As Al Gore and Hillary Clinton can attest, a Democratic presidential contender shouldn’t feel comfortable with their position in the national polls unless it’s a substantial lead because winning the popular vote is not good enough to win the election. A Democrat who is getting beaten badly in the national polls has to hope that the polls are simply wrong, and wrong in a big way. That’s where President Joe Biden is sitting right now because the newest New York Times/Siena poll has him losing to Trump 43 percent to 48 percent.

Only one in four voters thinks the country is moving in the right direction. More than twice as many voters believe Mr. Biden’s policies have personally hurt them as believe his policies have helped them. A majority of voters think the economy is in poor condition. And the share of voters who strongly disapprove of Mr. Biden’s handling of his job has reached 47 percent, higher than in Times/Siena polls at any point in his presidency.

Based on those survey results, Biden is more likely to be ridden out of the White House on a rail than reelected. And, frankly, he’s just lucky to have Trump as an opponent. Trump will only beat him like a drum, whereas Nikki Haley would blow him into little tiny bits and eject him into space.

Nikki Haley, Mr. Trump’s Republican rival, who has made the case that he will lose in November, leads Mr. Biden by double the margin of the former president: a hypothetical 45 percent to 35 percent.

How much does this have to do specifically with President Biden? People are worried about his age. Maybe they’ve heard enough noise about Hunter Biden to think the president is corrupt. These things wouldn’t seem to explain why people think Biden’s policies have hurt them personally or why they think an objectively good and recovering economy is actually quite poor.

Some people are going to default to questioning the poll. Didn’t these same pollsters predict a red wave in the midterms that didn’t materialize? What about their sample? Is it representative?

And that’s fine. I have some questions myself. I can believe some of the following, but…

But over and over, the Times/Siena poll revealed how Mr. Trump has cut into more traditional Democratic constituencies while holding his ground among Republican groups. The gender gap, for instance, is no longer benefiting Democrats. Women, who strongly favored Mr. Biden four years ago, are now equally split, while men gave Mr. Trump a nine-point edge. The poll showed Mr. Trump edging out Mr. Biden among Latinos, and Mr. Biden’s share of the Black vote is shrinking, too.

I think it’s probably true that the Democratic Party is losing non-college educated voters without respect to race. And that would show up with the Latino vote moving to Trump. But is it plausible that the gender gap has disappeared completely? That would be shocking considering how so many women feel about the Republicans’ assault on reproductive freedom and choice.

But like I said at the top, to feel good about the election, Biden would have to be winning in a poll like this by more than Trump is winning. If Biden is losing the popular vote to Trump at all, let alone by five points, he’s going to get slaughtered in the Electoral College.

So, is it time to panic?

I think it’s time to get serious about figuring out what is real and what is not. Biden doesn’t have to accept the nomination. He can nominate someone else. The public doesn’t want to choose between too super old dudes. We could still give them a young, vibrant option. Personally, I’d put Gavin Newsom in the ring.

But I’m not arguing that this choice has to be made now. It has to be considered, by Biden. He needs to have a contingency in his back pocket. Because if he can’t beat Trump, he needs to let someone else try. And if he can’t figure out why he’s so unpopular and fix it, he isn’t beating Trump.

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