Biden starts 2023 with a stronger hand to play and an inclination to play it

There are still challenges on the horizon, from an economy threatening to slow down, to war in Europe, to an incoming Republican majority threatening deadlock and investigations. But the president’s entourage believe there is a strong and growing likelihood that he will run again and that an announcement could potentially come sooner than expected, possibly as early as mid-February, around the date expected from the State of the Union. , according to these people.

This potentially accelerated time is due, in part, to a feeling inside the White House and among Biden’s allies that the new year is dawning on a note of renewal, marked by an unlikely return that reassured his colleagues. democrats.

Revamping the main schedule to prioritize Biden-friendly South Carolina was another sign of intent to run again. First Lady Jill Biden has signaled she is on board with another offer, even as some Biden insiders worry about a campaign’s toll on the 80-year-old president. Advisers privately acknowledge that Biden has benefited in 2020 by being spared the rigors of a campaign due to the pandemic and some close to him harbor concerns about how he will handle a punitive and comprehensive itinerary this time around. .

Although some Democrats still express concern about Biden’s age, their public doubts were largely quelled by the party’s strong performance in November, in which Democrats increased their lead in the Senate and staved off a red wave in bedroom. There are still worries, chief among them, according to White House aides, is the economy.

Although inflation has cooled somewhat, it remains high in most sectors and there are fears that gasoline prices will rise again next year. Moreover, the West Wing quietly fears that the country’s economy could slow for at least the first quarter of 2023, according to administration officials, even if the United States technically manages to avoid a recession.

Europe, meanwhile, looks poised for a possibly significant setback, having been battered by inflation and an energy crisis exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. This could have residual effects in the United States, much like a lingering Covid crisis in China, which has raised concerns in Washington about supply line challenges as well as the possible birth of a new virus variant that could spread worldwide.

China emerges as another concern for other reasons. Although Biden’s November summit with Xi Jinping in Bali helped ease some tensions between the two superpowers, Beijing has continued to send threatening signals to Taiwan and hasn’t completely abandoned its Russian allies. And while Kyiv has shown remarkable resilience in repelling Russian forces, Moscow has shown no signs of backing down from its invasion and has resorted to terrorist strikes against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure to submerge much of the country in the dark during a cold winter.

Closer to home, while the Republican majority in the House will be thin and unruly, newly empowered GOP lawmakers will be able to exact a price on the West Wing. After two years of unified Democratic control, Biden will now see much of his agenda stagnate. And armed with the power of subpoenas, Republicans promise to launch a series of investigations into the president’s politics and family. Already, there are frictions between the two parties regarding the production of documents and requests for recordings.

But Biden’s White House points to his success in 2022 as proof that his strategy worked. Rewarded by voters, the West Wing sees no reason to change course.

The president’s aides believe the Republican agenda on many issues – from abortion rights – is out of step with the majority of the public. Biden took office promising an alternative to extremist elements in the Republican Party and pledged to work across the aisle. He managed to score a few bipartisan victories in 2022, including on a semiconductor chip bill and a modest gun control package.

“The American people were clear in the best midterms for a new president in 60 years that they wanted leaders to focus on improving their lives — not partisan division — and President Biden’s hand is extended to fellow Republicans in an offer to make bipartisan progress for the country,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said.

While many GOP deniers were defeated in November, the far right will wield power in the new Congress and have all but promised to filibuster. Biden has firmly promised to find areas of compromise, and his aides believe he will receive acclaim from voters for this effort even if results are scarce. The West Wing also believes planned congressional investigations could backfire on the new House GOP majority, given some of the likely areas of investigation.

The Republicans pledged to examine the administration’s handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the migrant crisis at the border. But they also pledged to investigate the business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter Biden. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who should be a strong voice in the new Congress, recently said, “We’re going to make it very clear that this is now an investigation into President Biden.

While a newly empowered GOP majority in the House will block most chances for meaningful policy action, White House aides believe some previous legislative victories will take full effect next year and prove popular with voters. , building their momentum. Biden’s Cut Inflation Act will lock in key priorities on climate finance and prescription drug prices. The Transportation Act will continue to fund projects across the country. And his latest bill for the year, a $1.7 trillion bipartisan spending package, includes an overhaul of the law his predecessor cited before the Jan. 6 riot.

“There were questions about whether or not Biden would run again, but not only are those questions muted, but there’s more energy and enthusiasm to run again,” Basil Smikle said. , a Democratic strategist. “He was elected to bring the pendulum back to the middle, to create some kind of normalcy, and he did. He also spotlighted Republicans for making their candidates less desirable.

But 2023 will also be a year of war. Perhaps Biden’s signature achievement over the past 12 months has been his ability to maintain an alliance to support Ukraine in its rebellion against Russia, framing the fight as a fight for democracies around the world. The conflict seems far from abating: neither party will undertake peace negotiations and there are concerns about the duration of European solidarity in the face of a growing economic crisis.

The war has become a vital test of Biden’s guiding principle: that this century would be a battle between democracies and autocracies and that the free world would win if it proved it could live up to its people. So far, Biden thinks so.

“The American people know that if we stand idly by in the face of such blatant attacks on freedom and democracy and the fundamental principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the world would surely face worse consequences,” he said. Biden said as he stood alongside the Ukrainian president at the White House. “The American people are ready to make us stand up to bullies, stand up for freedom. That’s who we are as Americans. And that’s exactly what we did.


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