Pritzker downplays Biden's poor polling, says 2024 will be race against 'MAGA Republicans'

"This battle hasn't even been joined yet," the Illinois governor insisted.

January 14, 2024, 11:34 AM

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of President Joe Biden's top surrogates, on Sunday downplayed Biden's continued poor polling ahead of a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump in the 2024 race.

Pritzker's comments come after a new ABC News/Ipsos survey found Biden's approval rating sitting at a meager 33%, with the public reporting widespread economic discontent.

"Things are getting better in this country -- and over the course of an election year, as the economy continues to improve, you're gonna see poll numbers improve too," the governor told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

"I think your poll is a bit of an outlier, but here's what I'll tell you: This battle hasn't even been joined yet. You've got a bunch of Republicans, MAGA Republicans, espousing things that are not good for the American public that are on the stage now," Pritzker added. "And it's not until they choose a nominee will we truly be in this battle. And then it's a choice."

Biden and allies like Pritzker have increasingly sought to cast the next presidential race as a referendum on Trump, highlighting issues like Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election and his support for abortion restrictions.

Republicans say the White House's record shows failures on immigration, inflation and more.

"The truth of the matter is, this [the 2024 election] is going to be won among independents, and independents understand that, as Democrats do, that it's the Republicans that are trying to take your freedoms away," Pritzker argued on Sunday.

Asked about Trump choosing not to sign a voluntary candidate pledge in Illinois that he would not advocate for overthrowing the government -- which many other candidates sign -- Pritzker said it was more evidence of Trump's unfitness for office.

"We just can’t afford to have a president who is acting in unconstitutional fashion, and in his own self-interest," he said.

PHOTO: In this Sept. 19, 2023, file photo, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker speaks at an event in New York.
In this Sept. 19, 2023, file photo, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker speaks at an event in New York.
John Nacion/WireImage via Getty Images, FILE

The Illinois Democrat also swatted away the persistent concerns about Biden's age. At 81, he is the oldest-ever president. Trump is 77.

Citing the new ABC/Ipsos poll, Karl pressed Pritzker: "Just 28% think that President Biden has the mental sharpness to effectively serve for another term. So how does he address those concerns, those very real concerns, that voters have?"

"Maybe we ought to start by just acknowledging that Joe Biden has years of experience -- that when you're talking about someone's age, you're also talking about the wisdom that they gained over many years and how they've demonstrated their empathy that they've learned from so many experiences," Pritzker said. "Joe Biden and Donald Trump are roughly the same age. Do you think Donald Trump has learned empathy in his life? He has not."

Karl further pressed Pritzker on how Biden should handle historically high migrant crossings at the southern border, an issue Trump and other conservatives have been highlighting.

Pritzker maintained that it was Democrats, not Republicans, who have been pushing for major immigration changes and pointed to ongoing negotiations on Capitol Hill.

"My hope is that they'll get something done. But not enough has been done, there's no doubt about that. And I think that the president needs to do more. The Congress needs to do more," he said.

He criticized efforts by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to transport migrants from his state to Democratic areas, particularly in light of the brutal winter weather battering parts of the country. Abbott has criticized Democrats' handling of immigration and said border states like Texas suffer because of it.

"He does not care about people," Pritzker shot back at Abbott on "This Week."