are anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and even pro-Hamas.

On that very point, Dan Henninger didn’t beat around the bush in a recent Wall Street Journal column, writing, “The party of Franklin D. Roosevelt has an anti-Semitism problem.”

Democrats may be right when they say polls don’t matter a year before the election. And they can point to Democratic victories last Tuesday — and figure if they just run on abortion and against the MAGA GOP, Biden could win reelection.

But do they really want to gamble on Trump bailing them out, on his unpopularity leading independent voters to hold their noses and vote for Biden, as unpopular as he is, because anyone is better than Trump? Maybe, but it doesn’t take a political scientist to state the obvious: you never know what’s going to happen when you roll the dice.

Finally, there’s another number in the poll that tells us a lot about what Americans are thinking. 56 percent of registered voters in those six battleground states have either a somewhat or very unfavorable view of Joe Biden. As for Donald Trump: He comes in with a 57 percent unfavorable number.

So if it’s a Trump vs. Biden rematch, the only thing we know with some certainty is that voters wish they’d both just go away.

There’s a name for that. It’s called wishful thinking.

Bernard Goldberg is an Emmy and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University award-winning writer and journalist. He was a correspondent with HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” for 22 years and previously worked as a reporter for CBS News and as an analyst for Fox News. He is the author of five books and publishes exclusive weekly columns, audio commentaries and Q&As on his Substack page. Follow him @BernardGoldberg.

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