July 25, 2024

Inflation Eases, but Biden’s Age Takes Center Stage

Economic trends often play a pivotal role in presidential elections, and the 2024 race began with a focus on whether inflation would subside quickly enough to buoy voter sentiment and secure President Joe Biden a second term. However, after the June 27 presidential debate, attention shifted from economic issues to Biden’s age and his visible frailty. In a debate against former President Donald Trump, Biden delivered one of the weakest performances of his political career, raising concerns about his mental sharpness necessary for another term.

Biden’s debate performance was marred by mumbled and garbled responses, frequent digressions, and a shaky grasp of facts. His discussion on the $33 trillion national debt veered off into healthcare, included a confusing mention of COVID, and concluded with the baffling statement, “Look, we finally beat Medicare.” Biden’s raspy voice, attributed to a cold, added to the perception of him being out of touch, resembling a figure from a bygone era rather than a current leader.

Economic discourse during the debate was muddled and largely unproductive. The candidates bickered over the events of 2020 and 2021 when the COVID-19 pandemic caused a sharp economic downturn followed by substantial fiscal and monetary intervention. Biden claimed that he inherited an economy “in free fall” from Trump, while Trump asserted that he handed Biden a robust recovery foundation. Despite Trump’s reputation for frequent falsehoods, it is somewhat accurate that Biden inherited an economy poised for a rebound, thanks in part to the $4 trillion in stimulus legislation signed by Trump and the initial rollout of COVID-19 vaccines under his administration. Additionally, the Federal Reserve’s significant fiscal measures played a critical role in stabilizing the financial sector.

Both Biden and Trump blamed each other for the inflation crisis, with Biden attributing it to Trump’s policies and Trump placing the blame squarely on Biden. The truth lies somewhere in between; both administrations signed extensive stimulus packages that injected large amounts of money into the economy, contributing to rising prices. The pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions and shifts in consumer demand further exacerbated the situation.

Despite the back-and-forth blame game, the real concern for 2024 voters centers on current economic conditions and their future outlook. They are less interested in who caused the inflation and more focused on which candidate can better manage the economy moving forward. Unfortunately, the June 27 debate provided little insight into their economic strategies for the future.

Ironically, Biden’s economic narrative is improving. Trump’s assertion that “Inflation’s killing our country” contrasts with the reality of inflation easing. Post-debate data revealed that a key inflation indicator had increased at the slowest pace since March 2021, a time when inflation was just 2.6%. With wages outpacing inflation, workers are beginning to recover their lost purchasing power. Oxford Economics reported on June 28 that the core of the economy remains healthy, projecting growth close to 2% for the rest of the year, a resilient labor market, and solid consumer spending driven by real income growth.

A strong economy and low unemployment would typically guarantee an incumbent president’s reelection. Biden is set to complete his term with robust job growth, no recession, and diminishing inflation. However, current polls and prediction markets suggest a Biden defeat, influenced more by perceptions of his age and capability than by economic performance.

The election landscape could still shift significantly. On July 11, Trump faces sentencing for 34 felony convictions, potentially impacting his campaign. If sentenced to home detention or jail, Trump might have to participate in the Republican National Convention remotely, altering the dynamics of the race.

Biden has another opportunity to reshape his image during the second debate on September 10. A larger audience will watch, giving him a platform to demonstrate his vitality and reinforce his economic achievements. He needs to articulate a compelling vision for the future to sway voter opinion.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Shift in Electoral Focus: Biden’s age and perceived frailty have overshadowed economic concerns in the 2024 presidential race.
  2. Debate Performance: Biden’s lackluster debate performance raised doubts about his fitness for another term.
  3. Economic Narrative: Both candidates blamed each other for inflation, but the real voter concern is the current and future economic outlook.
  4. Improving Economic Conditions: Inflation is easing, wages are rising, and the labor market is strong, which should bode well for Biden.
  5. Uncertain Election Outcome: Despite a favorable economy, Biden’s reelection chances are hindered by perceptions of his age and health.

Conclusion

The 2024 presidential election, initially centered on economic issues, has now pivoted to questions about President Biden’s age and capability. While the economy is showing signs of recovery with inflation easing and job growth strong, these achievements are overshadowed by concerns about Biden’s performance and vigor. The upcoming months, including Trump’s legal battles and the next debate, will be crucial in shaping voter perceptions and the ultimate outcome of the election.

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