Six months to midterms, Biden faces challenges on all fronts

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President Biden launched an impassioned plea last week asking Congress for an additional $33 billion to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, speaking in searing language about the need to stop dictators and defend human rights.

But soon after finishing his remarks, the president was peppered with questions from reporters about an array of other thorny issues closer to home — controversial immigration policy, a potential economic downturn, an uphill battle over the financing covetousness.

Biden entered office with a historic set of challenges, punctuated by a deadly pandemic and a shuttered economy. Now, six months before a midterm election that could dramatically alter his ability to govern in the final two years of his term, the list of problems has seemingly only grown longer.

Gas prices across the country are skyrocketing. Inflation has broken 40-year highs. The outlook for Biden’s sweeping climate and social spending agenda looks bleak. Crime rates are high. New variants of the coronavirus continue to emerge. Just last week, a report showed the economy unexpectedly contracted in the first quarter, while Vice President Harris’ coronavirus case underscored the stubbornness of the pandemic.

White House officials and Democratic lawmakers aren’t shy about touting the country’s progress in reopening the economy and distributing coronavirus vaccines, crediting Biden for stabilizing the ship after four years. turmoil of President Donald Trump. At the same time, many Democrats say it looks like the president, in some sense, can’t take a break these days.

“The current climate is very difficult for Democrats and certainly for President Biden, but it’s not the apocalypse yet,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (DN.Y.), who is not running for re-election. “We have a chance to speak to the American people where they are, to congratulate ourselves on the good things the administration has done and to explain how we are going to make things better.”

In his first year, Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and a bipartisan infrastructure bill of about $1 trillion, achievements that party leaders say have saved the economy and will transform the country’s network of roads, bridges and ports. But despite Biden’s repeated promises to travel the country and present voters with his successes, the gauntlet of challenges has bogged down the efforts of the president’s chief salesman.

And some fear those same achievements could spell a political setback, as some economists say increased spending could contribute to high inflation. And even the president has made a habit of acknowledging that his accomplishments don’t resonate with voters the way he hoped.

“What worries me is that I’ve been so focused on the immediate emergency that we haven’t sold the American people on what we’ve actually done,” the president told major donors during a meeting. a fundraiser in Seattle. the week.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Biden’s overall approval rating among adults is now 42% positive and 52% negative. That’s a slight increase from February, when 37% of Americans said they approved of his job performance and 55% said they disapproved.

But despite the rise, more than 9 in 10 Americans expressed concern about rising prices, including 44% who said they were upset about inflation. On the broader economy, 50% of Americans said they trust the Republican Party, compared to 36% who say they trust the Democrats.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), who is also retiring from Congress next year, listed the multitude of challenges facing the country and said Democrats are likely to face election repercussions, although some of the problems are well beyond their control.

“We’re looking at historic levels of inflation, continuing supply chain issues, a quarter where our economic growth may have stuttered,” Murphy said. “While there are a myriad of reasons for these economic problems, ranging from Ukraine to the pandemic to supply chain issues and other things beyond the control of any given party, we recognize that voters may not make that distinction.”

Republicans scoff at the idea that bad news isn’t Biden’s fault. They are eager to spread the message that Democratic control from Washington has brought incompetence and chaos, which they say is resulting in higher prices, rising crime, failing schools and a wave of violence. ‘illegal immigration.

Zach Roday, a Republican strategist working on House and Senate races, said Democrats outside of the senses. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona) haven’t created distance with Biden and are likely to be dragged down by his low approval ratings.

“Today is pretty disastrous for the president,” he said. “These Democrats are going to have to establish independent brands and convince voters of them. Without it, they have no chance. »

Biden’s challenge has been that when he tried to go on the offensive and make the case for his presidency, his message was often drowned out by news about the economy, the war in Ukraine, the pandemic or the latest Republican success in enacting hot- button state laws.

But Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster and former adviser to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, said his party still had a chance to make its case before the midterms. “Everyone knows the responsibility is with the president, but I don’t think it’s about having too much on your plate – it’s about how to make your case to the American people,” he said. he declared.

In particular, Benenson said the president and Democrats should step up their attacks on corporate greed, tying companies’ drive for bigger profits to inflation and supply chain issues that plague people’s wallets. Americans.

“The risk for any incumbent president is that Washington can become a very insular place, and it’s increasingly difficult to stay in touch with Americans and their weak spots,” he said. “I think the Biden administration has done a reasonable job on a lot of these things, but obviously there’s still a bigger case to make.”

Much of Biden’s final months were consumed leading the global response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an effort that received bipartisan support in the United States and plaudits from American allies abroad. But on the home front, the president continues to face daunting challenges.

A report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis released on Thursday showed the US economy unexpectedly shrank 1.4% on an annualized basis in the first three months of 2022, marking the first decline since the start of the pandemic. Stocks fell nearly 9% in April as the S&P 500 saw its worst monthly decline since March 2020. Investors raised concerns about lockdowns in China amid new pandemic waves, the ongoing war in Ukraine , with likely hikes coming from the Federal Reserve and other economic officials. the winds.

Meanwhile, the White House is growing in fear that Biden won’t be able to get the deal he wants from Congress to fight climate change, cut prescription drug costs and impose higher taxes. raised to the rich. Biden’s efforts to push through a sweeping social spending bill — his so-called Build Back Better initiative — crumbled last year after Manchin pulled out of negotiations, citing rising inflation and the growing national debt.

With many leaders of both parties expecting Democrats to lose one or both houses of Congress, White House officials fear Biden could miss the opportunity to pass legislation that addresses many of the main priorities of his party.

The president and his aides are especially keen to remind Americans of the progress they’ve made on the pandemic, with a nationwide vaccination campaign and an economy that has returned to normal in many ways. But every week there are new reminders of the lingering coronavirus, including the recent news that Harris had tested positive.

The vice president was prescribed Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill, and her office said she had been working all past week from the US Naval Observatory, her official residence. Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, announced on Friday that she had also tested positive for the virus.

Biden Saturday attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, an event bringing together hundreds of people in a single ballroom, amid growing concerns from some medical experts that he could contract the virus. “It is a great honor for me to speak tonight at the nation’s most distinguished broadcast event,” comedian Trevor Noah, who spoke after Biden, told the audience.

Still, Democrats say they have a strong record to brag about, though many admit they could do a much better job.

“We’re in very tough times right now, but I hope this president and Democrats at large will come out and talk about the good things we’ve done,” said Rice, the New York lawmaker. “We could do a better job talking about the things we’ve accomplished.”

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