Democrats in competitive races not really looking for Biden's "help"

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

In case you haven’t noticed, while other elected leaders are shuttling back and forth to Ukraine this month (along with the First Lady), Joe Biden has been hitting campaign stops in battleground states and giving speeches in an effort to bolster his party’s chances in the midterms. He’s made recent trips to New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and other states where Democrats face tough races this fall and his message is almost always the same. He’s talking about the infrastructure bill and what sort of public works projects the Democrats can deliver for voters in those states. But he’s running into a couple of serious problems in these efforts. First of all, many Democrats aren’t trying to lash themselves too tightly to the President at the moment and infrastructure is pretty far down on the voters’ lists of concerns. (NBC News)

As President Joe Biden ramps up his efforts to help Democrats in the midterm elections, he’s focused on a selling point that, so far, voters aren’t: his plan to rebuild the county’s infrastructure.

Standing in an industrial building near the Port of New Hampshire last month, flanked by construction and boating equipment, Biden talked dredging, bridges and lead pipes.

“Folks, this matters. It matters to our safety, our security, our health,” Biden told the crowd there as he promoted the $550 billion infrastructure package he shepherded through Congress last year.

To be fair to Joe Biden, focusing his pitch on infrastructure isn’t a bad choice because frankly there isn’t much else he can talk about. Aside from pandemic relief and some aid for Ukraine, the Democrats haven’t been able to pass much of anything besides the infrastructure bill. And infrastructure spending is something that almost everyone can agree on because if they have to pay taxes, they like seeing at least some of the money going to ensure that the roads and bridges don’t fall apart beneath them.

But that issue isn’t what’s driving and motivating the public at the moment, and some of the vulnerable Democrats facing elections in November know it. People are worried about high prices and inflation more than anything else and Biden is rightly taking the blame for that among a large majority of Americans. There have been suggestions that some endangered Democratic senators like Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire and Mark Kelly in Arizona aren’t exactly looking forward to showing up at a rally with Biden.

Kelly is certainly willing to bring up infrastructure in his campaign and talk about upcoming projects. But when reporters recently asked him what the main priority of Arizona voters is today, he admitted it was the cost of things like gasoline, prescription drugs, and food. And neither the President nor the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress have been able to do much of anything to get that situation under control.

One analyst quoted in the linked report summed it up accurately. While people definitely want to see these infrastructure projects moving forward, they aren’t going to get very excited about a bridge that won’t be finished for five years when they don’t know if they can afford to put enough gas in their car to drive to the existing bridge tomorrow. The potholes in the road to the supermarket may be getting fixed, but that’s small comfort if the shelves at the store are empty or the remaining food is too expensive to fill up their cart.

Then there’s the question of how secure Americans feel about the future of the country and their own families’ safety. There still seems to be very broad support for the people of Ukraine and America’s willingness to help them. But at the same time, they’re hearing Vladimir Putin rattling his sabers and hinting at nuclear missiles on an almost daily basis. If they fear that we are being dragged into a shooting war with Russia, there is really no other person to place the blame on than the supposed leader of the free world. So if you were a Democrat who is up for reelection and lagging in the polls, would you really want Joe Biden showing up to join you on the stage right now?