Rats, sinking ships, some disassembly may be — but apparently isn’t — required. ABC’s Rick Klein notices today what has become apparent over the last couple of months but especially after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Democrats have begun to make Joe Biden the focus of their public complaints, and they’re doing that increasingly on the record.
Put that together with a recent exodus of talent at the White House, especially in the comms shop, and it paints a picture of collapse:
It’s coming from the left as well as the center — from safe Democrats and those who are anything but.
It’s coming from those who want more from the president and those who want less — from loyalists as well as those who never saw much magic in the president’s touch.
A week notable for the relative absence of Joe Biden from the national conversation has been filled, in part, by Democratic grumbling about the White House and about who could fill any perceived void. …
What [Biden] has been hearing back in Washington, on the day the White House announced that communications director Kate Bedingfield will be leaving her post, has been about terrible polling numbers and souring perceptions of his ability to turn things around for his party in the next four months.
This is, in effect, the final phase of a massive collapse in confidence and credibility. Democrat voters are beginning to pull away from Biden now, and with them any hope of midterm Democratic incumbents from getting the kind of turnout they need to survive. In retrospect, it’s easy to see from polling that the disastrous and craven retreat/rout from Afghanistan triggered a confidence-crisis cascade among the general electorate. I predicted as much in September of last year when polls suddenly put Biden broadly underwater, which meant that his credibility on other issues had been damaged, if not destroyed entirely.
And then inflation made that collapse even worse, thanks to Biden’s continued efforts to find someone — anyone — to blame other than himself. That, combined with a complete inability to plan strategically or prepare for the obvious consequences of Biden’s policy choices have sapped the rest of the remaining confidence out of independent voters over the last few months.
Now, however, the confidence-crisis cascade has hit Democrats, and in this case Dobbs is likely the inflection point. Biden and his team have flapped their gums about abortion rights in the two weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe, but it has become clear that Biden hadn’t done anything to prepare for it. Despite the leak of the decision in early May — not to mention the clear direction oral arguments in Dobbs took in early December — the White House looked as though they hadn’t planned at all for the outcome. Their only prepared responses to Dobbs consisted of declarations about what they wouldn’t do — Biden wouldn’t pack the Supreme Court, the administration wouldn’t set up abortion clinics on federal property in abortion-banning states, and so on.
The activist response, through a suddenly willing media, has been ferocious. And it’s having an impact, as the latest Civiqs tracking poll suggests. Approval among Democrats for Biden’s job performance has dropped to an all-time low 64/16, a remarkably weak result in today’s highly partisan environment. The normally friendly Economist/YouGov poll has Biden’s job approval at 38/52 and Democrat approval higher at 77/15, but only 35% strongly approve. Meanwhile, however, 59% of Democrats think the country is heading in the wrong direction, and only 28% of Democrats think the economy is good or excellent, while 70% think otherwise. And 94% of Democrats think the economy is either very (57%!) or somewhat important in their midterm voting decision.
It’s not just that Democrats have gotten unhappy enough to unhitch their wagons from Biden’s dim star, either. Mainstream media outlets have spent the last two weeks shouting about Democrats’ disenchantment with Biden and his administration on just about every policy front — a predictable outcome from a confidence-crisis collapse. That represents a major tonal shift in coverage from even the immediate pre-Dobbs media environment for Biden, who benefited from a distinct lack of scrutiny over his more absurd claims on gas prices and inflation for months until that point. Democrats aren’t the only ones tossing Grandpa Joe under the bus, in other words.
That may explain the recent exodus of talent from the White House, especially in the comms department. None of these Democratic messaging experts has much experience in dealing with an actually hostile and engaged press.
Finally, though, this under-bus strategy risks fueling the cascade, too. No Democrat will successfully distance themselves from Doddering Joe in this cycle. They’d probably benefit at least a little more by rallying around him with that in mind. It might save Democrats on the margins by keeping the Biden millstone from gaining so much weight, but it won’t matter a whole lot now that this inflection point has arrived. Biden is already a lame duck president at this point, and he and his fellow Democrats will get marginalized entirely after November.