KIX 92.1Oldies 98.397.9 The BeatQ-102Delta Country 105.7Star 101KIX 92.7WNIXWNLA AM 1380

Biden supporters push back on potential 2024 fallout from his handling of the Israel-Hamas war

SHARE NOW

(NEW YORK) — As war continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack, President Joe Biden has drawn both praise and criticism for his support for Israel’s military response while pushing them to better protect Palestinian civilians.

The ongoing response in the U.S. to Biden’s handling of the war is already influencing public opinion in the early days of the 2024 presidential race, when Biden is seeking a second term.

But despite some outcry from progressive Democrats and Arab American groups — including calls to try to sink his reelection bid — a range of Biden-aligned political experts are pushing back.

Biden “did what he thought was right and consistent with American values,” said David Eichenbaum, a Democratic media consultant who worked for Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s successful reelection campaign.

“I think that when you do that, the politics will take care of itself,” Eichenbaum told ABC News.

He and other supportive strategists and advocates said that they are still optimistic about how Biden’s handling of Israel and Hamas could help — or at least not seriously harm — his presidential bid with voting still a year away.

Looking ahead to 2024, the current war is unlikely to be central to Biden’s pitch, said Jim Gerstein, a researcher and pollster with the Democratic-aligned GBAO Strategies.

Gerstein said he thinks Biden will campaign “on his record, both in terms of his economic policies, and what he has done to protect abortion rights in this country, and as well as what he’s done on the international stage.”

Halie Soifer, the CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA), a left-leaning organization that endorsed Biden when he launched his reelection bid, told ABC News that Biden’s response to Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s retaliatory operations is consistent with his “long-standing support of Israel.”

Soifer said that the JDCA’s messaging about Biden to Jewish voters, as the election approaches, will touch upon a variety of issues and not solely focus on Israel.

Many Jewish organizations and leaders have praised Biden’s actions on the Israel-Hamas war, and Soifer said that Jewish voters largely appreciate Biden’s stances.

The White House declined to comment for this story, but officials have indicated that they do not believe it should be a political issue.

Facing and responding to dissent

This view is already being tested by the dissent and protests over how the Biden administration has addressed the Israel-Hamas war. More than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry; 1,200 people have died in Israel, the prime minister’s office said.

In mid-November, anti-war protesters gathered outside of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington to demand a cease-fire.

The president has also faced headline-making criticism from Arab American and Muslim groups and leaders, some of whom said they no longer support him — even if that risks a Republican victory.

“All lives are not equal in the eyes of the Biden administration. There’s more precedent given to Israeli lives than there are to Muslim lives,” Niala Mohammad, director of policy and strategy at the Muslim Public Affairs Council and former senior policy analyst for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, told ABC News in October.

In a statement to ABC News, Biden’s presidential campaign said that “Biden knows the importance of earning the trust of every community. … President Biden continues to work closely and proudly with leaders in the Muslim and Palestinian communities in America, to listen to them, stand up for them, and fight back against hate.”

Biden also joined a private White House meeting last month between him, his aides and Muslim American advocates, ABC News reported.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said earlier this month on CNN that “I have been out there for the president, and I will continue to be, even though I think that the way that the handling of this war started was, unfortunately, such that it has alienated huge communities.”

Jayapal called then for a “long-term solution” for both Israelis and Palestinians and said, “At the end of the day, the United States has its reputation to think about globally. And if we alienate all of our allies in the Middle East, that is not going to help us ensure that President Biden wins domestically at home.”

The backlash from some Democrats and Arab American groups could be a swing state issue.

The “Abandon Biden” movement, calling on voters to not support Biden over his stance on the war and Israel, was recently launched by Arab American and Muslim voters and will target battlegrounds like Michigan, which Biden won in 2020 by only about 150,000 votes.

“We’re really focused on just making sure that our signal to the White House is clear,” Hassan Abdel Salam, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota and member of the “Abandon Biden” group, told ABC News in November.

What does polling show?

Biden allies say his view on the war — backing Israel’s “right to defend itself” but also, increasingly, saying Palestinian civilians must be protected and the military campaign must be less destructive — largely align with broader public attitudes.

In a battleground like Michigan, polling also indicates voters largely support Biden’s position: a CNN/SSRS poll from Nov. 29 through Dec. 6 found that a majority of voters there thought Biden was doing enough or too little to support Israel.

However, 49% of voters under 35 in Michigan said that the U.S. was doing too much to help Israel.

The long road ahead to 2024

Next year’s presidential election is nearly 12 months away — by comparison, at this same point in the 2020 cycle, COVID-19 wouldn’t emerge as a global issue for three more months — and the pro-Biden strategists who spoke with ABC News said they weren’t sure the war will still be a top concern by then.

“We are 11 months from this election, and things can certainly change … in the same way that we could not have foreseen Oct. 7 on Oct. 6, and certainly not the potential political implications,” Soifer said. “We cannot fully foresee what its impact will be in November of next year at this stage [either].”

What’s more, if the election turns into a rematch with former President Donald Trump, these political experts said, the Biden campaign could use that contrast to their advantage in rallying back Democratic-leaning voters who disagree with Biden on Israel-Hamas.

But, the strategists said, it is all hard to predict right now.

“The president is rightly expressing concern about the loss of life on both sides as well as the potential for Israel to lose support from her other allies the longer the war goes on,” Eichenbaum, the consultant, said.

“I think it’s premature to make any assumptions about how this will impact an election 11 months from now,” he added.

Gerstein said that voters themselves, according to polling, are not “taking a side” in the conflict and choosing between Israelis and Palestinians.

Voters “understand that this is a difficult and complex situation,” Gerstein said, “and that I would give voters credit for being able to hold sympathy for both peoples at the same time… and have complex feelings and emotions over that that don’t lead to simple responses.”

ABC News’ Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Libby Cathey, Zohreen Shah, Ayesha Ali, MaryAlice Parks, Isabella Murray, Alexandra Hutzler, Noah Minnie, and Rick Klein contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.