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Release of Major Poll Really Does Not Help Biden's Claims in Incendiary Speech

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

As we get closer to the midterms, now just five days away, polls are reinforcing that the landscape is looking quite good for Republicans. The release of various polls this week has been covered here and here, and there's even more than what can fit into individual pieces.

On Wednesday, the same day President Joe Biden gave yet another incendiary speech demonizing his Republican opponents, CNN released a poll showing that Republicans are favored on the congressional generic ballot and voter priorities.

The poll referred to adults, but thankfully also included registered and likely voters, with likely voters being the ones we really care about, especially in these final days. 

Jennifer Agiesta's headline for her CNN write-up reads, "CNN Poll: Republicans, backed by enthusiasm and economic concerns, hold a narrow edge ahead of next week's congressional election." Those likely voters are important because while Republicans have a narrow edge among registered voters, 47 percent to Democrats' 46 percent, it's much better among likely voters. Among that group, the support voters have for Republicans increases to 51 percent, while it's 47 percent for Democrats. That edge exceeds the margin of error for likely voters of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points. 

Those numbers are almost exactly flipped from the poll conducted in September-October when Democrats had 50 percent support from likely voters compared to Republicans' 47 percent. 

Biden's own numbers aren't looking too good either, as his support among likely voters is at 42 percent, down from 46 percent in that earlier poll. In an analysis that same day for CNN, editor-in-chief Chris Cillizza highlighted that number as one of the "5 very scary numbers for Democrats in the new CNN poll."

The 42 percent is slightly better than then-President Donald Trump's 41 percent approval rating in 2018 and then-President Barack Obama's 43 percent in 2010. Both presidents saw their party lose control of the House in those elections, as is typical historical precedent. In 2018, Republicans lost 40 House seats, while Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010. 

The one recent exception is when Republicans gained seats during the 2002 midterm elections when then-President George W. Bush was in office due to the rally around the flag effect after September 11, 2001. 

As mentioned, the priorities that Biden and the Democrats have, namely abortion and these supposed threats to democracy, do not square with what voter concerns are.

If ever there were a time for the old adage of "it's the economy, stupid" to apply, it's now. 

A majority of likely and registered voters, at 51 percent each, say "the economy and inflation" is the most important issue when deciding their vote. In a very distant second is abortion at 15 percent. The issue closest to Biden's speech is "voting rights and election integrity," where 9 percent of likely voters say it's their most important issue. 

Cillizza highlights that 51 percent figure in his analysis as well:

3) 51%: That’s the number of likely voters who say the economy is the key issue in determining their vote. Abortion – at 15% – is the only other issue that ranks in double digits. That is proof positive that we are in for another “it’s the economy, stupid” election. And that bodes poorly for the party in power – especially when you consider ongoing concerns about inflation and the price of gas. Meanwhile, Republicans have been hammering away for months at what they describe as Biden’s poor handling of the economy. Among likely voters who say the economy is their top concern, 71% say they plan to support the Republican candidate in their House district.

Republicans have a double-digit lead over Democrats among likely voters in that 50 percent of those who selected a top issue trust the Republican Party as opposed to the 39 percent who trust the Democratic Party. 

The mood about the economy and how the situation is going overall is not looking good, especially regarding how voters feel about Biden. These make up the bulk of the other numbers that Cillizza highlights:

2) 61%: That’s the number of likely voters who say that Biden hasn’t paid enough attention to the most important problems facing the country. Just 39% say that Biden has the right priorities. Call this the “out of touch” question – and it’s never good for a politician to be on the wrong side of it. By way of context, in a poll conducted by CNN just before the 2018 midterm elections – where Democrats gained a net of 40 House seats – 40% of total respondents said Trump had the right priorities for the country.


4) 28%: That’s how many likely voters say things are going “very” or “fairly” well in the country. More than 7 in 10 (72%) say things are going “pretty” or “very” badly. This suggests that this is an electorate hungry for a course correction, which, given that Democrats control the White House, House and Senate should be very good news for Republicans.

Agiesta highlights quite the landscape in favor of Republicans in her write-up as well:

Republican standing in the battle for the House this year is bolstered by broad concerns about the state of the nation’s economy. The economy and inflation are far and away the top issue for likely voters in this final stretch, with about half of all likely voters (51%) saying those will be the key issue determining their vote for Congress this year. Abortion, the second-ranking issue, lands as the top concern for 15% of likely voters. Other issues tested were chosen by fewer than 10% of likely voters each, including voting rights and election integrity (9%), gun policy (7%), immigration (6%), climate change (4%) and crime (3%).

Republican and independent likely voters are broadly focused on the economy, with 71% of Republicans and 53% of independents calling it the top issue in their vote. Democratic likely voters are more split, with the economy and abortion the top issue for near-equal shares – 29% say abortion, 27% the economy and inflation.

Those likely voters who say the economy is their top concern break heavily in favor of Republicans in their House districts, 71% to 26%. By an even wider margin, they say they trust the GOP more specifically to handle the economy and inflation (71% Republicans vs. 18% Democrats).

Biden's priorities were revealed in his speech on Wednesday night when he issued warnings about "extreme MAGA Republicans" and claimed, "Democracy is on the ballot this year." 

While White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain tried to claim in a Thursday morning interview with MSNBC that inflation is "the number one problem right now" and is "the problem we're focused on," Biden's speech from just the night before would beg to differ. It's also worth reminding that last month, Biden gave an address where he made clear abortion and supposedly "codify[ing]" Roe v. Wade was his priority for the next Congress, although the legislation he hopes to sign, the Women's Health Protection Act (WHPA), would actually expand Roe.  

Klain even seemed to signal that Biden's speech on supposed threats to democracy was the priority, as he said in the interview that the Wednesday night speech was "one final warning."

"The picture that emerges from the poll is an electorate deeply concerned about the state of the economy and not at all convinced that Biden is concentrating on it as much as he should. The poll also reveals that the anti-Biden voters are far more passionate than the pro-Biden voters, a mismatch that often predicts a turnout disparity," Cillizza wrote toward the end of his analysis. 

A Thursday morning memo by Niall Stanage for The Hill referenced the CNN poll as well as others in highlighting how "Biden's plea for democracy struggles to get traction." 

As Stanage wrote:

Yet, from an electoral standpoint, Biden’s argument looks likely to get lost in the crosswinds of economic distress and political polarization.

Put simply, the voters who agree with Biden were probably going to vote for his party anyway. 

And, even for many Americans who believe democracy is in real peril, anxiety about inflation and the economy can feel more urgent.  

The point was made starkly in a New York Times-Siena College poll last month. 

It found that 71 percent of registered voters believed that “democracy is under threat.” But just seven percent believed this was the most important issue facing the nation, whereas 26 percent chose the economy and an additional 19 percent named inflation. 

A CNN poll released Wednesday sent the same message.

It showed 51 percent of likely voters picking the economy and inflation as the top issue in Tuesday’s midterm elections, 15 percent choosing abortion and just 9 percent picking “voting rights and election integrity.”

Cillizza also highlights how 75 percent believe the economy is in a recession. "Whether the economy is headed for a recession is a matter of debate, but what is not up for debate is how voters are perceiving economic conditions," he writes. And yet the White House is still trying to deny we are in one, as Klain also did, parroting more talking points from the administration. 

In closing, Cillizza warned in his analysis, "The poll, in sort, reads like something close to a worst-case scenario for Democrats."

It can't be said enough that the country is in for a red wave, and the Democrats certainly don't seem to be ready to face it or even accept it. In such a case, it will be Biden's party doing the election denying, as they've already tried to shame voters with smear tactics and fear-mongering not to vote for Republicans. 


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