WASHINGTON – As United States President Joe Biden’s poll numbers flag ahead of the election in 2024, it might seem obvious for him to look to pop star billionaire Taylor Swift, who endorsed him in 2020, and whose every move is endlessly catalogued by the US media.
It is a fact his campaign knows all too well.
“Please do not tell us that we need a Taylor Swift strategy. We are tracking,” quipped a recent communications job advertisement for his 2024 re-election bid.
And yet, in the highly polarised US political and media landscape, everything the superstar singer does or does not do is likely to invite a simultaneous deluge of praise and firestorm of fierce criticism.
Swift, recently named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, is viewed favourably by 70 per cent of Americans – the sort of numbers that any president would kill for.
Perhaps none more than Mr Biden, whose approval ratings recently dipped to 39 per cent – the lowest of any recent US leader at this point in their presidency, according to polling firm Gallup, and also the fifth time his ratings fell below 40 per cent in 2023 alone.
Swift’s 2020 endorsement of Mr Biden, and her knack for using non-partisan campaigns to register her Swiftie superfans to vote, does not mean that politics comes without scrutiny for the superstar.
As America has descended into hyper-partisanship, the You Belong With Me singer’s previously apolitical stance increasingly came under fire – no matter if the frenzy was fed mostly by rumour and on social media.
At the same time, staying silent during the 2016 election bothered Swift personally, she would later say.
“These aren’t your dad’s Republicans,” she says in a 2020 documentary, as members of her team press her to stay out of politics ahead of the 2018 election, warning it could “halve the number of people that come to your next tour”.
Nevertheless, she came out of the woods to endorse the Democratic Senate candidate in the state of Tennessee, where the Donald Trump-endorsed Republican ended up winning.
As the country’s division under the Trump presidency continued to pose a challenge to her – and other celebrities’ – carefully curated, mass-appealing images, she endorsed Mr Biden, castigating Trump for “stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism”.
The key difference between then and now, perhaps, is just how much Swift – already a megastar – has seen her stature grow as she breaks music records, graces magazine covers and sees the press follow every detail of her increasingly public personal life.
Her fans are mostly young women who have come of age in America’s hyper-polarised political era – and make up a key Democratic voting bloc.
But Mr Biden’s numbers have dipped among the country’s youth, especially as his administration has staunchly backed Israel in its war against Hamas.
Swift, meanwhile, recently attended a fund-raiser for aid for Palestinians, 20,000 of whom have died amid the conflict in Gaza begun when Hamas militants broke through the territory’s border and killed 1,140 people.
According to a recent Harvard poll, the percentage of Americans aged 18 to 29 who “definitely” plan on voting for a president has decreased from 57 per cent to 49 per cent, compared with those surveyed at this time in 2020.
This is where Swift might have an impact.
“I don’t think the way these work is that when people see, oh, Taylor Swift endorsed Joe Biden, and they say, ‘Well, that’s who I’m going to vote for,’” Dr Matthew Harris, a political science professor at Park University, told AFP news agency.
“It’s more along the lines of her ability to mobilise people, to encourage people to register to vote,” he added, noting that “these are people who may already be predisposed or likely to vote for Joe Biden”.
And in a tight election, as many predict 2024 will be, “those suburban areas… are really kind of the swing areas of American politics”.
The often tight-lipped Swift has already quietly given a nod towards Mr Biden’s 2024 run, approving her song Only The Young to be used in a pro-Biden ad in October.
There is clearly no bad blood between Swift and Mr Biden, but the President’s entreaties to US youth might go over better if he could remember the name of America’s most popular musical artist.
The 81-year-old in November mixed up Swift with pop star of yore Britney Spears. Such a gaffe could perhaps make him relatable to the average Swiftie’s parents – and, after all, they vote, too. AFP