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'A stunner': Foreign policy once again roils Biden’s standing

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a news conference in Woodside, Calif  on Nov. 15, 2023.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at a news conference in Woodside, Calif on Nov. 15, 2023.Kent Nishimura / Getty Images

Happening this Monday: Heavy fighting erupts near another Gaza hospital, as negotiators close in on deal to release some Israeli hostages… NBC News poll finds President Biden’s political standing declining to new lows… Right-wing populist Javier Milei wins contest to be Argentina’s next president… Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter passes away at age 96…. And Taylor Swift transcends America’s political divides — barely. 

But FIRST… In all of his years as a political pollster, Republican Bill McInturff says he’s never seen a foreign-affairs issue NOT involving U.S. troops scrambling the American political landscape. 

Until now. 

In the latest NBC News poll, not only has President Joe Biden’s approval rating declined to an all-time low of 40%, but approval of his foreign-policy handling has sunk to 33%, and just 34% approve of his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.  

“This poll is a stunner, and it’s stunning because of the impact the Israel-Hamas war is having on Biden,” said McInturff, who co-conducts the NBC News poll with Democratic pollster Jeff Horwitt.  

And much of the erosion has come from Democrats and voters ages 18 to 34 — with both groups disproportionately disapproving of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war, as well as Israel’s military campaign in Gaza. 

According to the poll, a whopping 70% of those 18 to 34 disapprove of Biden’s handling of the war, and 30% of Democrats now disapprove of the president’s handling of foreign policy (up from 13% of Dems who said this in September). 

What’s more, a plurality of young voters (42%) and a majority of Democrats (51%) believe Israel’s military actions in Gaza are NOT justified. That compares with all voters — by a 47% to 30% margin — who believe Israel’s actions ARE justified. 

“As was the case during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden’s ratings have been negatively impacted by the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza,” said Horwitt, the Democratic pollster.  

So you had one overseas matter involving U.S. troops — the withdrawal from Afghanistan — that first sent Biden’s numbers down to earth during his first year as president. 

And you now have another overseas matter NOT involving U.S. troops — the war in Gaza — taking down his numbers even further.

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 2 

That’s the gap, in percentage points, between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup, per the latest NBC News national poll.

Trump landed at 46% in the matchup, while Biden landed at 44%, though the two percentage point gap is well within the poll’s margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Still, this is the first NBC News poll this year that finds Biden behind Trump in a hypothetical matchup, less than a year before the election.

What’s more is that the poll finds Biden’s support has eroded among young people, with Trump leading Biden by four percentage points among voters ages 18 to 24. Trump leads Biden by an even wider margin — nine percentage points — among voters ages 35 to 49. 

Eyes on 2024: Governors have entered the chat

Over the weekend a trio of governors jumped into the 2024 presidential race, with two GOP governors taking sides in the primary and one Democratic governor trolling a top Republican candidate. 

On Sunday, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed former President Donald Trump at an event near the southern border in Edinburg, Texas. 

“We need a president who’s going to secure the border. We need a president who’s going to restore law and order in the United States of America,” Abbott said, per the New York Times

Abbott is the seventh Republican governor to endorse Trump, the Republican candidate with the most endorsements from GOP officials. 

Two governors, Oklahoma’s Kevin Stitt and Iowa’s Kim Reynolds, have backed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Reynolds hit the campaign trail with DeSantis over the weekend, per NBC News’ Alec Hernández. DeSantis was even asked at one event if he would consider tapping Reynolds as his running mate, and she jumped in to say, “He needs strong governors in the states!”

DeSantis meanwhile faced new criticism from a Democratic governor: California’s Gavin Newsom, who DeSantis is expected to debate on Fox News on Nov. 30. On Sunday Newsom’s PAC launched a TV ad in Florida and Washington, D.C., as well as Fox News, knocking DeSantis’ support for his state’s ban on abortions after six weeks, per NBC’s Bianca Seward.

In other campaign news… 

A Grand Old opportunity? Some Republicans see an opening for their party in appealing to moderate Jewish voters and Muslim American voters who are upset with how Biden has handled the Israel-Hamas war, per NBC’s Allan Smith. But some also warned that the party should not be distancing itself from Israel. 

Anxious Democrats: The Washington Post reports that Biden’s allies are playing “whack-a-mole” with fellow Democrats anxious about the president’s re-election prospects. And Politico reports that Democrats have “deep concerns that the campaign’s approach to his age isn’t enough to quell voters’ fears about it.”

Eyes on Manchin: Biden advisers aren’t that worried that Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is going to mount a third-party presidential bid, citing his ultimate support for Biden’s agenda and his concerns about being a spoiler, NBC’s Mike Memoli, Carol E. Lee and Julie Tsirkin report. 

Knowing No Labels: Manchin advisers are still in touch with No Labels as the group continues to work to access state ballots. The group has considered requiring those who want to participate in its nominating convention to donate at least $100, per the Associated Press. And CNBC’s Brian Schwartz digs into the group’s funding, and finds most of the group’s funds raised last year came from donors who gave at least $100,000.

Mixed messages: The Biden administration is sending two different letters to Americans depending on their support for Israel or Palestine, NBC’s Jonathan Allen, Alex Seitz-Wald and Emma Barnett report. 

On the trail: Democratic divisions over the conflict continue to hound Rep. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., as he campaigns for president in New Hampshire, per Barnett.

All eyes on Iowa: At a forum for evangelical Christians in Iowa on Friday, DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy both shared stories of their wives’ miscarriages, while former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she would have signed a six-week abortion ban in South Carolina if she was still governor, per NBC’s Alex Tabet. And the New York Times explores DeSantis’ “two-pronged” strategy in Iowa, as well as Trump’s renewed focus on the Hawkeye State

Trump trials: A Colorado judge ruled Friday that while Trump “engaged in insurrection,” he should not be barred from the state’s 2024 ballot. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis requested that Trump’s election interference trial begin Aug. 5. And in the federal election interference case, a judge ruled that references to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot should not be removed from Trump’s indictment, rejecting Trump’s request to do so. 

Over a million dollars donated: The conservative Heritage Foundation has ramped up donations to its non-profit Project 2025, which seeks to have policy goals and potential staff ready if Republicans retake the White House in 2025, NBC News’ Katherine Doyle reports.

No comment: On Sunday, DeSantis refused to comment on Elon Musk’s social media post that referenced an antisemitic conspiracy theory. 

Santos saga: House Ethics Committee Chairman Michael Guest, R-Miss., filed a resolution Friday to expel embattled Rep, George Santos, R-N.Y., from Congress. The House could vote the week after Thanksgiving to expel Santos, who faces federal wire fraud and money laundering charges.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday as the Biden administration pushes for continued military aid to the nation still at war with Russia.

Leaders in Congress are hoping to pass supplemental aid for Ukraine, Israel and the southern borderbefore the end of the year, NBC News’ Ryan Nobles, Julie Tsirkin and Kristen Welker report.

NBC News’ Scott Wong chronicles a chaotic period in Congress that came to a head last week, before lawmakers left Washington for Thanksgiving.

U.S. officials believe that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels used a helicopter raid to seize a Japanese cargo ship in the red sea, NBC News’ Courtney Kube reports.