Sympathy for Joe Biden

October 27, 2009 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Ben Smith, Nick Gillespie, and Byron York are writing up Gallup’s report that Vice President Joe Biden’s favorable ratings have fallen below the 50 percent mark. Gillespie and York both point out that “Biden is less popular at this point in his term than Dick Cheney was in his.”

Now, not disputing that Biden’s favorable ratings have fallen more than one might expect — and not disputing that this might inspire a “will Obama dump Biden in 2012″ pseudo-news narrative that is going to be sort of excruciating for three years — it’s got to be noted that Gallup’s average includes the massive popularity/approval surge that Cheney, and everyone else in the administration, received after the events of 9/11. A look back at pre-9/11 polls finds that Cheney’s popularity started in the high 50s and low 60s and fell as low as the high 40s — although in those days, when he was known more for battling some heart problems than for pushing for neoconservative foreign policies, he often outpaced President Bush.

What’s the meaning of all this for the White House? Nothing, really — being less popular means being less popular. But the massive shift in public opinion after 9/11 is going to have a distorting effect on presidential polling — I think it saves Bush from having the lowest average ratings during his entire presidency since Truman — and that’s worth remembering.