At a Low Point in His Presidency, Biden Plots a Path Back

Joe Biden got home at 1:35 a.m. on Wednesday morning, stepping off the Marine One helicopter onto the White House lawn about an hour after Democrat Terry McAuliffe lost the Virginia governor’s race in what was widely billed as an early referendum on the President’s performance. Just hours before, Biden had told reporters: “I think we’re going to win.” It didn’t turn out that way.

Biden’s return from the climate conference in Scotland marks a change in political realities and an important turning point for his presidency. His Ratings The low 40s have been their lowest point. Many of his signature legislative ideas are mired within intra-party disputes. RecentGallup Polling shows Americans most concerned about the pandemic, poor government leadership and the economy—all issues that have proven stubbornly difficult to fix.
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The loss in Virginia and the question of how to respond consumed the President’s conversations with advisers Wednesday afternoon. Several aides say they want Biden to speak more about advances the country’s made in recent weeks on the pandemic, to highlight that hospitalizations from COVID-19 are down and vaccination rates are going up. So it goes. Biden made remarks at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in celebration of Pfizer’s approval for the vaccine for children aged 5-11 years. “This is a day of relief and celebration,” Biden said.

Continue reading: What Democrats Need to Learn From Glenn Youngkin’s Win in Virginia.

Virginia’s defeat was inevitable. At the end of his remarks, reporters questioned Biden about the fallout from McAuliffe’s loss. Asked what Democrats should do differently to avoid widespread losses in the midterm elections next fall, Biden said, “I think we have to just produce results for them to change their standard of living and give them a little more breathing room.”

Biden and close associates feel that it is best for President Obama and his party to sign his multi-trillion dollars spending bills into law. The loss in Virginia is “gonna send a signal that we gotta produce,” Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told reporters on Wednesday. “The American public gave us a majority in both houses for a reason and we got to get results for people.”

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Democratic strategists have already begun to plan ways for the proposal’s benefits to be highlighted by voters in a year. “I’m confident that as Democrats we’re gonna have one of the strongest messages in a generation because of what we’re going to pass and what we are going to be able to say that we have done for working families and seniors and small businesses,” says John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and strategist who advised Biden’s presidential campaign.

But that requires breaking the stalemate in Congress and getting the two bills to Biden’s desk. Democrats in Congress are being warned by the White House about the closing of the window for delivery and that the party must reach an agreement as soon as possible. Biden is reluctant to make too much of the situation. While party leaders tease the possibility of a vote, disagreements linger.

On Wednesday, Nancy Pelosi the House Speaker declared that the provision offering paid medical and family leave for four weeks would return to the House bill on social spending. This was after the compromise published last week. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of two Democratic holdouts in the Senate, blasted the current version of Biden’s proposed deal Monday, saying he hadn’t signed off on the framework that was made public, which he declared was full of “budget gimmicks” and “shell games.”

Continue reading: Democrats Struggle for Faith and Courage in Biden

Manchin’s takeaway from the loss in Virginia wasn’t to hurry up and pass the bills. It was slowing down. “I just think that the message was really sent, if we’re going to do something, let’s take time and do it right. Let’s make sure that people know what’s in it,” Manchin told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“It’s not difficult. Voters want government to act and act in a way that helps them,” says Jonathan Kott, a former senior advisor to Manchin. “Just get s— done.” It’s been easier said than done.


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