Democratic Party strategists are concerned that President Joe Biden’s dismal poll numbers and continued struggles with record inflation and soaring gas prices will be a liability going into the 2022 midterms, according to a new report.
Multiple political observers told The Hill Monday that the continued presence of such would continue to weigh down Biden’s approval ratings with the public, despite the White House’s repeated attempts to deflect blame and tout Biden’s record.
“In terms of Biden, I think these can only be called rough political times,” Princeton University history and public affairs professor Julian Zelizer, told The Hill. “At least going into the midterm, these poor perceptions of his leadership and the inflationary pressures will weigh him and the Democrats down.”
Most of the experts who spoke to The Hill blamed Biden’s poor public image on inflation, which hit another 40-year high in the month of February, and gas prices, which hit record highs in early March and continue to average above $4 a gallon, according to AAA.
“High gas prices are one of the biggest anchors on presidential approval,” Gallup senior editor Jeff Jones told the outlet, pointing to former presidents George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter as historical examples of pain at the pump affecting voters’ choices in the midterms.
Bill Galston, a domestic policy adviser to former President Bill Clinton and chairman of the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program, said that Biden would continue to be weighed down as long as inflation was at such high levels.
“My hypothesis is that, unless and until inflation comes down appreciably, that there’s going to be a ceiling on his job approval that’s a lot lower than the White House wants it to be,” he said.
The administration has continued to connect high gas prices to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, referring to the increased costs as “Putin’s Price Hike.” But one administration official expressed frustration that the label was not gaining traction.
“For whatever reason, the messaging hasn’t gotten through,” an anonymous official told The Hill. “At times it feels like we’re spinning our wheels.”
Some observers have said that Biden’s approval numbers could be considered normal, and that he could bolster support by narrowing his message. “It’s ‘we beat COVID, we’re beating Russia, and we’re going to beat inflation,’” one observer said.
“It’s not enough to address the problems,” said another. “He also needs to repeatedly hammer home that he’s the one getting us out of the ditch, not the one who drove us into it.”
But others were concerned that Biden’s approval could be depressed for the foreseeable future, and possibly drop again if newfound interest in the Hunter Biden laptop story led to an indictment, the outlet reported.
One Democratic strategist was much more pessimistic.
“Everyone needs to come to terms with the reality that we’re going to get slaughtered in November,” the strategist said. “That’s a fact. His polling has gotten worse, not better. It’s indicative of the fact that people have lost confidence in his leadership. There’s nothing they’re going to be able to do.”
The strategist added that Biden is not likely to pivot back toward the center after the midterms, like Bill Clinton did after Republicans swept into Congress in 1994.
“The problem is simple. The American people have lost confidence in him,” he said.
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