RARELY HAVE WE SEEN A PRESIDENT’S job approval rating fall as dramatically as Joe Biden’s plunge after the inept U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August. After a 20 point drop in six months, there are signs that the beleaguered president is poised for a comeback.
GOOD NEWS HAS BEEN IN SHORT SUPPLY, but suddenly there are a half dozen stories that may be breaking in Biden’s favor:
1. Economic growth: Last Friday’s blockbuster jobs report eased fears of a winter slowdown; wages should continue to rise. This Thursday’s CPI report probably will be hot, but if inflation begins to cool by summer, the economy could be only a modest negative for the Democrats, not a huge headwind.
2. Covid: Fatalities are still high, but new cases are plunging and we anticipate a major shift by March — the end of mask and vaccine mandates in much of the U.S. Biden won’t declare victory, as he did last July, but he can announce the end of mandates, which are increasingly despised by the public.
3. Voting reform: Sweeping voting reform never had much of a chance in the Senate, but piecemeal measures look increasingly likely. One reform would eliminate any possibility that a vice president can reject election results, and several other provisions have a chance of enactment. This could be a genuine bipartisan breakthrough.
4. ISIS in disarray: Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi was taken out by the U.S. late last week, a clear victory for Biden.
5. Trump under fire: As we wrote last week, the dam is starting to burst, with more and more Republicans distancing themselves from the former president. Even Mike Pence says Trump was “wrong” in his attempt to pressure Pence to overthrow the election. And the GOP will be mocked for years to come by its assertion that the Jan. 6 riots were “legitimate political discourse.”
6. Russia-Ukraine: This is the Big One. Most Republicans support Biden’s proposed sanctions and his surprisingly effective unification of American allies. There are high hopes that French President Emmanuel Macron’s shuttle diplomacy will lead to an artful compromise on Ukraine and NATO. Highly recommended: This morning’s New York Times article on Macron’s bold gambit.
THERE ARE STILL HEADWINDS FOR BIDEN: Urban crime remains a huge political liability, but at least Biden has rejected the party’s disastrous flirtation with “defund the police.” Illegal immigration remains a major issue on the Southwestern border. Supply chains may stay clogged for months. And the Build Back Better bill has stalled, for now.
BUT A REPUBLICAN LANDSLIDE IN NOVEMBER suddenly doesn’t look certain. We still think the Democrats will lose 15 or 20 House seats, not the 30-40 seats some experts anticipate (the GOP needs only five to take the House). If there’s a Ukraine deal and the economy is solid in November — with moderating inflation — the Biden slump may be a distant memory.
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