President Joe Biden and Democrats may need to table their desire to be the unity party and concentrate on their voter base as their poll numbers slide.
An Associated Press-NORC poll published this week found Biden's overall job approval has dipped to 39%, the lowest rating of his presidency. That number was 45% last month. And only 2 in 10 respondents consider the economy to be heading in the right direction, another nadir. Pessimism, more generally, is also on the rise, driven by Democrats. More than three-quarters disagree with the country's direction, up from 70% in April.
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With limited time and money before the 2022 midterm elections, Biden and Democrats will have to invest more heavily in their base rather than persuading independents, according to Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos.
"The calculation, it appears, is that Democrats who may lose swing voters 60%-40% or 65%-35% can be more than offset by [additional] core supporters, where the numbers break at 85%-15% or 80%-20%," he told the Washington Examiner.
Biden's and Democrats' microtargeting of voters and their strategies to motivate those people to cast a ballot will similarly depend on internal polls. Paleologos did predict, though, that black women, the party's most loyal demographic, will be pivotal to any success.
"Generating an above-average turnout among certain populations makes a bigger difference in a midterm than it does in a presidential when most people are already voting," he said.
At the same time, Marist College Institute for Public Opinion Director Lee Miringoff distinguished Biden's and his Democratic colleagues' polling.
"Biden is running behind the Democratic congressional candidates," he said. "That translates into, if Biden's numbers are low, maybe some Democrats can still save their seats if they can be more independent of him."
For Miringoff, Democrats have an organizing advantage over Republicans at the moment due to the Supreme Court's draft ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
"The Republicans, at this point, would like to make it a referendum on President Biden," he said. "The Democrats want to make it a referendum on things that the Republicans stand for in terms of abortion, gun control, and other issues."
Miringoff's findings have not discouraged Biden from attempting to help Democrats this midterm cycle.
Biden's "ultra-MAGA" campaign rhetoric, a reference to former President Donald Trump's 2016 slogan, can be compared to the incumbent's "unity agenda." That policy platform debuted only three months ago during his first State of the Union address.
Since then, Biden has started weaving the adjective "ultra-MAGA" into his public remarks, and his aides, including new White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, have dropped it into their written statements.
"We have to take on the MAGA Republicans, 'Make America Great Again' Republicans. I think they're the most extreme party, and that's what the Republican Party is now," Biden told Democratic National Committee donors earlier in May. "Not [every] Republican believes that, but the fact of the matter is they run the show, the MAGA Republicans."
Jean-Pierre's former boss, onetime top White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki, explained Biden's approach to Trump and Republicans during his administration's maiden months.
"In the first year, we were trying to create stability again," she told University of Chicago students this week during her inaugural post-White House appearance. "In that time, can you go attack the former president and Republicans? We tried not to do that too much."
Yet with the benefit of hindsight, Psaki remains unconvinced that that was the best tactic given that Biden and Democrats are now bracing for a shellacking this November.
"Now that it's campaign season, I think everybody can expect, and you've already seen this, more of President Biden contrasting with Republicans," she said. "You've seen him talking about 'ultra-MAGA,' the 'MAGA king,'" Psaki added. "That contrast is actually what people make decisions about and, typically, hopefully for him, will have an impact on the polls."
Republicans amplified the Associated Press-NORC poll this week. The National Republican Senatorial Committee underscored how "Americans are paying more for just about everything, there’s a raging crisis at the southern border, and Joe Biden doesn’t seem to care since he can’t be bothered to answer questions."
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“Democrats are going to have a hard time running on their record in November,” Mike Berg, deputy communications director of the NRSC's House counterpart, said.