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Analysis-Biden must tighten focus on economy, pandemic before midterms, Democrats say

Economic Indicators Jan 20, 2022 03:55PM ET
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© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., U.S., January 19, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With his party splintered and Democrats across the coalition that elected him in 2020 unhappy, President Joe Biden has just a few months to try to chart a path out of the malaise or risk getting swamped in the looming midterm elections in which Republicans are seeking to regain control of Congress.

A year into Biden's presidency, suburban, college-educated and women voters who helped make him president are exhausted after almost two years of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite robust economic indicators, many Americans are frustrated by regular school disruptions, high prices at the gasoline pump and barren grocery store shelves.

As the sitting president, all of that weighs on Biden's popularity. He acknowledged those frustrations at a rare news conference at the White House on Wednesday.

"It's been too much to bear," Biden said, referring to the pandemic and its accumulated effects on Americans.

Containing the coronavirus is "a job not yet finished," Biden added. "It will get better."

The United States leads the world https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/countries-and-territories/united-states in COVID-19 deaths, with almost 860,000.

Analysts have said Biden has just a few months to reverse public opinion on his performance before voter attitudes harden ahead of the November elections.

Republicans have proven to be surprisingly resilient politically, showing renewed electoral appeal despite party fissures over former President Donald Trump's false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him through widespread election fraud and his supporters' attack last year on the U.S. Capitol.

More than a dozen Democratic strategists, analysts and pollsters told Reuters that Biden needs to deliver a more focused economic message, one that highlights meaningful policy victories such as passage of a major infrastructure bill and targets other problems such as supply-chain disruptions - all while continuing to make combating the pandemic a top priority.

Biden must find a way, they said, to move beyond the squabbling on Capitol Hill and turn his attention to tailored measures that will help families still dealing with fallout from a pandemic that has rattled the economy and changed society in seemingly endless ways.

"We have a lot of policies, a lot of statistics. But we're not making people feel better," said Jen Ancona of Way to Win, a Democratic advocacy group.

Biden's achievements on securing congressional passage of COVID-19 relief legislation and infrastructure spending have been overshadowed by party-infighting over the massive "Build Back Better" bill - a spending plan with healthcare, education, child care, immigration and climate components - and voter-protection measures.

Even as Biden spoke on Wednesday, the Democratic-led Senate was poised to hold a vote https://www.reuters.com/world/us/voting-rights-brawl-takes-center-stage-us-senate-2022-01-19 regarding the voting-rights legislation - a top priority of party activists - that seems doomed to failure.

IT'S THE ECONOMY

A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken this month showed the economy remains the top concern for voters across the political spectrum despite strong employment numbers, followed by containing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most critical for Democratic prospects in the congressional elections is getting inflation under control, said Doug Sosnik, a former senior adviser to Democratic President Bill Clinton.

"I feel sticker-shock three or four times a day when I buy something," Sosnik said. "It affects everybody."

At his news conference, Biden said improving supply chains and upgrading infrastructure could eventually lower consumer prices, while conceding that Americans are struggling.

Biden has lost ground among some of the groups that helped push him past Trump in 2020. According the Reuters/Ipsos poll, support among white voters (41%), suburban voters (43%) and college-age voters (45%) has dropped to the lowest levels of his presidency while disapproval among those voters has shot above 50%.

Some of those voters defected to Republican candidates in governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey last November, while turnout by the hardcore Democratic base was spotty. If repeated, that could trigger a Republican landslide in the midterm elections, according to strategists.

Democrats narrowly control both chambers of Congress. If Republicans win a majority in either the House of Representatives or Senate, Biden's legislative agenda could be doomed.

Democrats hope that once the current COVID-19 surge powered by the Omicron variant recedes, voters will feel a greater sense of normalcy and view the economy - and the president - more favorably.

There also remains the possibility that the White House will be able to salvage pieces of its legislative agenda - as Biden called for on Wednesday, something that would give Democratic candidates more to sell on the campaign trail this summer.

"I think there's still the opportunity to get it right," said David Pepper, the former chair of the Ohio Democratic Party. "You've got to figure out how to break through."

Analysis-Biden must tighten focus on economy, pandemic before midterms, Democrats say
 

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Comments (9)
Andrew Allen
Andrew Allen Jan 21, 2022 9:01AM ET
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Nothing can save the Dems next election except wiping the memories of every american
pcg upstate
pcg upstate Jan 20, 2022 8:14PM ET
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War with Russia will help keep minds off of inflation and Biden agenda
David CA
ILoveQE Jan 20, 2022 5:47PM ET
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Biden focus?!! Does he even know where he is half the time? LOL.
Limin Tandiono
Limin Tandiono Jan 20, 2022 4:55PM ET
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The narrative is all about politician getting control. Sometimes it is wise to sacrifice shortterm quick fixes, for the sake of a country's longterm good. US politicians can afford to do this even if they want to, since are worried of loosing control in the next elections.
Limin Tandiono
Limin Tandiono Jan 20, 2022 4:55PM ET
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* can't afford to...
Bob Collins
Bob Collins Jan 20, 2022 4:52PM ET
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The regime of His fraudulency is done. Now destroy the demonic party.
Sattar Langary
Sattar Langary Jan 20, 2022 4:13PM ET
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Republicans unite! what is going on!?
Richard Saunders
Richard Saunders Jan 20, 2022 4:06PM ET
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Analysis: Biden CAN'T focus. On much of anything. Is it lunch time yet? I hope we have broth, I love broth.
Sattar Langary
Sattar Langary Jan 19, 2022 10:21PM ET
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are you kidding me? he is done. mid term elections will make his day really bad. he has not done anything yet...talk talk talk. This country must only be ruled by republicans, and private sector. every action they take to hurt capitalism, they remind us of socialist democrats who have no clue about the Great America!
Red Riley
Red Riley Jan 19, 2022 9:48PM ET
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horrible president and leader. clueless
 
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