White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki made an appearance on ABC's "This Week," where she offered a preview of what to expect from President Joe Biden's State of the Union address, to be delivered this Tuesday.
"Leaders lead during crises. That's exactly what Pres. Biden is doing. He'll speak to that, but he’s also going to speak about his optimism about what's ahead and what we all have to look forward to," @PressSec says before Biden's State of the Union. https://t.co/7duRgyU8fd pic.twitter.com/0LjUU7mcgP— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 27, 2022
To close out her segment, host George Stephanopoulos brought up a stark reality that Biden is facing right now. "Finally, the president is approaching his State of the Union in a pretty difficult political position right now, 37 percent approval rating, Democrats trailing badly in the midterm polling. A majority in our recent poll out this morning even question the president's mental capacity," Stephanopoulos mentioned, highlighting the results of a new ABC News-Washington Post poll, which I also covered earlier.
"How is he going to turn that around on Tuesday night? And how much has his State of the Union been changed by this war in Ukraine?" Stephanopoulos asked.
Psaki seemed to have only heard the second part of the question. She not only didn't respond to how Biden is "going to turn that around," she didn't acknowledge the numbers Stephanopoulos had just brought up. Instead, she decided to emphasize a sense of "optimism" in her response:
PSAKI: Well, George, I think there's no question that, in the State of the Union, the American people and anybody watching around the world will hear the president talk about the efforts he has led over the past several months to build a global coalition to fight -- fight against the autocracy and the efforts of President Putin to invade a foreign country. That is certainly something that is present in all of our lives and certainly in the president's life in this moment.
But what people will also hear from President Biden is his optimism and his belief in the resilience of the American people and the strength of the American people.
And you know, George, from covering State of the Unions for some time, that -- that it is about delivering a message to the public at a moment in time. And if you look back when President Obama gave his first State of the Union, it was during the worst financial crisis in a generation. When President Bush gave his first State of the Union, it was shortly after 9/11.
Leaders lead during crises. That's exactly what President Biden is doing. He'll speak to that, but he’s also going to speak about his optimism about what's ahead and what we all have to look forward to.
Per the poll Stephanopoulos mentioned, Biden does indeed have a 37 percent approval rating, which is among the lowest of presidents among those since President Harry S. Truman heading into their SOTU. Only Presidents Donald Trump with a 36 percent approval rating and Gerald R. Ford, also with a 37 percent approval rating, fared so poorly.
When it comes to how "Democrats [are] trailing badly in the midterm polling," an ABC News write-up by Gary Langer notes that they're "very similar" from November, when the Republicans had a 51-41 percent advantage, which was "as reported at the time, the largest Republican lead in midterm election vote preferences in ABC/Post polls dating back 40 years."
For this poll, Republican congressional candidates have a 49-42 percent advantage over Democrats among registered voters, and a 54-41 percent advantage when it comes to those who are registered and certain to vote in the November midterms.
Republican congressional candidates have a 49-42% advantage over Democrats among registered voters, widening to 54-41% among those who say they both are registered and certain to vote in November, new @ABC News/WaPo poll finds. https://t.co/8EAs6hEUau pic.twitter.com/g6y3J9GLdT— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) February 27, 2022
And, when it comes to Biden's mental fitness, 40 percent of respondents "think he has the mental sharpness it takes to serve effectively," while 54 percent think not.
Further, the American people don't seem to share this administration's sense of "optimism." According to the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average for polls from January 20-February 24, just 29.4 percent believe America is going in the "right direction," while 63.4 percent say it's on the "wrong track."
And, while Psaki may mention President George W. Bush, it's worth noting that his approval rating in January 2002 was at 84 percent, according to Gallup.
When it comes to all of this "optimism" Psaki speaks of, the reality of the scene outside of the U.S. Capitol for Biden's address won't exactly be communicating that kind of a message.
Statement from Chief Tom Manger ahead of the State of the Union Address: pic.twitter.com/J645LV9i7e— U.S. Capitol Police (@CapitolPolice) February 27, 2022
As Landon reported last Sunday, plans were announced for the U.S. Capitol Police to reinstall fencing around the Capitol. A statement from Chief Tom Manger this morning shared to Twitter made it even more official.