The fact that a member of the DNC felt the need to have his colleagues register their party’s leader speaks to the difficult political situation in which Biden finds himself. Less than 100 days before the midterm elections, the president’s Jobs approval rating has fallen below 40%, and polls suggest majorities of Democrats would prefer a different candidate in 2024. Even now, after experiencing his best week in recent memory – with recalcitrant Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) agreeing to a major climate, tax and health care bill and Biden announcing the murder of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al -Zawahri in a drone strike – the president can’t seem to escape intra-party skepticism.
Over the weekend and in subsequent interviews this week, Manchin declined to endorse Biden’s re-election. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), has publicly said he doesn’t want Biden to run again, and on Tuesday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (DN.Y.) said she doesn’t “believe” that he would.
“Any [midterm election candidate] whoever does a poll gets a poll right now that shows the president is more of a drag than Obama was midterm,” said Danielle Cendejas, a Democratic strategist whose company has done campaign mail. for Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. “That, I think, leads to a pile of Democrats who are frustrated with their prospects.”
For Biden, who still tested positive for Covid-19, she said, “In this environment, he’s just in such a difficult situation. Poor guy can’t even feel sympathy for being sick.
Inside the White House, aides fear comments like Phillips and Maloney’s will embolden other elected leaders to join them. Already, they’ve seen Democratic leaders spend weeks dodging questions about whether they want Biden to run.
To push back against the emerging narrative, they deliberately sought out voices of support — and highlighted remarks from others, including Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and governors. Gavin Newsom of California and JB Pritzker of Illinois, who lent their encouragement to a 2024 Biden candidacy.
White House spokesman Chris Meagher said Biden ‘is focused on getting results for working families, building the economy from the bottom up and in the middle – getting Americans back to work , making our communities safer and reducing costs for families.” Aides note the slew of recent accomplishments they’ve had and testimony from other Democrats that this first term could prove historically productive.
In the statement, Meagher added that “MAGA Congressional Republicans advance an extreme agenda: put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block, propose a nationwide ban on abortion, and oppose common-sense proposals. to raise the age for purchasing an assault weapon”.
But privately, Biden’s aides and advisers are also growing resigned that his position won’t rebound significantly until November, even with the slate of recent good news and the possibility that a major bill on prescription drugs and the climate be adopted before the election.
“Numbers are numbers,” said a Biden confidant, who went on to immediately claim that the president’s stance heading into midterms will improve before 2024.
Part of what has fueled desperation in the party is the White House’s inability to change its numbers. Even as the price of gas fell dramatically and the Manchin deal was announced, Biden’s Jobs approval rating barely changed, rising two points from the previous week to 39% in the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll on Wednesday.
An adviser to major Democratic donors conceded that outside of Washington “nobody cares” about the Manchin legislative breakthrough. “[The Biden administration] fails to understand that the only thing people are concerned about is inflation, gas prices and the economy in general.
“Of course there is no message, and of course they have no idea what the message is,” the adviser added. “They live in La La Land.”
Another senior Democratic strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect client relationships, said he conducted in-depth interviews with voters in the swing state ahead of the midterms. The conclusion from those interviewed was that Biden’s ongoing weakness was tied to voter fatigue, on everything from the lingering pandemic to the wave of mass shootings, which were injecting a higher degree of fear into people’s lives.
“Americans are looking for someone who will make them feel something – anything – again,” the strategist said.
But for other Democrats, Biden is a victim of a national media ecosystem trying to prove his tenacity covering a Democratic presidency after four years of Donald Trump — and the White House’s inability to adjust to that reality.
” I do not think that [Biden’s] managed this as well as you want it to be, ”said Matt Angle, a longtime Democratic consultant from Texas. “If four good things happen in one day and one bad thing happens, the story will be about the one bad thing and it could just be a product of the times we’re in. Negative polls create stories about negative polls, and then it all sort of builds on itself.
A president’s public approval rating is historically closely tied to his party’s midterm performance, and there’s almost no reason to think Biden’s numbers will improve until November. Presidents at this point in the midterm election calendar have traditionally not staged a late bounce.
Still, the generic congressional ballot — perhaps a better indicator of midterm performance — has improved for Democrats in recent weeks. And the party celebrated a rare victory in Kansas on Tuesday, where voters in a heavily Republican state overwhelmingly rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment. The result suggested the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe vs. Wade could improve party prospects in some swing states and suburban neighborhoods.
There is also an emerging, albeit minority, view among Democrats that candidates in the 2022 cycle can successfully disassociate themselves from Biden and his diminished standing with voters — and that they could do so, primarily, by presenting against Trump and Trumpism.
“It was always hard for Republicans to win when they passed MAGA. Once that decision is made, this election is no longer a typical midterm,” said Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist who loudly disputes the wisdom conventional wisdom that the GOP will score big at midterm.” People keep pretending this is a typical election and they’re wrong. They were wrong from the start.
But even if Democrats avoid the most disastrous outcome in November — losing the Senate — it won’t be because of Biden.
Like some other Democrats, Owen has suggested that if the Manchin Climate and Prescription Drug Accord passes, the unemployment rate stays low and gasoline drops below $4 a gallon — all credible possibilities — the Democrats could escape midterms with less damage than expected. His motion for a resolution, which could be amended before the DNC passes it, does not mention 2024, but asks DNC members to express “our full support” for Biden and his administration. Democrats, he said, might even retain their majority in the House.
But Democrats have already found reason to be optimistic and disappointed. Last year it was an infrastructure package and a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill that many in the party thought could turn things around, only for those victories to be overshadowed by other issues, including the pandemic and inflation.
“Everyone is watching this reconciliation bill, and it’s something,” said Aaron Chappell, political director of the Senator Bernie Sanders-aligned group, Our Revolution. “But it’s late, and that’s not much… Does it have to pass? Yes. Is it enough to deal with widespread frustrations with the president, especially with the progressive base? We will have to see.
The president’s unpopularity complicates the extent to which he is personally involved in midterms beyond fundraising. And while a midterm drumming for Democrats would further hurt Biden’s position, previous presidents have recovered from such scenarios. Biden – if he runs again – would almost certainly be reappointed.
“If Joe Biden is compared to the unspoken or unidentified ideal, then it’s easy to pester him and find someone else better,” Angle said. “But the truth is, if Joe Biden runs for re-election, he will be seen directly against Donald Trump, or Ron DeSantis or somebody who is very polarizing. They will have a lot of negatives and Biden will start to look really good against them.
Even skeptics in Biden’s inner party concede this. A Democratic strategist critical of Biden noted that the last time a sitting Democratic president was seriously challenged was when Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) faced Jimmy Carter, “and Carter always came out on top. “.
He added: “The other half of the equation is, ‘Who is our Ted Kennedy? I don’t see a Ted Kennedy around.