Biden moves to show off wins in the shadow of inflation, Trump probe
President Biden is finally set to take his show on the road.
Biden and administration officials are set to tour the country to promote the sweeping climate, tax and health care bill that the president and Democrats hope will bolster their standing ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections.
But the tour comes in the shadow of stubbornly low approval ratings and questions swirling among Democrats over whether he should run for re-election in 2024, despite some indicators that inflation and prices at the pump are slowly coming down.
Then there’s Donald Trump. An investigation into the former president has Republicans alleging Biden is using his own FBI and Justice Department to target a political enemy, a notion the White House has vehemently tried to tamp down.
“He’s had some tremendous wins, and it seems like he can’t win lately. He can’t catch a break,” said one Democratic donor, who likened the moment to the 2020 campaign when Biden was losing in the polls and being drowned out in the media by his rival.
Biden allies have quietly voiced frustration in recent days that his string of domestic victories has been eclipsed by the headlines on Mar-a-Lago. Each day, more news comes out about the FBI investigation into Trump, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down after a judge indicated on Thursday that he may unseal parts of an affidavit accompanying the search warrant the Justice Department used.
“The reality is that there’s so much news every single day and [Biden’s] accomplishments can sometimes get lost if you’re not out there, talking about that every single day,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a former communications director at the Democratic National Committee (DNC). “If you’re looking at the totality of what he’s accomplished, and especially the Inflation Reduction Act, you have to continue to really talk to voters and spend money to not only persuade voters, but to turn them out around our successes ahead of the midterm elections.”
The president is set to rally voters at a DNC event in Maryland next Thursday and host an event at the White House early next month for a victory lap of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Then, the White House has said he will travel across the country to tout the IRA.
Cabinet members have already started heading out to states for a roadshow on the IRA and have 35 trips to 23 states planned through the end of August.
The president is set to rally voters at a DNC event in Maryland next Thursday and host an event at the White House early next month for a victory lap of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).
Cabinet members started heading out to states for a roadshow to tout the IRA on Wednesday and have 35 trips to 23 states planned through the end of August.
For Biden, he’ll have to carefully “pick his spots,” said one Democratic strategist, who acknowledged that the coming months would prove to be challenging, particularly with woes about inflation lingering in the backdrop.
“It’s a juggle for Biden,” the strategist said. “I think certainly the president has got the agenda accomplishments that he can point to, but in many ways he’s a bystander and it’s the bystander presidency.”
“He wasn’t the primary driver on the IRA, he wasn’t the primary driver on chips or gun legislation,” they added of Biden’s recent legislative achievements. “But he has a lot he can run on.”
And in some ways, the Trump headlines play in Biden’s favor, political observers say.
“He can do both at once,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “Promote his accomplishments, remind voters of the danger of Republican power.”
“The best hope for Democrats is to hit hard on both themes, without letting one dominate the other,” Zelizer said. “Making gains in a midterm year is tough to do. But the goal is marginal improvement with swing voters.”
But others argue that swing voters are too focused on the economy and high inflation — and not necessarily Trump — to be swayed by hearing about Democrats’ big legislative achievement.
“While the IRA is a major policy win for the administration, politically it seems more likely to rally the Dem base than win over swing voters concerned by stressful macroeconomic trends,” said Bruce Mehlman, former assistant secretary at the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush.
Jeff Jones, senior editor at Gallup, expressed doubt that Biden could see a significant boost mainly because domestic policy achievements typically don’t move the needle too much.
“A lot of it is determined by the approval rating … and his approval rating is low even if he did get some kind of bump from the recent news,” he said.
Biden’s approval rating ticked up 3 percentage points this past week in a new poll in the wake of his signing the IRA, with 42 percent of registered voters saying they approve of the job he is doing as president. The same survey released last week showed his approval rating was at 39 percent.
The president, plagued by lingering poor scores, has been unable in multiple polls to break 40 percent approval in recent months.
“Most presidents either have an anchor effect or a buoy effect, and right now it seems like this president is having a neutral effect,” said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who added that that is “in part by design.”
“The president has gotten out of the way in some places, but it’s also because Republicans have not figured out how to tie up the loose ends from the Trump era. The story right now is still the 45th president, the one that Biden beat.”
Other news from Trump World, like the tax fraud guilty plea of former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg this week, is taking up oxygen while the White House has worked to turn the narrative to their wins.
Despite all the noise, Democratic communications strategist Katie Grant Drew said the IRA, along with the CHIPs and Science Act and gun control legislation, gives Democrats plenty to talk to voters about in the next three months until the midterms.
“This gives Democrats a real, positive record to run on, as opposed to making the much tougher argument of what Democrats would do if only they had larger majorities,” said Drew, a principal at Monument Advocacy.
“Democrats will need to keep the message direct and simple: this law is going to lower health care costs, seniors will pay less for their prescription drugs, and it’s the most significant step taken to tackle the climate crisis,” she added. “It shows that Democrats can get big things done.”
Morgan Chalfant contributed to this report.