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Bad Vibes: Biden Approval Falls Deeper Underwater in Dem-Friendly Poll

Democrats are elated over Gov. Gavin Newsom's easy defeat of the recall effort against him in California, which turned out to be a blowout.  President Joe Biden, who campaigned for Newsom and against the recall, beat Donald Trump in the deep blue state by roughly 30 percentage points last year.  The recall margins are looking similar.  Meanwhile, Democrats are very confident they'll retain the governorship of another heavily blue state in November (New Jersey), and are slightly favored to do so in a purple-trending-blue state (Virginia), as well.  Should the GOP be worried about the 2022 midterms, given this apparent momentum on the other side?  They should take nothing for granted, of course, but they remain pretty well-situated ahead of next fall.  

California and New Jersey are...not battleground states, and Virginia's northern suburbs have moved heavily against the GOP over the last half-decade in particular.  Campaigning against 'Donald Trump' may work in places like this, but it won't work everywhere, especially since he's not on the ballot.

The American political landscape of 2021 clearly looks quite different than it did 2009, when Republicans won the governorships of New Jersey and Virginia -- the latter lopsidedly -- during President Obama's first year in office.  Those outcomes presaged a midterm wave of epic proportions, as the GOP flipped an astounding 63 House seats in 2010, recapturing the majority.  

Given what just happened in California, and the way things are shaping up in the two off-year states we've mentioned, I'd be surprised if the Republican wave next year approaches anything close to a 1994 or 2010 level outcome.  But it remains likely, based on historical trends and current trajectories, that the opposition party will make serious gains next year, perhaps along the lines of what Democrats achieved in 2018.  There's a chance Democrats could buck the precedent of losing ground in a midterm if Biden's popularity is flying high.  But as of now, it's emphatically not.  His overall job approval flipped upside down about a month ago, and has remained underwater since:

The trend lines aren't great, obviously, and I'd argue that this specific result has to be especially troubling for the White House:

As I mentioned in the tweet, Quinnipiac's pollster has been distinctly (and sometimes embarrassingly blue-shaded) in recent cycles, yet even they're showing Biden sucking wind.  A few data points from this survey -- which, again, represents a series that is often friendly to the president's party:

Americans' views have dimmed on the way President Joe Biden is handling his job as president, with 42 percent approving and 50 percent disapproving, according to a Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pea-ack) University national poll of adults released today. This is the first time Biden's job approval has dropped into negative territory since taking office. In early August, 46 percent of Americans approved and 43 percent disapproved of the way Biden was handling his job. In today's poll, Democrats approve 88 - 7 percent, while Republicans disapprove 91 - 7 percent and independents disapprove 52 - 34 percent.

On the issues, the situation is even bleaker:

Biden's numbers on his handling of the response to the coronavirus are mixed, with 48 percent approving and 49 percent disapproving. This compares to August, when he received a 53 - 40 percent approval rating on his handling of the coronavirus. Americans give him a negative score on his handling of foreign policy, 34 - 59 percent. In August, 42 percent approved and 44 percent disapproved of his handling of foreign policy. They also give Biden a negative score on his handling of his job as Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, with 40 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving. On his handling of the economy, Biden receives a negative 42 - 52 percent rating. In August, it was a slightly negative 43 - 48 percent rating...More than half of Americans, 54 - 41 percent, say they approve of President Biden's decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan...However, Americans give Biden a negative 31 - 65 percent score for the way he handled withdrawing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. More than 6 in 10 Americans, 62 - 28 percent, say they think American troops will have to return to Afghanistan to fight terrorism.

Roughly even on COVID, down double digits on the economy, and getting brutally poor marks on the execution of the (relatively popular) Afghanistan withdrawal is not where Biden hoped or expected to be seven months into his presidency.  Their Afghanistan spin is failing miserably, as it should; I suspect the White House simply hopes people will lose interest and move on, with the media nudging them that direction after weeks of negative coverage.  The economy remains a real concern, especially since the inflation threat is biting and apparently not as "transitory" as the White House claimed it would be (expectations can shape and fuel reality):

Inflation expectations among U.S. consumers over the medium term rose to the highest level on record in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s surveys, according to the latest edition published Monday. Consumers said they expect inflation at 4% over the next three years, up 0.3 percentage point from a month earlier. The median expectation for the inflation rate in a year’s time also rose by 0.3 percentage point to 5.2% in August, the tenth consecutive monthly increase and a new high in the series, which goes back to 2013.

As for Coronavirus, I can't help but wonder if Biden's six-point speech last week was designed not only to distract and change the subject from other problem areas, but also to give the impression that he's "doing something," as a bread-and-butter issue slips away from him. The federal vaccine mandate is highly controversial and legally dubious, but it's also pretty popular, according to various polls. He's happy to pick a fight with Republicans whom he can cast as anti-science while pursuing a policy that may not pass legal muster, but won't offend most voters. That being said, I'll leave you with this result from a different pollster, which frames vaccine requirements a bit differently, producing an intriguingly complex and different outcome:

One way to look at this is nearly 70 percent of Americans strongly supporting vaccines within this context, with a relatively small percentage dissenting.  But another way to consider this result is that 60 percent are not in favor of full-blown mandates by businesses.  Not sure how this translates on Biden's effort to use federal regulations to push employers into mandates, but I'd guess it's a bit messier than the "it's politically popular" crowd would care to admit.  Since I mentioned the competitive Virginia gubernatorial race above, I'll leave you with this:



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