Maybe Joe Biden needs a nap instead. That advice emerged from a focus group run by a Democratic pollster in trying to determine what’s going wrong for a president who arguably has had the worst first year in office since Herbert Hoover. The Washington Post provides a look at Biden’s fortunes as a curtain-raiser for the press conference Biden has scheduled this afternoon in hoping to reset the narratives.
These responses from a friendly researcher make the scope of the challenge clear:
“Old.” “Incoherent.” “Lazy.” “Sleepy Joe.”
These were among the first descriptions that came to mind for 10 suburban women swing voters who gathered late last year for a virtual focus group conducted by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake on behalf of several liberal organizations. The results were reviewed by The Post on the condition of anonymity to protect the identity of the participants and the groups.
Asked to elaborate, the women in the focus group said it seemed like “he’s trying,” but that Biden shuffles and frequently seems to lose his train of thought. Biden is “wishy-washy” in standing up to his own party, one woman said, explaining that she thought the president seemed more like an actor in a “supporting role.”
“He doesn’t convey being strong to me,” she said. “He seems weak.”
One participant urged more naps for Biden “because we need him to be there for us.” Ironically, Biden’s been one of the least “there” presidents in modern history. As VP, Biden held more press avails and did more interviews in his first year than he has as president. And that was even true before Afghanistan and the abandonment of Americans to the Taliban, an inflection point that the Post belatedly recognizes in this analysis (without actually mentioning the abandoned Americans, natch):
Biden’s staffers and other defenders say he took office facing unprecedented calamity — from a historic pandemic to a struggling economy — and note that despite a thin congressional majority, he managed to pass two major pieces of legislation in his first year: an economic stimulus plan designed to help rescue the country from the pandemic and a massive infrastructure package.
But the administration has also repeatedly underestimated the magnitude of the nation’s challenges, including failing to anticipate the delta and omicron coronavirus variants, and has struggled to unite the liberal base and the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party. The president and his team have also stumbled in offering a clear and reassuring message, unable to convince many Americans that they understand their travails or that better days are ahead. …
The decline in Biden’s poll numbers, which already were dropping, accelerated dramatically over the summer. By early September, more Americans disapproved than approved of the way Biden was handling his job for the first time in his presidency, according to a Washington Post average of polls since May 2021.
Post-ABC polls showed a 10-point drop in approval of Biden’s handling of the pandemic from late June to early September. The September Post-ABC poll also found that 60 percent disapproved of his handling of the situation in Afghanistan, and by November, Biden’s overall job ratings had dipped further amid rising disapproval of his handling of the economy and the coronavirus.
The Post leads with Afghanistan and suggests that it was the inflection point for Biden’s collapse, which it was. Gallup’s latest poll recognizes that as well. They never get around to explaining why, and that matters. Biden insisted that he wouldn’t abandon Americans and claimed that no one predicted that the government in Kabul would collapse in the immediate aftermath of an American withdrawal. Both turned out to be lies; Biden left thousands of Americans, both citizens and legal permanent residents, behind Taliban lines in his rush to retreat. Warnings of the potential for collapse turned out to be plentiful inside and outside of Biden’s administration.
All of this created a confidence-crisis cascade, one which I predicted in mid-September when polls turned sharply negative. Biden isn’t just dealing with voter dissatisfaction, but rather an electorate that feels defrauded by Biden. He ran as a careful steward of government, a wise hand that could calm the partisan waters and get deals accomplished by engaging both parties in common-sense solutions. The media went all-in on pushing that narrative to supply a contrast for the 2020 elections to Donald Trump. Instead, voters ended up with an incoherent, weak, dishonest demagogue who promptly abandoned the center for the exact same kind of majoritarian all-or-nothing politics that Biden supposedly ran against.
Now Biden reportedly wants a reset. Today’s press conference could provide a platform for a real agenda shift if Biden wants to execute one, but … is there any evidence he wants that? The White House spent the last few days doubling down on Biden’s execrably disgraceful speech in Georgia in which he compared his political opponents to traitor Jefferson Davis. It’s pretty tough to “reset” your way out of that and get back to the threadbare Uncle Joe persona.
As far as a reset on competence, well … whose bright idea was it to schedule this presser two hours before Chuck Schumer’s attempt to burn down his own caucus over the filibuster? Not only does that not scream “reset,” the spectacle of Democratic recriminations will eclipse anything Biden has to say to reporters today, unless it’s so dumb that it makes headlines. The Biden White House continues to reflect the wisdom and competence of its leader, and that ain’t a compliment.