It’s almost like someone flipped a switch and the press suddenly found out that Joe Biden was unpopular.
Or maybe Democrats are increasingly nervous about the fate of the Biden presidency.
But the previous conventional wisdom – that Biden had simply gone through a rough patch – is being replaced by a more angsty debate.
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Each survey has been conscientiously reported, each failure has been the subject of an adequate chronicle. But there was no sense of critical mass, as with yesterday’s Politico headline:
“‘President’s decline is alarming’: Biden trapped in coronavirus malaise.”
Now, I always hasten to add that polls are a snapshot and politics can be fleeting. It would make no more sense to cancel Biden than when he was beaten in Iowa and New Hampshire (and there was a flood of political obituaries).
Biden’s problem is bigger than that of the press, but his unusually low media profile doesn’t help. He gives few interviews, answers questions several times a week and does not seem interested in conveying a coherent media message. So the story becomes a story of mandate battles or traffic jams on Hill or Haitian migrants, with Biden and his team playing catch-up or, worse, looking like passers-by.
Biden doesn’t need to talk to reporters four times a day, as Donald Trump often did. But while sticking to mostly scripted events worked well in the campaign and when things were going well, it’s a strategy ill-suited to turbulent times.
After nearly nine months in office, Biden is beginning to take responsibility for the lack of results as well as blunders, such as the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. It looks like he can’t control his own party as progressive and moderate Democrats fight over multibillion dollar spending bills, when most of the country is unsure of exactly what’s in that legislation.
Yesterday at a press conference, a reporter asked Nancy Pelosi, “Could you do a better job of messaging?”
“I think you could all do a better job selling this,” Pelosi replied.
Madam President, it is not our job to sell your complicated legislation. We educate people about the climate change and medicare and child tax credits provisions – which sound good individually – but this is overwhelmed by mind-numbing processes like reconciliation.
If Biden had won the infrastructure bill – rather than bow to the Bernie wing by tying it to a gargantuan measure that’s far too costly to pass – his fortunes would be different now.
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And of course, it’s no surprise that Biden’s plummeting numbers closely follow the push of the Delta variant, which thankfully is starting to wane.
Politico reports that nine members of a Pennsylvania focus group gave Biden ratings of C- or less, and kept coming back to Covid.
Biden supporter Sarah Longwell, who had been a Republican strategist, uses the word ‘unease’: “People don’t feel like their lives have improved. They kind of feel that the promises are not required. “
Seasoned Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said “the president’s decline is alarming. It is serious. But it can also be reversed.”
In National Review, Deroy Murdoch says Republicans are too nice to the president by saying things like “Biden isn’t in control. He has no idea what’s going on. Biden doesn’t know what day it is. . “
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This is “nonsense,” said the Fox News contributor: “This is Joe Biden’s White House, and he’s the one taking the lead – or at least accepting what’s going on there – down and across the executive branch he oversees. “
That’s right – and tearing up Biden’s policies makes more sense to the GOP than denigrating his mental sharpness or pretending someone else is pulling the strings.
How worried are Biden supporters? Michael Gerson, Bush White House employee turned Washington Post columnist, said GOP full control over government “in the hands of a re-elected and empowered Donald Trump in 2025” is now “the likely outcome. “. For Gerson, a NeverTrumper is a “nightmare prospect”.
It seems like a pretty pessimistic take for an election more than three years from now. But it does suggest Biden needs to dig to get out of a deep hole just to regain the confidence of his supporters.