By W. James Antle III, Politics Editor
President Joe Biden’s team had hoped the signing of the infrastructure law last year would be a turning point for the administration.
No such luck.
Instead, Biden’s position has looked weaker despite some other positives he could point to — falling unemployment, a respectable January jobs report and the upward revision of previous mixed ones, a Supreme Court vacancy Republicans might allow to be filled with relative ease, and the lifting of COVID-19 mandates in the bluest of states.
February’s Quinnipiac poll shows that just 37% of registered voters approve of Biden’s performance in office, while an eye-popping 56% disapprove. Biden’s approval rating among Hispanics sits at 36%, with 49% disapproving. He is underwater with women and barely breaking even with college-educated white women.
CNN’s most recent poll was even worse. It showed 58% disapproving of how Biden has fared as president, with 41% registering their approval. Among independents, Biden’s approval rating was just 36%. Of the respondents who disapproved, 56% couldn’t think of a single positive thing to say. The 1 in 4 who approved said much the same thing.
The right track/wrong track numbers are abysmal, with polls regularly finding the percentage of people who see the country moving in the right direction stuck in the 20s and 30s. The RealClearPolitics polling average finds 64.4% pick wrong track to 28.1% who pick right track — a gap of 36.3 percentage points.
Some individual surveys are worse still. An NBC News poll pegged the split at 72% wrong track, 50 points greater than those who picked right track. Gallup’s numbers for “satisfaction with the way things are going in U.S.” is near a 40-year low.
Whenever Biden has any good news (a drop in jobless claims), it is canceled out by something more negative (a spike in inflation that is eating into wage growth). Biden appears out of touch if he tries to take credit for the better economic numbers with prices rising faster than many people’s incomes. He can’t take credit for Democratic governors and mayors easing pandemic restrictions because he is lagging behind them.
Biden was supposed to inoculate the Democratic Party against charges of wokeness and GOP culture war attacks. He has not. These issues are resonating in Virginia, New Jersey, and even San Francisco.
The president, who won voters whose top issue was the pandemic by 66 points and those who prioritized eradicating the virus over reopening the economy by 60, is now underwater on COVID-19. It’s now just an area where he polls noticeably better than on immigration or crime.
It’s early, but it is also a midterm election year. Democrats are trailing in the generic congressional ballot, which tests which party voters want to see control Congress, by an average of 3.4 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics. Biden remains a net drag on down-ballot Democrats.
Civiqs polling that breaks down Biden’s approval rating by state paints a precarious picture for Democrats defending the 50-50 Senate they barely control with the aid of Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote. Biden is underwater by 30 points in Ohio, 29 points in Arizona, 26 points in Georgia, 23 points in North Carolina, 23 points in Nevada, 22 points in Florida, 18 points in Pennsylvania, 17 points in Wisconsin, 16 points in Colorado, and 10 points in New Hampshire.
The Democratic majority in the House is barely larger than in the Senate. In the lower chamber, Democrats lost 52 seats during Bill Clinton’s first midterm election in 1994 and 63 seats in Barack Obama’s first in 2010 — both Democrats were reelected as president after their midterm setbacks.
Given Biden’s age and approval ratings, the party is nearly as uncertain about 2024 as this year’s elections. Polling showing Harris is even less popular has Democrats and other political observers speculating wildly about other alternatives.
Nearly nine months is a long time to turn things around. But weeks after the infrastructure bill became law, it’s becoming clear that Democrats cannot simply build a bridge and get over it.