Democrats Grapple With Joe Biden’s Sinking Approval Rating

Democrats Grapple With Joe Biden’s Sinking Approval Rating

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) leaves a meeting with President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are opposing the passage of the president’s agenda alongside Republicans.

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

In November, moderate Democrats got their way after Democrats lost the Virginia gubernatorial election, claiming the political toll of not passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill was simply too high. Congress passed the legislation just days after the loss in Virginia without any meaningful progress on Build Back Better.

The timing may have ruined Biden’s bipartisan moment of glory and turned it into more of a consolation prize, said Ian Russell, a pollster and former director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

“We stepped on our own press with infrastructure,” Russell said. “It was a panicked response.”

As for Build Back Better, both Democrats and Republicans alike agreed that the bill would be “transformational,” with Democrats likening Biden to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“Expectations got out of control,” Russell said. “Biden is at his best when he talks about just making things a little better for regular people.”

The White House is trying to do just that. On Friday, the president is set to speak about the implementation of the infrastructure law two months after its passage, highlighting the first wave of $27 billion to rebuild bridges around the country. The White House has also highlighted bits of good economic news, including job growth that outpaced economists’ expectations from the beginning of the year.

But in the face of another wave of COVID-19 cases and inflation, and at a time when many of the emergency economic relief programs passed during the earlier waves of the virus have already lapsed, the infrastructure bill is clearly not on voters’ minds, and earlier accomplishments — like the American Rescue Plan — have totally faded from political view. Frustration remains high.

“The American people are having an incredibly challenging time, the most challenging time I think our country has had since potentially the Civil War, so it’s understandable that people are trying to figure out their own lives at the same time that all this other stuff is happening,” said Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.).

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) said the American people haven’t “fathomed” everything Democrats have already accomplished. He also suggested that major political events could occur this year that will drastically change the historical likelihood of Democrats losing the House.

“You have a Supreme Court that’s poised to toss out Roe v. Wade. You got Donald Trump still agitating. There are revelations today that Leader McCarthy knows more than he’s telling [about the Jan. 6 Capitol attack]. All this could add up to something that is far different than historical determiners.”

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said Democrats would get a boost from finishing Build Back Better, but also that the infrastructure bill is a big deal by itself.

“If infrastructure was all we passed, it’s a significant victory,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that the American public understands how big it is. So that’s our challenge.”

Kevin Robillard contributed reporting.

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