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Biden’s laid back style helped him win the White House, but he may be starting to wear out


Whether it is a grim turning point in the coronavirus pandemic, another obstacle to its congressional agenda, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, or a tightening of the supply chain that is choking the economy Biden’s public response is often similar – and that keeps him out of sight of the everyday Americans he needs to pull his agenda together through Congress. He fell into the habit of giving short televised speeches from one of the State Rooms of the White House or elsewhere in the Presidential compound.
After his $ 1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan and $ 3.5 trillion spending plan were not passed by Congress earlier this month, Biden vowed to travel the country to sell his vision to Americans. He’s made several recent trips – to Michigan to tout large-scale investments in the economy and to Illinois to advance spending plans and vaccine mandates – and he’s leaving for Connecticut on Friday. But there is no sign of a presidential tour from coast to coast or of a coordinated and relentless daily message to pull Democrats out of the schism on his platform that raises doubts about the party’s ability to lead. . As he tries to coax two moderate Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to deal with frustrated progressives in the House, the president has failed to do what he wants. would help the most: mobilize the popular support needed to reach a deal.

Biden’s lack of visibility worked better than expected during the 2020 campaign, when he largely stuck to choreographed virtual events in the first year of the Covid-19 crisis. His appearances as a statesman contrasted with the savage and super-spreading rallies organized by then-President Donald Trump which were essential in alienating the moderate, independent and suburban voters who helped decide the election. . At the start of Biden’s presidency, the contrast to the restricted leadership of Trump and Biden produced a $ 1.9 trillion Covid-19 bailout to cap off his first 100 days.

But with the economy struggling to get Americans back to work after the Delta variant caused a resurgence of the virus, with many Americans battling inflation and its own approval ratings declining after remaining still strong at the start. , it is fair to wonder if the president’s method is starting to wear out.

Biden has made it clear that after the uproar of Trump’s tenure, he wants to restore the dignity of his office. Unlike Trump, he feels little need to attack the American psyche 24 hours a day. If he finally succeeds in passing the spending bill and the infrastructure package, he will have the two pillars of what could be a impressive national heritage. If the economy finally gets rid of the pandemic next year, its fortunes could increase.

But there is a growing sense of drift, especially on the legislative agenda as progressives and moderate Democrats squabble over the make-up of the spending plan do not appear to be any closer to a deal. If the stalemate persists well beyond the end of the year, it would hamper Democratic candidates who need a solid record to present to voters in midterm elections that are historically brutal for presidents of the United States. first term.

And warnings from leading lawmakers – and a new CNN poll – suggest that even after months of debate, many Americans don’t know what’s on Biden’s massive congressional agenda.

“There is a messaging issue and we’re still trying to pin it down to, what are the items we’re talking about?” Representative Pramila Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Wednesday. During an appearance on CNN’s “Newsroom”, the Washington State Democrat listed measures including universal child care, affordable housing, hearing and dental benefits for the elderly and lowering prescription drug prices. “The minute you tell someone that’s what’s in there, they’re like, ‘Oh, well, that would make a transformational difference for me,'” she said. .

New poll has bad news for Democrats

A new CNN / SSRS poll released Wednesday found only 25% of Americans believe their families would be better off with the passage of Biden’s $ 3.5 trillion social spending bill and an infrastructure measure of $ 1,000 billion. Some 32% said they would be worse off and 43% said they would be about the same. The majority of key constituencies in the Democratic coalition – including independent women, blacks, Latinos and those under 35 – say they would not be affected by these bills.

Biden has played an intense role behind the scenes trying to bring Democrats together to finally pass hugely ambitious bills to reshape the economy to favor working Americans. The bipartisan measure would repair roads, bridges and transportation systems. Biggest proposal, opposed by GOP and likely to be scaled back to appease moderate Democrats, would provide universal pre-K, improve home health care for sick and elderly Americans, add hearing and dental coverage to Medicare and would transform the economy to combat the heating up world.

The White House often points out that key ingredients of Biden’s plan, such as expanding health care, overhauling infrastructure, and improving paid leave and access to college, are popular when get their turn in the spotlight. But so far the go-big approach hasn’t worked.

“Most voters couldn’t tell you what was in these bills,” Republican pollster and strategist Kristen Soltis Anderson said on “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”

“It’s not because they’re stupid. It’s not because they’re lazy. It’s because Democrats have done a terrible job of messaging about them.”

The difficulty Democrats faced in elucidating the purpose of the spending bill, in particular, has focused the political fight in Washington on the highest costs. This played into the hands of moderate Democratic senators like Manchin and Sinema. He also offered an opening for Republicans who are already running a midterm election campaign in part because of their demands for out-of-control “socialist” spending by Democrats. This is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi points out that it is time for her party to focus on the content of the spending bill and not its dollar figure.

A ray of light for Biden

Confusion over the programs revealed by the CNN poll may also reflect voter disinterest during weeks of bargaining inside the Beltway over the proposals. Some Democrats have criticized the media for focusing on the drama of the battle in Congress, pitting party factions against each other. However, the mainstream media have disseminated a great deal of information on the content of the bills. At some point, it is up to the political party trying to get the bills through to sell them.

While some observers were shocked at the boldness of Biden’s proposals when stacked up, individual details were often touted in his 2020 campaign speeches and on his website. He can therefore say that he built his presidency by passing them. But to push through their priorities, presidents must spend the capital they earned during the election campaign and replenish it during their tenure – a much more difficult task.

So far this month, Biden made that trip to Michigan on October 5, visiting the district of vulnerable Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin. A subsequent visit to Illinois was primarily aimed at promoting vaccination mandates. He spoke about the benefits of his White House programs at televised events. For example, in a speech on Wednesday in response to the supply chain crisis that is driving inflation up and hurting the economy, Biden said, “I am pushing for a one-time investment in our infrastructure and people. with my infrastructure bill and my Build Better Act. “

Biden’s laid back style helped him win the White House, but he may be starting to wear out

“These bills would transform our ports, there are… billions of dollars for ports, highways, rail systems that are badly in need of modernization and would bring products faster and more efficiently from factories to stores, to your home, ”Biden said.

Biden is not the first president to be accused of failing in the sales job. His former boss, President Barack Obama, faced similar criticism as he struggled to pass the Affordable Care Act and Democrats in Congress suffered a bloodbath soon after. But over the following years, this law became more popular as Americans began to experience its role in their lives. Many Democrats believe something similar could happen to Biden – if his platform passes – and that he will prove to be so popular that future Republican congresses will have no choice but to keep many of his proposals.

There is one notable bright spot for Biden in the CNN poll. Its approval rate is still 50% – higher than in some recent surveys after a difficult summer that has characterized a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and a raging resurgence of the Delta variant of Covid-19. It’s not great for an incumbent before a midterm election year. But this is not catastrophic given the marked divisions in the country. And that suggests the president still has political juice to build support for the plans that will define his legacy.