Biden’s imprint on the midterms is most acute in the deluge of TV ads that aired in late summer and early fall leading up to the November election. Between Aug. 1 and last Thursday, Republicans mentioned Biden in 120,000 ads with a total spend of nearly $54 million, according to analysis prepared for POLITICO by ad tracking firm AdImpact.
During the same period in 2018, Democrats mentioned Trump in 68,000 ad runs backed by $30 million in spending.
Chris Hartline, the chief spokesman for Scott and the Republican National Senate Committee, said Biden weighs in from above for a reason, and everything else is just a spin: He’s shunned by most people. Democratic Senate candidates. Hartline said it’s become clearer that nationalizing racing is likely helping the GOP — and that many Democrats “rightly believe the only way to win is for their brand to be completely independent of the Democrats in Washington.”
“The way you deploy a president like Joe Biden, who is as unpopular as he is with Republicans and independents, is to try to increase turnout,” Hartline said of the strategy. “But it looks like he can’t see himself, and the White House won’t let people see him, as someone who only appeals to the progressive base. They have to keep representing him and pretending he’s is a politician who has a wider appeal when in fact it just doesn’t at the moment.
Biden’s schedule lately has been relatively light on the campaign. And when he makes speeches out of town, they are tied to legislative achievements. Aides said Biden would soon begin to average about two trips a week, with more in the final fortnight before the election. Although final decisions have not been made on an itinerary, he will likely continue to favor visiting the Rust Belt – he has already made several trips to Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio – rather than in more remote places. There remains the possibility of a Western swing.
Some of Biden’s non-campaign events have offered other Democrats enough political water to make their presence worthwhile. They also reflect the type of threatened gatherings that House and Senate candidates have explicitly told the White House they see as most helpful to them.
In some ways, Biden’s toughest midterm work was done weeks ago. Tom Perriello, a former Democratic congressman from Virginia who lost his seat in the 2010 cycle, said he was struck by how frontline Democrats enthusiastically tweeted pictures of themselves at the White House celebration for the massive climate and healthcare package. “It wasn’t something you saw in 2010,” he said. “It was a time when everyone was starting to give up [Barack] Obama – apart from a few of us.
Perriello knows the dynamic. He was one of the few endangered congressmen Obama campaigned for at the end of that 2010 midterm election; choosing to fully embrace the then-president and his agenda in the hope that he turned out to be the grassroots vote. It worked, but not enough. Perriello lost his campaign.
“I think President Biden has played a huge role in turning this into an election of choice, highlighting the extremism on the other side, and demonstrating the steady progress that Democrats represent, including directly in making the ‘dream American “affordable again,” Perriello said. . “And I think he did a lot of that before Labor Day in a way that created a landscape that allows some very strong Democratic candidates to get the deal done in their individual races.”
White House aides are quick to note that even when a candidate avoids a visit from the president, they almost always invoke his record, even if it’s not his name. And party officials say the decision is ultimately left to the candidates themselves.
“If it makes sense for a candidate to run with him, he will campaign with him. Otherwise, he won’t,” said Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist with close ties to the White House. “Each candidate will make a decision based on the shape of their own race: sometimes you run with Washington, sometimes against.”
Strategists say visits by national figures to rotating districts can be helpful in generating voter registration and grassroots enthusiasm. But Biden also acknowledges that presidents are inherently polarizing, recalling previous cycles when Democrats wanted him on the trail rather than Obama.
Still, Biden has made it clear he’s looking forward to more on the road, even if he’s not running with specific candidates. He thinks he’s the best messenger to tout his administration’s work and take on what he’s called “MAGA Republicans.”
Still, the White House’s plan to get Biden on the road continued to come in fits and starts. Domestic politics took precedence over international affairs last week, as Biden traveled to London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and then to New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Florida, which was canceled due to an approaching hurricane, was the only political trip scheduled for the week.