Juan Williams: Biden may be Comeback Kid of midterms

A friend surprised me last week.

President Biden’s low poll numbers, he said, are the springboard for a story Americans love — the Comeback Kid.

That’s the total opposite of today’s conventional wisdom that Biden is about to fall into a political hellhole of big losses in the midterms.

{mosads}My friend’s thinking is in line with former President George W. Bush’s complaint that people always “misunderestimated” him.

The idea that Biden is on the brink of a comeback begins with the president outfoxing Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

Biden’s steady hand is punishing Putin for starting a war while avoiding any aggressive act the Russian president might use to justify his attack on Ukraine. And Biden is keeping European allies together to impose sanctions and strengthen NATO.

It was Biden who got a standing ovation from Republicans and Democrats at his State of the Union address for saying Putin made a mistake in thinking “he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over.”

A CBS News/YouGov poll found that 78 percent of Americans who watched Biden approved of his speech.

And in case you have not noticed, Republicans and right-wing talk hosts have spent the last week walking away from earlier claims that Biden exaggerated the threat of Russian invasion.

They are running away from former President Trump, who after seeing reporting on the start of the invasion, praised Putin’s strategic “genius.Mike Pompeo, Trump’s former Secretary of State, also praised Putin in January as a man who “knows how to use power — we should respect that.”

And Republicans are sprinting away from Stephen Bannon, a former Trump advisor, who called for Biden to be impeached for “instigating this war in Ukraine.”

Similarly, J.D. Vance, the Trump-style Republican campaigning for Senate in Ohio, is doing an about-face after saying “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.”

While the GOP is busy cleaning up that mess, Biden is approaching several potential victories on the domestic political front.

Women, Black voters, and even the most far left of his base are going to get a political jolt with the potential confirmation of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic hearings will get strong media attention. It will be noted that Biden has appointed 40 federal judges in his first year — the most of any president in their first year since Ronald Reagan.

Another Biden victory is on the horizon as the pandemic eases.

Until now, any credit due Biden for success in getting most Americans vaccinated has been obscured by Republicans creating fights over vaccinations, mask-wearing and social distancing.

Now mandates are going away. Schools are open. Basketball games are packed. Biden may finally get some credit.Then there is the economy.

Even with inflation, the Biden economy remains strong, with unemployment near historic lows, rising wages and strong consumer spending, in part thanks to the coronavirus relief package that he passed.

That economic package is often overlooked by reporters, but it served as a lifeline for millions of Americans through the pandemic’s darkest days.

And gloom over the Democrats’ failure to pass the president’s Build Back Better plan also has a chance to turn to smiles at a Rose Garden ceremony.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said last week he is open to a smaller plan to lower prescription drug prices, fight inflation and act on climate change.

Any small victory on that front would mean that Biden had passed three big bills in his first two years in office: COVID-19 relief, infrastructure, and some part of his domestic agenda.

Biden will be able to say he has been at work while the GOP has idled.

“What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for,” he said during a January news conference.

Last week, Biden’s point got a burst of attention when a proposed GOP agenda provoked a public split.

{mossecondads}Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scolded Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for releasing an agenda that in McConnell’s words, “raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare after five years.”

Democrats are already running advertisements to let voters know about the plan.

With no agenda of their own, Republicans have attacked Biden and Democrats by tying them to the fringe left chant of “Defund the Police.”

But Biden told the massive audience for the State of the Union speech, “The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to fund the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”

Those comments prompted a large ovation. Meanwhile, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) further damaged the Republican brand by heckling Biden as he spoke about his dead son.

At other points during the address, Boebert sought to get a chant going along with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who was recently called out for speaking at a conference organized by a white nationalist.

The more I watch Biden, the more I agree that Democrats have a chance in the midterms. It starts with party messaging that defines Biden as the right man to lead the nation at this moment: a can-do pragmatist successfully handling Russia, COVID-19, jobs, and inflation.

By November, President Biden may be the latest Comeback Kid.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel. 

Tags 2022 midterm elections Biden economic record Biden presidency Donald Trump Joe Biden Marjorie Taylor Greene Mitch McConnell Vladimir Putin

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