Election anxiety begins to creep inside the White House

Among the Senate contests, Biden has expressed a strong interest in seeing incumbent Republican Ron Johnson defeated in Wisconsin, but officials believe it will be a struggle, fearing Democrat Mandela Barnes may end up being too liberal for part of the race. state electorate. There has also been growing concern over Nevada, which is widely seen as Republicans’ best chance for a pickup as Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is in a race with Republican Adam Laxalt, an election denier. .

In Pennsylvania, party officials acknowledge Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s advantage has waned but still saw him enter the week with a solid lead. But his shaky performance in Tuesday night’s debate raised new questions within the West Wing about his recovery from a recent stroke and how that might play out with voters.

There has also been widespread frustration over the attempted gubernatorial campaign led by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, now locked in a stalemate with GOP candidate Kari Lake, a Holocaust denier she -even and a former TV presenter who has previously been touted as a possible 2024 GOP running mate.

Party officials privately note that retaining the House is unlikely and cite economics, redistricting and historical headwinds as reasons for the defeat.

“The atmosphere doesn’t feel good. We see GOP enthusiasm and a problem dominated by the economy and inflation,” said Robert Gibbs, former press secretary to former President Barack Obama. “The wild card will be turnout – do Democrats have voters? But everyone can feel the cost of things even if it’s not the White House’s fault. »

With less than two weeks to go until the election, there are few, if any, pivot points left on which individual races can turn. One remaining variable, however, is a presidential shutdown, which is traditionally a boon to a campaign, with a visit guaranteed to dominate local headlines and an increase in early voting or voter registration.

But, struggling with low approval ratings, Biden has refrained from campaigning in many battleground states expected to determine whether his party can retain control of either chamber. While he will embark on a belated blitz through Pennsylvania — a Biden political stronghold with significant ramifications in 2024 — he has largely remained in Washington, trying to frame the stakes of the race from a distance.

Biden’s travel agenda has become a delicate dance between the White House, the national party and individual campaigns, and the result has left Air Force One largely entrenched.

In the run-up to the election, Biden hosted far fewer events than his immediate predecessors, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, in the final weeks of their own first midterm election season. The president is due to travel to upstate New York on Thursday, but did not campaign last weekend — and he currently has no campaign events scheduled for next weekend, barely 10 days before voters go to the polls. Both weekends, he chose to stay at one of his Delaware homes instead.

The White House counters that Biden plays an important role in less visible ways. They note that Biden has effectively raised funds for Democrats and echoes the broad themes the party wants to push forward. White House officials are supplementing his campaign trip with events closer to home that they say still allow him to respond to Republicans and capitalize on the bully pulpit.

Biden has expressed a desire to campaign more but has caved to arguments that he can help in other ways, telling allies he’d gladly stay away if it means keeping the Senate. On a recent trip out West, he skipped the two states with tight Senate races – Arizona and Nevada – after no campaign invited him to join, according to two officials familiar with. the decisions. Instead, Biden’s itinerary has focused on official events and fundraisers across California, Colorado and Oregon.

The aides note that Obama and Trump have had tough midterm cycles despite their campaigning. They’re also trying to refine Biden’s closing argument for the campaign.

On Monday, he went to the headquarters of the national party to give a pep talk to the workers. Instead, he launched into a meandering 34-minute recitation of the party’s achievements. Biden’s aides were keen to brag about what they’ve accomplished, not wanting to repeat past mistakes of not selling their wins.

But party pollsters have argued that bragging about accomplishments is deaf in this climate. Some in the president’s orbit have urged him to be more empathetic – normally a Biden forte. They say that in times of inflation and economic concern, the president should stress that he understands Americans’ anxiety and pledge to do whatever he can to help. The aides also pointed out that Biden would focus on the threats that Republicans backing the Big Lie would pose to the country’s democracies and how the GOP’s plans could jeopardize Social Security and Medicaid.

« Everyone wants to make it a referendum, but it’s a choice between two very different visions for America — very different, » Biden said Monday.

Over the summer, Democrats won a string of legislative victories and it emerged that abortion rights could be the top election issue. Just a month ago, many Democrats felt the Senate was safe even as the House hung in the balance. But the economy has returned to center stage.

“Republicans have momentum in the final weeks of the election — the final weeks are dominated by talk of the economy, crime and immigration, all issues on which Democrats are losing,” the Republican strategist said. Alex Conant, presidential campaign adviser to Marco Rubio. “The Democrats were really hoping that some of our new candidates would make some late-campaign gaffes and that didn’t quite happen.”

Few expect a landslide. But if the GOP wins even the House, Republicans should reject any consideration of Biden’s domestic priorities while pushing new laws to curb immigration and spending, potentially using the debt ceiling as leverage. Republicans are also expected to launch investigations into the White House and, specifically, the president’s son.

If a GOP-led House turns up the heat on Hunter Biden, it could weigh heavily in the president’s decision to run for a second term, those close to him believe. White House officials have said Biden is gearing up for re-election, but no official decision will be made until after a series of family deliberations, which are expected to begin on Thanksgiving.

And if the GOP were to take both houses of Congress, that could also be seen as a repudiation of the Biden presidency and could factor into its thinking, advisers said.

Underscoring the urgency of the Democrats’ position, Biden on Tuesday ordered the Democratic National Committee to immediately transfer an additional $10 million to the Democratic campaign arms of the House and Senate and offered an additional $8 million to the two groups thanks a fundraiser before polling day. .

But many close to Biden still believe the Senate can stand, likely again in a 50-50 stalemate with the vice president breaking the tie. Aides believe control will come down to two states: Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Georgia has remained stubbornly close, but party officials believe the baggage surrounding GOP nominee Herschel Walker will lead to Sen. Raphael Warnock’s re-election, though that very well may have to be decided in a runoff in December. Pennsylvania – Biden’s home state and next door to his Delaware home – has been a state the president has traveled to frequently, with more stops planned for this week and next.

In 2020, Biden won the Great Lakes trio of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, reclaiming Trump’s former Democratic strongholds. But in the past month, he’s avoided both Michigan and Wisconsin, though they’ve held competitive races for governors and the Senate. Nor did he travel to Georgia, which has close races for state and Senate seats and was the decisive state in giving Democrats control of the upper house two years ago.

A stop in Georgia could be added in the final fortnight of the race, officials said. But no visit is planned for Michigan or Wisconsin.


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