In the coming weeks, Biden will travel more domestically and emphasize more that the invasion of Russia is not a distant crisis, but one with deep economic ramifications in the United States.
“Voters, sympathetic as they are to Ukraine, are getting a little tired,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster. “And they wonder: we spend all this money abroad, but what are we spending here at home?
Lake said it was imperative that the president spend the remaining seven months before the midterms explaining his record and promising to do more. “Half the voters,” she suggested, still don’t know what Biden has accomplished so far.
“They don’t know what’s in the infrastructure package. They don’t know the full scope of the rescue program. They don’t know about the executive orders he made on inflation,’ she said, referring to coronavirus stimulus money being sent to states and the bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure bill. to rebuild roads, bridges and more.
The reach of Biden’s presidency will be affected by the Democrats’ ability to retain control of at least one, if not both, houses of Congress come November. And the White House knows it needs to both highlight Biden’s accomplishments and show Americans it’s trying to do more, even at the margins.
The war in Europe will continue to dominate the Biden era, but aides don’t want it to take up all of his attention. In fact, some of Biden’s advisers think they need only look across the Atlantic to find a warning sign from a president seen as too focused on global diplomacy and not enough. on national portfolio issues. Many French voters believe French President Emmanuel Macron prioritized negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and neglected domestic issues, leading to tight polls ahead of the presidential run-off. later this month.
As it seeks to refocus on national issues, the White House is considering faster tangible actions to tackle the kitchen table issues, namely inflation. This month, Biden issued executive orders authorizing the use of an ethanol blend this summer to lower gas prices and launch a new regulation fixing the so-called Affordable Care Act family problem. , which would reduce health insurance costs for millions of people. And late last week, the administration announced plans to resume selling leases for oil and gas drilling on federal lands.
After traveling abroad to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, Biden, for the first time in weeks, boarded Air Force One to promote measures he has taken to fight inflation and the economic impact of this war. Last week, he traveled to Iowa to promote an effort to lower gas prices and to North Carolina to tout measures to ease supply chain bottlenecks.
He also unveiled a finalized settlement to curb rising gun violence across the country, an event that occurred about a week after a mass shooting in Sacramento, Calif., and a day before a man was killed. opens fire in a Brooklyn subway, injuring 10 people. This week, Biden will hit the road again, visiting New Hampshire, Oregon and Washington to highlight new infrastructure projects and cost-cutting efforts for families.
He is also expected to unveil executive action for police reform and try again to pass a revamped version of his Build Back Better proposal aimed at tackling climate change and cutting health care costs.
Aides want Biden to hit the road to both pitch those ideas and show he sympathizes with the struggles of Americans. But its tools to deal with rising gasoline and food prices are somewhat limited. And on several other initiatives — including gun control, citizenship for immigrants brought to the United States as children, and the right to vote — there doesn’t appear to be a legislative path forward due to Republican opposition and Democratic resistance to change the legislative filibuster.
The renewed focus on home affairs comes against a sobering backdrop for Biden: His job approval ratings are poor and not improving. The president has received high marks from foreign policy experts, other world leaders and even some Republicans for his handling of the war in Europe, and unemployment is at its lowest level in more than 50 years. . But inflation, although a global trend, has soured Americans’ views on the economy and its management.
Biden’s poll numbers with critical Democratic base voters are particularly worrisome for party officials. Last month, a Marist poll found that only 34% of Gen Z and Millennial voters approved of Biden’s professional performance, and a Marquette Law School poll found that the percentage of black voters who approved Biden’s handling of the presidency had fallen 12 points since November. .
“A segment of the Democratic base accuses Biden of Republican recalcitrance,” the rep said. Emmanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). Black voters criticized Biden for his failure to pass voting rights legislation, he said. “It has nothing to do with Biden’s interest and willingness to fight for the Voting Rights Act.” Cleaver surmised that Biden “probably had more meetings with the senator. [Joe] manchin— the Democratic senator who most opposes filibuster reform — “than he has with the first lady.”
Embracing a smaller version of Biden’s Build Back Better plan would be a huge boost, Cleaver said. But selling what Democrats have already passed is just as imperative.
“I wish we could put up signs all over the country: ‘Forgive our progress, we’re rebuilding the nation,'” Cleaver said, referring to money going to states to fix crumbling bridges, waterways and the high debit. “Most Democrats would love to see the President more present in the country, but I hope most Democrats like me are also fully aware that we have a crisis in Eastern Europe.”
Ultimately, Democratic lawmakers and pollsters believe the party’s medium-term fortunes will rise and fall based on how voters feel about their handling of the economy. More Biden trips to key swing states are needed, said Lake, who regularly hosts midterm focus groups with Democratic and inconsistent voters. She advised Biden to tell the stories he shared on the campaign trail about his father’s unemployment forcing his family to relocate. This message “gets lost when you rely on the messages of economic statistics, studies and economic data,” she added.
But Biden’s previous efforts to hit the road to promote his economic agenda have been scuttled by the need to respond to outside forces. And the current portfolio is also expected to be largely reactive, with aides anticipating a sharp rise in Covid cases and an increase in migrants at the southern border.
“While rallying the world against Vladimir Putin’s appalling invasion of Ukraine and inflicting unprecedented costs on Russia, the President has also taken further action on his economic agenda for America’s middle class,” said White House spokesman Andrew Bates. “The President also continues to work with a wide range of lawmakers on a reconciliation plan that would reduce prescription drug, energy and child care costs while further reducing the deficit and tackling poverty. long-term inflation, as well as a landmark bill. to strengthen our competitiveness vis-à-vis China.
If Democrats are unable to pass the rest of Biden’s economic proposals before November, their best — perhaps only — chance to retain some power in Congress is to reset national attention and convince voters that helped the economy recover as the nation emerged from the worst of the pandemic.
“Democrats now have a top priority when it comes to political communication — we need to convince voters that things are better because of our time in power,” said Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic operative who advises campaigns and party committees to step up now. “If people come to believe by this summer that things are better, we will be competitive this fall. If they don’t, we won’t.