President Joe Biden probably figures, rightfully, that by defeating former President Donald Trump, his party should still be parading him around on their shoulders.

But even after offering up historically large spending packages long pushed by his side, Biden is moving into afterthought status just 11 months into office, an unusually unpopular leader dissed on the campaign trail because his endorsement lacks punch or coattails.


Amid a string of disapproving public polls, a new one has just landed with a harsh and depressing message from the party’s base: As good as Biden might be, he’s not Barack Obama or Bill Clinton — or even Ronald Reagan.

For most in the party, all three scored higher in a landmark Pew Research Center survey that asked who has been the best president of the last 40 years. Among Democrats, Biden came in behind Obama, Clinton, and Reagan among the three largest factions of the party.

Obama, whom Biden served as vice president, is still king of the hill nearly five years after he left office, replaced by Trump. Democrats chose Obama over Biden by about 13-1 and Clinton over Biden by an average of 3-1.

Worse, the percentage of Democrats who chose Biden as best was in the mid to low single digits, just behind Reagan among factions dubbed “Establishment Liberals,” “Democratic Mainstays,” and “Outsider Left” that Pew said make up 67% of the party.

"Majorities in all Democratic-oriented typology groups point to Barack Obama as the best president of the last 40 years. Progressive Left (72%) and Establishment Liberals (66%) are particularly likely to say this. While a 54% majority of Democratic Mainstays name Obama, 22% of this group name Bill Clinton, a higher share saying this than among Progressive Left (14%) and Establishment Liberals (17%)," said Pew.

Pew did find, however, that Democrats seem to like Biden. On the “thermometer” test, he scored a medium warm. For comparison, Democrats scored Trump “very cold.”

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But Democrats are not especially protective of Biden. In a separate question on the survey shared with Secrets, just 42% said that the Democratic Party should not be “accepting” of Democrats who criticize the president.

Pew did not offer much analysis of its data. So, for comparison, consider Trump’s numbers on the same questions. In his case, Republicans appear to like Trump more than Democrats Biden.

Among three groups that represent 61% of the party, Trump rivals Reagan in the best category, winning two of the three groups, “Faith and Flag Conservatives” and “Populist Right,” that Pew said make up 46% of the GOP.

On the thermometer rating, Trump also does better among Republicans than Biden with Democrats, reaching 83 out of 100 degrees “Faith and Flag Conservatives.”

And on the question of the party accepting Trump critics inside GOP ranks, 63% voted no.

Democratic pollster John Zogby told us that Democrats, and especially liberals, just aren’t the kind who like much.

Asked to size up the findings on Biden, he told us, “Two thoughts come to mind. The first is the old cliche that when Democrats form a firing squad, they do it in a circle. Democrats struggle to get party unity under any circumstances.”

Then he offered a historical anecdote: “I am also reminded of a section in Arthur Schlesinger Jr.'s massive biography of Robert Kennedy when Kennedy discusses Adlai Stevenson (presidential nominee for the Democrats in 1952 and 1956) with his inner circle and confesses that he (Kennedy) never quite trusted liberals. He felt, according to Schlesinger, that they were more interested in making their points than winning. That is why, to this day, JFK is seen as the heroic figure, while LBJ is seen as an inconvenient truth: He actually succeeded and won.”

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