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Hoo Boy: New Focus Groups Spell Trouble for Democrats

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

We've all watched President Biden's approval ratings tumble in recent weeks, and the situation has gotten bad enough that senior Democrats are starting to sweat. Many had convinced themselves that the president's numbers would rebound in short order, after the Afghanistan debacle had been laundered out of the news cycle. But that anticipated restoration has not occurred, for a variety of reasons. Biden continues to preside over multiple crises, from the ongoing Afghanistan mess – more on that below – to inflation that looks less "transitory" than promised, to weaker than expected economic numbers, to an unmitigated disaster at the border, to a country still plagued by COVID-related disruptions and frustrations. It's all taking a toll, Politico reports, based on the results of a new focus group of Pennsylvania voters: 

In a focus group last week, Pennsylvania Democrats one after another articulated the issue vexing top White House aides, party operatives in Virginia and voters in Georgia: Why isn’t President Joe Biden’s diminished job rating rebounding? All nine participants from Tuesday’s session gave Biden C- grades or lower. And their answers circled back to a similar point: The pandemic and the many ways it continues to hinder normal life is souring their views of Biden. One woman said she wanted to buy a car but supply chain issues were delaying new shipments to the dealership. A man complained about understaffed restaurants. “There is a malaise,” said Sarah Longwell, a moderate Republican strategist who became a vocal supporter of Biden in 2020, and led the focus group of Democratic voters. “People don’t feel like their lives have been improved. They did sort of feel that promises aren’t being kept.

...Biden’s standing with Americans has plummeted, with his average approval rating plunging by nearly 15 points since late June. He's seen a drop among Democrats and even more with Republicans, but the decline has been particularly steep among independent voters...Longwell said she was struck by how similar the concerns of Democrats sounded to Republicans, and also by how little Democrats in her surveys blame Republicans for standing in Biden’s way. It’s a point echoed by nearly a dozen strategists who have compiled or reviewed research into Biden’s precipitous decline...In interviews in the swing state of Georgia and focus groups conducted in other battlegrounds, most Democratic base voters echoed those concerns...In Georgia, Democrats said they remained confused and upset by Biden’s decision-making on Afghanistan, migrants at the border, and the intraparty feuding around his economic agenda. “Disappointed” was a word used by most of the Black and white voters who spoke to POLITICO in the metro Atlanta area when describing Biden’s time in office. But none said they were prepared to abandon Democrats in 2022 and 2024.

These are all Democratic voters, mind you. As for that final sentence in the excerpt, that's just fine by Republicans. They don't need core Democratic base voters to switch parties. They need independents to sour on Team Blue (like this), for disaffected centrist/right-leaners to return to the fold, and for their own core voters to turn out. If those things happen, and partisan Democrats remain mired in a "disappointed" "malaise," that's a recipe for a brutal midterm cycle. There's still time for Democrats to right the ship before 2022, though it won't be easy, but the concern is more immediate for Democrats in Virginia. This is a big reason why the Commonwealth's gubernatorial race appears to be very close in a state Biden carried by ten points just one year ago: 

McAuliffe can't stop talking about Trump, but Democratic voters are disappointed in Biden, the sitting president. Much of the frustration stems from COVID and the economy, and it looks as though those issues will continue to persist for a while. Supply chain disruptions are significant and are now expected to spill over into 2022. This scramble and resulting pinch will affect most Americans: 

Global supply-chain delays are so severe that some of the biggest U.S. retailers have resorted to an extreme—and expensive—tactic to try to stock shelves this holiday season: They are chartering their own cargo ships to import goods. Port delays, Covid-19 outbreaks and worker shortages have snarled the flow of products between Asia and North America, threatening the supplies of everything from holiday decorations and toys to appliances and furniture. It is taking roughly 80 days to transport goods across the Pacific, or twice as long as before the pandemic, retail and shipping executives said.

And while the White House and president talk about mandates, attack Republican governors, and ration successful treatments, perhaps they should have focused more urgently on priorities like this: 

This is a drug that could be a game-changer in the fight against COVID, as clinical trials were so successful (slashing hospitalizations and deaths among infected patients using the drug by roughly half) "that independent medical experts monitoring the trial recommended stopping it early," to speed approval. But even if this therapeutic gets a rapid green light to hugely reduce severe Coronavirus outcomes, we will be behind the eight ball on supply – and as Dr. Gottlieb says in the clip above, the party responsible "is really the government." And for all the polling suggesting that the Democrats' massive tax-and-spend agenda is popular, only about a third of Americans think the proposed binge will help their families, with a large majority saying it will either hurt them or make no difference: 


And perhaps the Democratic Party's army of ground game warriors – out of touch, alienating progressives – are actually part of the problem: 

I'll leave you with a few updates from Afghanistan, where the nightmare is not over for thousands of Americans and allies still stranded in the terrorist-controlled country. Over the weekend, the Taliban announced that it will not assist the US in combating Islamist extremism from ISIS and other groups, which is to be expected from, well, Islamist extremists. A CNN correspondent who has covered the whole fiasco tweeted a thread about what she sees and hears, day in and day out: 


And finally, a bit of good news. Remember the Afghan interpreter who personally appealed to President Biden, whom he'd helped rescue years ago, for help?  Due to the commitment and bravery of US veterans, and after a "harrowing" operation, "Mohammed" (real name: Aman Khalili) has been rescued: "Following a series of demoralizing setbacks and frustrating dead-ends over the past six weeks, U.S. veterans worked with former Afghan soldiers and well-placed Pakistani allies to carry out a clandestine operation to drive Mr. Khalili and his family more than 600 miles across Afghanistan and get them to Pakistan, according to those involved in the effort." Thank God for our veterans' persistence in working to keep a solemn promise and salvage our nation's honor. It's an ineffable shame and disgrace that this is what it's taking, with the United States government reduced to a bit player, slinking around and cooperating with private efforts – rather than taking the lead in a timely and competent way, long ago. 


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