Officially begun, perhaps. Politico might be a little late to the track meet when it comes to Democrats’ running away from Joe Biden. His tanking approval ratings hit right where it hurts — in states where Senate Democrats’ hopes of holding onto the majority rest:
Biden’s drag on swing-state incumbents is emerging as a pivotal factor in the midterm Senate elections, where the loss of just one Democratic-held seat in November could put Republicans in control.
Acutely aware of the need to get distance from the president, the four most endangered Democratic incumbents — Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan — are increasingly taking steps to highlight their independence from the president and underscore their differences.
Their public pushback against Biden’s plan to lift the Trump-era border restriction known as Title 42 is the most visible expression of the effort to get distance from the president. But the four Democrats are also finding other ways of signaling to voters. They’ve visited the border wall and blocked his nominees. A month before a Trump-appointed judge struck down Biden’s mask mandate on mass transit, three of the four voted in favor of a Republican bill to do just that.
How well will that work out? Probably not much when voters make distinctions between cheap talk and real action:
On social media, where they shy away from praise of the president and instead focus on their efforts to prod the White House to action, it’s hard to tell they’ve voted in line with Biden no less than 96 percent of the time.
That’s the problem for these vulnerable incumbents. Voters understand that Senate candidates don’t just represent themselves but also their party’s agenda, and the president. That’s perhaps even more acute in Senate races, where the upper chamber operates more explicitly as a check on presidential power. Even though the name “Joe Biden” won’t appear on any of these ballots, Biden himself is the central issue in these elections.
That would also apply in other Senate races too, of course. Normally that would have a balancing impact, especially in a cycle with five Republican retirements from the Senate. However, Biden’s job approval ratings are soooo bad that Democrats will likely see no benefit at all from those openings, which they had initially hoped to use to expand their control of the upper chamber. The latest Civiqs poll, which breaks out approval ratings by states, shows just how bad it looks for Democrats in the states up for Senate elections this cycle. We’ll leave out the easy-GOP states like Alabama and focus on the highlights:
- Alaska: 32/62
- Arizona: 34/58
- Colorado: 39/51
- Florida: 37/55
- Georgia: 33/56
- Iowa: 32/58
- Missouri: 29/63
- Nevada: 32/60
- New Hampshire: 41/51
- North Carolina: 35/56
- Ohio: 31/60
- Pennsylvania: 36/55
- Wisconsin: 38/55
Biden can’t even get to 40% in these states, with the single exception of New Hampshire. In fact, he’s only got a favorable job approval in four states at the moment, and only two of those with majorities: Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. If Biden’s approval ratings were relatively close, then it might not matter as much, but his deep unpopularity combined with Democrats’ hard lurch to the Left will likely dismay independents enough to turn out to force a correction — and Democratic incumbents and open-seat candidates will pay the price for it.
We’re still about five months out from early voting, so there’s arguably some room for Biden’s numbers to improve. The efforts now being made by these endangered incumbents show that they have little confidence in Biden to improve them, however. And today’s chart on Biden’s job approval from RCP shows why:
Voter confidence in Biden collapsed after he abandoned Americans in Afghanistan, and has never recovered. Note that there is more volatility in the disapproval number than in the approval number, with voters apparently vacillating on just how much they disapprove of Biden but not much at all on whether they approve of the job he’s doing. Biden’s basically flatlining at 40% average aggregate approval, and nothing in the past eight months suggests a heartbeat in this presidency going forward. He’s toast, and so are all Biden’s allies.