Their predicament leaves White House aides and political advisers reaching for recovery scenarios like this one: Maybe Biden’s faster-than-normal decline will give way to a faster-than-normal comeback.
“None of them had a two-year change in how people lived their lives,” observed Biden pollster John Anzalone. “When it’s finally over, the trajectory up may well be accelerated.”
No one can deny Biden’s accelerated decline. After remaining at or above 50% approval for his first six months in office, he has suffered serious erosion over the last six. As he completes his first year, the most recent CNN poll of polls shows just 42% of Americans approve of his job performance, while 53% disapprove.
This year, the Republican Party’s turn toward extremism lends unusual urgency to Democrats’ attempts to preserve their slim House and Senate majorities. To have a fighting chance, strategists inside and outside the White House think, Biden’s approval rating needs to return to at least 50% by the campaign’s home stretch.
Yet potential elements of a comeback remain plausible, if distant and unlikely at the moment.
The White House and Democratic leaders still see a path toward retooling Build Back Better in a way that all 50 Senate Democrats could support and turn into law. If they can, Democratic candidates next fall can tout delivery of a broad array of concrete economic benefits.
Clinton used major speeches to signal crowd-pleasing course corrections after Democrats’ 1994 midterm catastrophe.
“I have made my mistakes and learned again the importance of humility,” he acknowledged in his 1995 State of the Union address. In 1996 he declared, “The era of big government is over.”
Some Clinton White House veterans want Biden to do the same thing, only before the midterm elections rather than afterward. They suggest everything from altering his rhetoric to revising his legislative agenda to disengaging from Congress altogether in favor of executive action and foreign policy.