Biden’s big bet to bring back America better
So far is so good for President Biden. He has prospered in the early days of his presidency because he has gotten the big things right.
A new NPR and Marist national poll demonstrates that just after two months, most adult Americans approve of Biden’s performance. His overall approval rating dovetails nicely with the encouraging scores he receives from the public for dealing with the two biggest challenges facing the American people: the fatal pandemic and the failed economy.
Biden’s big bet is that if he solves the two biggest problems plaguing the nation in the first two years of his presidency, voters will likely reward him with bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate after next year’s midterm elections. This scenario requires the 46th president to move boldly to fight COVID-19 and revitalize the economy, even if he must rely on a bare Senate majority of 50 — plus the vice president’s tie-breaking vote — to win the twin battles.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans died from COVID-19 infections and millions more lost their jobs during the last year of President Trump’s presidency. However, the early returns for Biden and the American people are encouraging. Since Biden became president, jobs are coming back and pandemic deaths are decreasing.
In the NPR/Marist poll, there is majority support for Biden’s early actions.
Americans (52 percent approve and 40 percent disapprove) have seen the results and they’ve given the new president a thumbs up. This may not seem like much but after a steady streak of negative job ratings during the Trump presidency, Biden’s ratings look as high as an elephant’s eye.
The secret to Biden’s success and the advantage over Trump is the new president’s positive rating extends beyond his base. Biden’s approval among Democrats (91 percent) is overwhelming but he also does well with independents (48 percent). Biden does especially well with female independents (50 percent) and holds his own with their male counterparts (46 percent).
The divisive political climate of the 21st century has produced a new brand of bipartisanship. Agreement between Democrats and Republicans is as outdated as a telephone booth.
The new bipartisanship means doing something that Biden has aced but Trump failed at, which was to hang onto his base while being able to hold his own with independents.
Biden’s rating on the economy mirrors his overall approval scores. A majority of Americans (51 percent) assign him positive grades and his rating on the economy is better than Trump’s score (50 percent) at the tail end of his tenure in the White House.
Where the new president really shines is his handling of the pandemic. Two out of every three American approve of his handling of the pandemic while less than three in 10 adults disapprove (65 percent approve, 28 percent disapprove). Trump’s rating for dealing with the pandemic in last December 2020 was abysmal (37 percent approve, 59 percent disapprove). Biden dominates with Democrats (94 percent approve) but also grades out very well with independents (64 percent approve).
The new president is doing something that the old president could not do which is to walk and chew gum at the same time. Trump was able to maintain his base of Republican support, but he failed to expand his support to independents, as Biden has. Republicans are and likely will always be hostile to Biden but the poll shows there are more politically unaffiliated Americans than there are Republican partisans.
Biden’s big bet, like any wager, comes with risk. The biggest threat to his presidency now is the immigration surge on the Mexican border. Only one in three Americans (34 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove) credit Biden for handling immigration well, and Republicans are sure to exploit the issue as part of their culture war against the Democratic administration.
But Republicans made a bad bet on immigration in the last midterm election. In 2018, Trump and fellow Republicans tried to stem the public cry for better health care with scare tactics about an imagined immigration crisis.
It proved to be a bad bet. Democrats took control of the House from the GOP because Americans likely weren’t distracted by the fantasy immigrant caravan. The national exit poll indicated there was much more voter concern (41 percent) about the need for expanded health care as there was about reduced immigration (23 percent).
The new president will win his wager if the pandemic recedes and the economy revives by the fall of next year. Biden is betting Americans will feel so much relief that they will stake him with more Democratic support in the next Congress, which could make the second half of his first term a little easier than the first half.
Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Deadline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.