On Tuesday morning, President Joe Biden had just finished a speech on the contrast between the two major parties when a reporter tried to ask him a question about one of the biggest political news of the day: abortion rights.
Biden brushed it off. “I want the story to be about inflation,” he explained.
The exchange — and the roughly 25-minute speech that preceded it — shows the challenge facing the Biden-led Democratic Party as it heads into November’s midterm elections in hopes of defend its wafer-thin majorities in Congress. While the Supreme Court’s pending ruling that would strike down abortion rights is likely to be politically toxic to the GOP and energize elements of the Democratic base, record inflation is sure to remain the main issue for most. of the electorate.
And polls, public and private, show Republicans have a massive lead on the issue. While abortion rights are likely to help individual candidates for the Senate and gubernatorial seats, turning the overall political environment around will require convincing voters to trust Democrats to tackle a inflation problem that many of them blame Biden for creating.
In his speech, Biden attempted to address the issue head-on. He argued that his policy proposals on health care and energy, most of which remain behind a congressional blockade in the form of Sen. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), would help fight rising costs while that the Republicans would adopt an “ultra-MAGA” program. proposed by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) that would raise taxes on Americans and end Social Security and Medicare.
“I know families all over America are hurting because of inflation,” Biden said on Tuesday, calling fighting inflation his “top national priority.”
Inflation remains most visible to Americans at the gas pump. The price of an average gallon of gasoline hit $4.37 nationwide on Tuesday, the highest total in history without adjusting for inflation. (The inflation-adjusted mark was July 2008.) The Bureau of Labor Statistics is also expected to release the April inflation report on Wednesday morning, with the White House praying for signs that inflation is slowing from the March’s 8.5% mark.
The main reason for inflation is a sharp increase in demand for goods and services as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic-induced slowdown, with pandemic-related supply chain failure, particularly a increased cost of microprocessors, compounding the problem. Economists also point to the US bailout package, which Biden and Democrats passed last year, as a contributing factor. The recent spikes in oil and food prices are the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – both countries are major wheat producers – and the sanctions Western countries have imposed on Russia in result.
Inflation completely overshadowed other positive economic news, including record job growth and a surge in new business creation.
“Our economy has gone from being on the mend to on the move,” Biden said during his speech, later adding, “Thanks to the steps we’ve taken, America is in a stronger position to make it happen.” face. [inflation] challenge than any other country in the world.
In his speech, Biden recounted a series of steps his administration has taken to reduce inflation, from releasing one million barrels of oil a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to trying to clamp down on concentration in the meat industry. He pitched the remaining elements of his Build Back Better program ― including raising taxes on the wealthy, allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and spending more on clean energy ― as a way to cut costs. .
Much of Biden’s speech, however, was devoted to defining the GOP as more extreme than ever — and as much of a threat to Americans’ wallets as it is to their wombs. To do so, he has pitched a simmering fight with Scott, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and the head of the Republican National Senate Committee.
Earlier this year, Scott rolled out a plan forcing every American to pay at least some income tax – a move that would lead to tax hikes for tens of millions of middle-class American families. The plan also called for all federal laws to expire every five years unless Congress votes to reauthorize them. Biden and other Democrats have described the provision as an existential threat to Social Security and Medicare.
“I can’t believe the majority of Republicans are buying into Scott’s plan,” Biden said. “But it’s a written plan, and he’s leading it.”
Other GOP members, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), have tried to distance themselves from Scott’s agenda. But Biden clearly plans to make the Florida senator, a staunch conservative who is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, a major figure in the Democratic messaging.
Scott responded to Biden by challenging him to a debate, suggesting he should step down and implying the president is unconvincing.
“Joe Biden is sick. He’s unfit for office. He’s inconsistent and incapable and confused,” Scott told reporters on Capitol Hill. “He doesn’t know where he is half the time. He’s unfit to lead and he is unable to perform his duties.
Biden ignored Scott’s comments: “The guy has a problem.”
Even as Biden tried not to talk about abortion rights, Democrats in key races were relentlessly focused on the issue. Party strategists hope he can create a Democratic base that enthusiastically follows the GOP, while winning swing voters in Democratic-leaning states.
New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, for her part, released a digital ad attacking three of her would-be GOP opponents for wanting to “fulfill Mitch McConnell’s decades-long crusade to criminalize abortion.”
Republicans plan to accuse Democrats of focusing on abortion rights at the expense of the economy. An NRSC memo advising candidates on how to talk about abortion said they should accuse Democrats of “wanting[ing] to obsess over and spread lies about abortion because they have not only failed to address the concerns of the American people; their program made matters worse.