The first year of a presidency is usually the best, and that’s bad news for President Biden and the Democratic Party.
As Mr. Biden reaches the first anniversary of his inauguration Thursday, two-thirds of Americans say the nation is headed in the wrong direction and their support for Democrats has plummeted.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still not under control despite Mr. Biden‘s fervent campaign promises, and the annual inflation rate has climbed to a 40-year high of 7%.
A couple of Democratic senators have blocked Mr. Biden‘s repeated attempts over several months to approve his roughly $1.8 trillion “Build Back Better” plan, the centerpiece of his economic agenda. Several times, Mr. Biden has made highly publicized visits to the Capitol to rally Democrats and come away empty-handed.
This week, the Senate will rebuff the president’s increasingly urgent calls to approve partisan election and voting legislation despite Mr. Biden‘s numerous personal attempts to win over holdout Democrats.
After early successes with a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill and a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure plan, Mr. Biden has spent just about all his political capital.
SEE ALSO: Americans give Biden low marks on coronavirus response, Russia, economy: NBC poll
“He‘s had a tough couple months, no doubt about it, I can’t deny it,” said political strategist Jim Manley, who worked for Democratic leaders in the Senate for about 20 years. “It doesn’t mean things can’t change, but if you look at the polls, they’ve got a ways to go.”
Mr. Biden has the second-lowest approval rating of any president at this point in his term — 42% in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Only President Trump was lower, with an average of 40.1%.
Mr. Trump’s chances for a comeback in 2024 are benefiting from Mr. Biden‘s slump.
“We’ve had more problems, we’ve had more destruction than five presidents put together in the last year,” Mr. Trump told roughly 15,000 supporters at a rally in Arizona on Saturday.
A Quinnipiac University poll last week showed Mr. Biden‘s job approval rating at 35%, a new low. Even among Democrats, the president’s approval rating was a relatively low 75%, with sagging support from Black (57%) and Hispanic (28%) voters. A White House adviser called the poll an “outlier.”
The White House claimed “incredible progress” on the economy in the past year. White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that the unemployment rate has fallen from 6.4% when Mr. Biden took office to 3.9%, with 6.4 million jobs created.
SEE ALSO: Biden approval hits new low at one-year mark: AP-NORC poll
“During President Biden‘s first year, we saw the most dramatic change in our economy of anywhere in the world. From the worst jobs year in history to the best in history,” she said.
Still, inflation has more than erased wage gains, and multiple surveys show that voters aren’t feeling economic progress.
Neither are congressional Democrats. Ahead of the midterm elections, 28 have announced their retirements, compared with 14 Republicans.
A Gallup survey this week found that support for Democrats plunged 14 percentage points during 2021 to give the Republican Party a 5-point advantage. It was the biggest lead in voter preferences since Republicans won control of the House in 1994.
Democrats started 2021 with a 9-point advantage, the largest lead the party has held since the fourth quarter of 2012.
“A summer surge of infections tied to the delta variant of the coronavirus made it clear the pandemic was not over in the U.S., and Biden‘s approval ratings began to sag,” Gallup said. “Later, the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan caused Biden‘s ratings to fall further.”
Ms. Psaki said the administration came into office in “an incredibly difficult circumstance,” fighting the pandemic and a severe economic downturn. She said the Trump administration “did not effectively deal with a lot of these crises.”
“There’s been a lot of progress made,” she said. “We need to build on that. The job is not done. Our objective — and I think what you’ll hear the president talk about [at a press conference Wednesday] is how to build on the foundation we laid in the first year.”
When Mr. Biden traveled to Georgia last week to make a pitch for the voting rights legislation, some activists, including Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, stayed away. Ms. Abrams blamed a scheduling conflict.
Many Democrats are expressing a case of buyer’s remorse with Mr. Biden.
“People are feeling like they’re getting less than they bargained for when they put Biden in office. There’s a lot of emotions, and none of them are good,” Quentin Wathum-Ocama, president of the Young Democrats of America, told The Associated Press. “I don’t know if the right word is ‘apoplectic’ or ‘demoralized.’ We’re down. We’re not seeing the results.”
He said in a post on Twitter, “I still believe we still have an opportunity to win big in 2022 if certain Senate Democrats grow a spine AND we see more action and fight from Joe Biden.”
It’s so bad for Mr. Biden’s party that two prominent Democrats have raised the prospect of a Hillary Clinton comeback in 2024, when she will turn 77.
“Several circumstances — President Biden‘s low approval rating, doubts over his capacity to run for re-election at 82, Vice President Kamala Harris’s unpopularity, and the absence of another strong Democrat to lead the ticket in 2024 — have created a leadership vacuum in the party, which Mrs. Clinton viably could fill,” Democrats Doug Schoen and Andrew Stein wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.
Mr. Biden has said he intends to seek reelection.
The president’s liberal base is unhappy about multiple unfulfilled goals, including election laws, raising the minimum wage and canceling student debt. Liberals say Mr. Biden hasn’t leaned hard enough on Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to abolish or radically change the Senate‘s long-standing filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to pass most legislation in the 100-seat chamber.
“This is not the time for games. Being diplomatic with Manchin and Sinema hasn’t worked, and too much is on the line,” tweeted Nina Turner, a co-chair of Sen. Bernard Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. “The President needs to go to AZ and WV and start talking to the voters about what their Senators are doing.”
Mr. Manley said some of the unrest among Democrats is a result of inevitable gridlock in the 50-50 Senate.
“There’s a lot of frustration, in part based on the fact that the Senate doesn’t work anymore and that, despite some early successes that the administration enjoyed, at some point reality was going to kick in and the Senate was going to start serving as a killing field,” he said.
He said he expects Mr. Biden to rely more on executive and regulatory actions this year, given the low probability of moving legislation through Congress.
The White House is moving ahead with voting legislation that appears doomed, in part because failing to bring it to a vote in the Senate would further demoralize the president’s base.
“A lot of mistakes were made to get to this point in time on the voting rights bill, but doing nothing now is not an option,” Mr. Manley said.
Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, called the push for the voting bill “CYA [cover your ass] week” for Democrats in Washington. He blamed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.
“The Senate is taking a guaranteed-to-fail vote on blowing up the filibuster so that [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer can ward off a primary challenge from [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and so that Ron Klain can throw some chum at the Democratic Party‘s progressive base,” Mr. Sasse said in a statement. “Ron Klain thinks his own activists are dumb enough to fall for it. President Biden ought to fire his chief of staff immediately.”
Rep. Claudia Tenney, New York Republican, said on Twitter that she hears “from constituents across the political spectrum every day — Democrats and Republicans — who are frustrated with this president’s policies and upset by his broken promises and divisive rhetoric.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, pointed to a Gallup survey this month indicating that Americans believe the president’s priorities are misplaced. The poll showed that less than 1% of voters said the voting rights proposal was a priority.
“Here’s what people do care about: The top response, at 21%, was poor government leadership,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor. “About a year into the Biden administration, the American people’s single greatest concern is bad leadership. And when you dig into the other issues, you can see why. Some of the next-largest concerns were either general economic problems or inflation and rising costs in particular. And no wonder. … Our country continues to experience the worst inflation in 40 years.”
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