Talking Points

An itsy-bitsy glimmer of hope for Democrats: Biden is failing extremely early

"How low can they go" is no longer a question for Democrats about the reconciliation bill's price tag. It also applies with equal urgency to President Biden's job approval ratings.

The latest Quinnipiac numbers are devastating for Democrats. Only 38 percent approve of Biden's performance in office while 53 percent disapprove. Among independents, his approval is in the low 30s.

An issue by issue breakdown is even worse. Biden is underwater on his handling of COVID-19 and that's the area where he is strongest. Fifty-four percent disapprove of his handling of taxes, 55 percent the economy, 57 percent the job he has done as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, 67 percent his control of the border with Mexico, and 67 percent on immigration more generally.

A day earlier, Quinnipiac, whose polling if anything was too favorable to Democrats in recent cycles, released generic ballot numbers showing Republicans leading Democrats in congressional voting preferences. But Biden's numbers are an even bigger concern for the party. A top Democratic data scientist concluded that if Biden was below 50 percent at the end of the year, "we're probably f---ed."

Democrats' only hope is how early Biden's struggles have come. Many candidates have peaked too soon, with polling spikes that cooled off by the time voting started. Perhaps Biden is bottoming out too soon for Republicans to benefit.

The midterm elections are over a year away. The 2024 presidential race is the political equivalent of a lifetime from now. Who knows what might happen if the pandemic finally recedes, the economy and inflation stabilize, some bills get passed and an actual, non-generic Republican becomes the figure with which Biden is contrasted?

The alternative is that sometime between the beginning of the border crisis and the end of the messy Afghanistan withdrawal, the public has permanently lost its confidence in Biden's competence or his ability to deliver the normalcy that eluded his chaotic predecessor. 

Democrats have to hope Biden recovers. Otherwise, their narrow majorities could be wiped away in a tsunami that makes 1994 or 2010 look like a blue wave by comparison.