Chris Murphy was asked yesterday whether he wants a guy who’s rocking a 40.7 percent approval rating involved in sensitive gun-control negotiations in the Senate. Answer: Uhhhhhh…
“I think the consequences of failure for our entire democracy are more significant than ever.”
— CNN (@CNN) June 5, 2022
Politico claims Biden is privately “seething” that his numbers now compare unfavorably to Trump’s. But why? The surest thing in American politics is that voters prioritize the economy above all else, and right now the economy is facing a challenge not seen in 40 years that’s grinding down the lower and middle classes. For all the bad memories most voters have of the Trump years, the one shining exception was the roaring economy he oversaw until the U.S. hit a brick wall with COVID in 2020.
If everything is suddenly 10 percent more expensive — and if the president himself bears some blame for that, which Biden does — then of course his job approval is headed into the toilet. It’s a testament to how widely disliked Trump was that his numbers were only a few points north of Biden’s at this stage of his presidency despite the strength of the economy.
In crisis after crisis, the White House has found itself either limited or helpless in its efforts to combat the forces pummeling them. Morale inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is plummeting amid growing fears that the parallels to Jimmy Carter, another first-term Democrat plagued by soaring prices and a foreign policy morass, will stick…
The president has expressed exasperation that his poll numbers have sunk below those of Donald Trump, whom Biden routinely refers to in private as “the worst president” in history and an existential threat to the nation’s democracy…
Far more prone to salty language behind the scenes than popularly known, Biden also recently erupted over being kept out of the loop about the direness of the baby formula shortage that has gripped parts of the country, according to a White House staffer and a Democrat with knowledge of the conversation. He voiced his frustration in a series of phone calls to allies, his complaints triggered by heart-wrenching cable news coverage of young mothers crying in fear that they could not feed their children.
A White House spokesman told Politico their report is “divorced from reality” but it’s right in line with NBC’s story last week about Biden blaming everyone around him for his political misfortunes. The detail about him being mad that he was kept out of the loop on the baby-formula crisis also dovetails with this clip from a few days ago, when he passed the buck to industry CEOs for not communicating the urgency of the problem to him sooner:
BIDEN: “I don’t think anyone anticipated the impact of…the Abbott facility.”
REPORTER: “Didn’t the CEOs just tell you that they understood it would have a very big impact?”
BIDEN: “They did, but I didn’t.” pic.twitter.com/ge0go5gAPp
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 1, 2022
Jill Biden has allegedly been urging staffers to “let Joe be Joe,” sending him out on the trail to be the goofy back-slapping retail politician he remains at heart. But what is he supposed to say during his speeches that’ll meaningfully blunt the political impact of headlines like this?
In a politician’s darkest hours, when it feels like the world is conspiring against him, it’s natural that he would turn to better “messaging” as a potential solution. Messaging, after all, is one of the few things that’s entirely within his control. It’s the belief that if only the coach gives enough pep talks, the team will regain its enthusiasm and erase the other team’s huge lead. But how many pep talks can he realistically give to change this?
New ABC News/Ipsos poll: pic.twitter.com/lnz0fxa4Q5
— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) June 5, 2022
Even black voters, the group that’s most likely to rate Biden highly, have fallen off. In 2020 some 90 percent of African-Americans approved of him on “at least he isn’t Trump” grounds. Now, with their paychecks being eaten up by higher prices, just 70 percent do. They’re not enthusiastic to turn out either: “But just about half of Black voters, 49 percent, say the outcome of this November’s election matters ‘a great deal’ to them, down from 77 percent who said the same thing about the presidential election in June 2020. Similarly, the share of Black voters who say they are ‘absolutely certain to vote’ has dropped from 85 percent in 2020 to 62 percent this year, a 23-point drop that is larger than the 12-point drop among White voters.”
The problem is obvious, even if the explanations keep shifting:
“I’ll take responsibility instead of blaming others.”
— Joe Biden, 2020 pic.twitter.com/PNG1F5EN85
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 31, 2022
One newsy bit about inflation that flew under the radar this weekend was that Janet Yellen may have warned Team Biden privately last year that the size of the COVID relief bill was an inflation risk. It’s well-known that former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers worried about inflation while the package advanced through Congress and that the Biden White House ignored him. But it would be something else if their own Treasury Secretary was whispering to them to heed Summers’s advice and they ignored her too. Yellen denies having said anything but her biographer claims otherwise:
Yellen’s concern about inflation “is why she had sought without success to scale back the $1.9 trillion relief plan by a third early in 2021 before Congress passed the enormous program,” wrote Ullmann, who had “unfiltered access” to Yellen as he researched the book, according to publisher PublicAffairs.
Ullmann wrote, “She worried that so much money in the pockets of consumers and businesses would drive up prices at a time when the pandemic had caused severe shortages of goods that were in unprecedentedly high demand.”…
It’s unclear from the book how staunchly Yellen lobbied to cut back the size of the third wave of aid or whom she engaged with in the administration. And Ullmann goes on to emphasize that Yellen threw her full weight behind the bill as it moved ahead in its larger size.
The new House Republican majority will spend many weeks or months next year screwing around with investigations into Hunter Biden’s laptop and other clickbait for conservative media, but if they’re looking to get real political bang for their buck, they should probe whether Biden’s team ignored internal warnings about inflation before the COVID rescue bill passed. That’s the sort of negligence that’s apt to light a fire under the asses of working-class casual voters who are struggling to keep their kids fed and their cars gassed up.
In lieu of an exit question, read FiveThirtyEight on how “unusually lukewarm” Americans are about a second term for a guy who’ll turn 80 this year and who’s likely to be remembered for the worst inflation crisis since the early 1980s.