Biden team says election night wins show path to 2024 victory

U.S. President Joe Biden holds an event to sign an Executive Order related to Artificial Intelligence at the White House in Washington

By Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A sense of vindication swept through the White House and Biden campaign on Wednesday after Democrats' strong showing in off-year elections, despite a slew of recent polls showing U.S. President Joe Biden's popularity is low.

"Pollsters, pundits, if I had $1, for every time they've counted Joe Biden or the Democrats out, I probably wouldn't have to work anymore," Sam Cornale, executive director of the Democratic National Committee, told Reuters. Democrats "won time and again, and we will next November," he predicted.

Biden faced questions this week, including from some in his own Democratic Party, about the wisdom of his 2024 re-election bid after a series of weak polls. Some segments of the diverse Democratic coalition have lost faith in Biden, frustrated by his Israel stance, the lack of movement on climate change, or high prices.

A Sunday New York Times/Siena College poll showed Biden behind Republican frontrunner Donald Trump in five of six battleground states. Reuters/Ipsos polls show Biden's popularity has fallen to 39%, its lowest level since April.

Tuesday's victory by Democratic incumbent Governor Andy Beshear in Kentucky over a well-regarded Republican opponent, the passage in Republican-voting Ohio of a constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights and Democratic wins in the battleground state of Pennsylvania showed the overall strength of the positions of Biden's party.

The Ohio result shows abortion rights remain a winning political issue for Democrats after the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court ended the constitutional right to an abortion, overriding public opinion.

Whether victories for Democrats this week are a definitive sign of strength for Biden's re-election is unclear.

Voters who turned up on Tuesday in state and local elections and those who will vote in the presidential election in November 2024 could be vastly different, exit polls suggest. In Ohio, for example, exit polls from NBC showed voters skewed Democratic on Tuesday, although Trump won the state by 8 percentage points in 2020.

Republican political strategist Mary Anna Mancuso said polls today offer little indication of what will happen in 2024 but that Tuesday's results may spell trouble for her party.

"There's a margin of voters, specifically suburban women, who are defecting from the Republican Party," she said. "They are protecting their bodies over their tax cuts."

Vice President Kamala Harris made a sudden appearance on the White House driveway on Wednesday to highlight the abortion issue and offer a fresh glimpse of Democrats' coalescing 2024 message - their party, not the Republican party, will protect Americans' personal rights.

"Last night, I think the American people made clear that they are prepared to stand for freedom and for the individual freedoms and the promise of freedom in America, and by extension, it was good night for democracy," said Harris.

The election results showed that "the government should not be telling a woman what to do with her body," Harris said.

Biden, who turns 81 this month, currently faces no serious primary challengers and has raised tens of millions of dollars for his re-election campaign. His fundraising has surpassed that of Trump, 77, the current Republican frontrunner, who backed the losing Kentucky governor candidate.

"At every turn, MAGA Republicans have embraced Donald Trump's agenda to restrict our freedoms, and voters aren't going to have it," Cornale said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who earlier this week noted that polls predicting a "red wave" for the Republicans in the 2020 midterms were misleading, said the latest election results bolstered Biden's re-election argument that his policies matter most.

"We don't put much stock in polls," she said.

Harris, who appeared in the White House driveway so abruptly that she interrupted Jean-Pierre's scheduled press conference, closed with an optimistic prediction about next November.

"It was a good night and the president and I obviously have a lot of work to do to earn our re-election," she said. "But I'm confident we’re going to win."

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Trevor Hunnicutt. Editing by Heather Timmons, Rod Nickel, Deepa Babington and Lincoln Feast.)