Most voters Third Way spoke to in suburban Virginia focus groups, according to the report, “couldn’t voice what Democrats stood for. They also couldn’t say what they were doing in Washington, other than fighting. “
And those are just the people who voted for Biden.
With less than a year of the midterm elections, in which even Democrats expect to lose the House and possibly the Senate, the party faces an identity crisis. It’s not just about Biden’s public approval ratings, inflation, or the precedent that the ruling party typically loses seats in a president’s first mid-term term.
Just a year after Democrats kicked Donald Trump out of the White House, it’s not clear to many voters what Democrats are doing now that they are in charge – despite the enactment of major legislation, including a $ 1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill earlier this year and an infrastructure bill last week.
After the House passed the social spending package on Friday, a Democratic strategist who advises major donors said: “Too late. Have been fed. “
The results in Virginia are in line with nationwide public and private polls in recent weeks. Biden’s approval rating, a metric closely tied to a party’s midterm performance, has fallen below 43%, according to the FiveThirtyEight poll average. It is much worse than that of Barack Obama at this stage of his presidency, before the mid-term elimination of the Democrats in 2010.
Generic ballot tests, pitting anonymous Republican candidates against anonymous Democrats, are also moving in favor of the GOP. More than 6 in 10 Americans say things are generally on the wrong track, and similar majorities say the state of the economy is bad.
It’s a toxic environment for Democrats, and the cure – if it even exists – is unclear.
“Voters think the economy is bad and no statistic can change their mind (at least in the short term),” the Third Way report said. “The number of jobs, the number of salaries and the number of people we have put back to work do not move them. We should still be talking about it (plus payroll and return-to-work numbers), but we have to realize that they will have limited impact when people see help-seeking signs all over Main Street, sections of restaurants closed for lack of workers, rising prices and supply disruptions. Even where things are improving, Biden doesn’t get credit.
As Third Way’s Matt Bennett said, “This is not good news. All [focus group] report that begins, ‘Our weak national brand has made us vulnerable’ is not good news.
The White House looks good. Biden is coming out of one of the best weeks of his presidency, which saw the enactment of his infrastructure bill and the passage by the House last week of a massive social spending program. And Democrats are moving quickly to sell infrastructure to the American people.
Biden traveled to New Hampshire and Michigan last week to promote the bill, as members of his administration spread across the country to sell the importance of it. State Democratic parties last week hosted a bill touting events in North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania, among other states.
In Wisconsin, Ben Wikler, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said Democrats running next year will be able to point out “real progress” on road works, quality issues in l ‘water and broadband – things that affect “people’s everyday lives”. In neighboring Minnesota, Ken Martin, chairman of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said, “We have plenty of time to really change the narrative.”
“We have policies to apply now, and that’s a good thing,” said Aliza Astrow, policy analyst at Third Way.
But the worrying development for Democrats is that the infrastructure and social spending policies they are bracing on, despite generally favorable polls, show little sign of helping them at the polls. Fifty-seven percent of Americans support the infrastructure bill, according to a Quinnipiac University poll last week. And a similar majority support Biden’s social spending plan. But Biden’s job approval rating in the same poll was 36%. Disconnection appears in almost all polls. In an ABC News / Washington Post poll, 63 percent of voters support Biden’s infrastructure bill, but only 35 percent of voters say he’s accomplished a lot.
People can support roads and bridges in the abstract. But the infrastructure doesn’t really make them dance in the streets.
“It’s an issue that people support, but it’s not a liferaft,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Obviously, there is a perception that things are still not working out well in Washington, and this is a larger problem and even more difficult to resolve.”
By most objective measurements, Biden and the Democrats in Washington are doing a lot – with pandemic relief and infrastructure bills, and social spending on the horizon. Vaccines are widely available, including for children. The businesses are reopening and the children are going back to school. But none of this appears to have helped Biden or the low-cost Democrats who will fight for their political lives next year.
In Third Way focus groups, pollsters found voters who backed Biden last year “don’t necessarily blame him for lingering problems with the delta variant, inflation, or chain bottlenecks. supply. But at the same time, those 2020 Biden voters had little positive things to say about him right now, and many have described a disappointment or feeling that he’s not doing well. They were reluctant to say he wasn’t up to it, but they don’t feel like he’s doing it now.
Megan Jones, former Harry Reid adviser and Nevada-based Democratic consultant, said Democrats “do a ton of things, but we don’t communicate them well.”
Jones said his brother recently told him that “Build Better,” Biden’s legislative framework, “sounds like a fucking fitness plan.” She said, “Nobody knows what it is.”
If Biden can push through his $ 1.7 trillion social spending bill, Democrats who race in the House and Senate next year will be able to highlight not only Covid relief and infrastructure, but also the expansion of health care, an extended child tax credit and other measures as evidence of governing success.
Infrastructure and spending on social programs, Bennett said, could improve the party’s prospects next year “along with other things, like keeping inflation under control, alleviating chain problems. ‘supply and reducing labor shortages’.
But a sign of the precariousness of the very foundations of this optimistic outlook, Bennett added, “Some of these things are things the president and others can control, and some not. “