Biden’s big midterm problems

The Briefing, Vol. IX, Issue 31 August 9, 2021

This week:

  • Biden’s woes affecting his party
  • COVID, immigration, and inflation harming Biden’s approval
  • Cuomo’s sleaze may help Dems get rid of him and save themselves

Outlook: Democrats are moving toward Joe Biden’s first midterm election. Historically, the president’s party gets “shellacked” in such contests, as former President Obama put it on such an occasion in 2010.

Democrats, as the incumbent party in the midterm, are already seeing the issues that threaten to drag them down. They have time to react, but the main question is just how much of the public wrath they can escape.

These are the storm clouds on the Democrats’ horizon:

  1. Re-masking: During the first round of COVID-related restrictions, most people were willing to do whatever they were asked, believing that all the restrictions and all the advice were genuinely promoting the public good. There was only a small amount of pushback at that point, and those involved in it were easily marginalized as cranks.

This time, the pushback is real and widespread. The consensus on COVID has utterly broken down. 

Even in round one, people had already soured on lockdowns and mandatory school and business closures. But even then, they accepted that most of these measures had been put forward in good faith, at least at first. They also embraced mask-wearing as the price of keeping life going, no matter how ineffective it might have been in containing the spread of the coronavirus. 

Now, however, people are generally loath to return to life behind the mask. In some places, particularly away from the coasts, the only people wearing masks anywhere are employees who are forced to do so by their companies. In others, people wear their masks but grumble. Masking has become a partisan issue.

What’s more, the official hypocrisy about masking up by several prominent Democrats — Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. is only the latest offender — is stoking ever-greater skepticism about the competence and reliability of public health officials, to say nothing of the relevance of the advice they give. When President Obama throws a birthday party for hundreds of his closest friends, it’s a bit rich for people who are being told they need to go back into lockdown and other inconveniences, including even just mask-wearing. 

As the resentment grows, this is becoming a serious problem for Biden’s administration and for many Democratic officials involved in imposing new lockdowns. With teachers’ union officials discussing another year of school lockdowns, and Democratic executives imposing new burdens on business, there are serious potential electoral consequences of all this.

  1. Border crisis: The media, always protective of Biden, have been famously hesitant to call it a crisis. But the situation at the border has been getting more and more alarming. 

The cancelation of the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy has created a humanitarian catastrophe. It is attracting many additional illegal immigrants and putting much greater pressure on the government’s ability to house them. In recent months, video was released showing authorities holding a thousand migrants under a bridge

This issue cuts both ways, as the Biden administration is showing itself both heedless of border security and uncaring about the human needs of migrants. 

The worst and most hypocritical part of it, of course, has been the administration’s evident lack of concern about how migrants are spreading COVID. The administration is allowing that to happen, even as it places extreme restrictions on legitimate international travel.

  1. Inflation: This may be the worst obstacle Biden faces, and the one most likely to last and remain a problem through election day. What’s more, it’s mostly his fault. 

Inflation results when more money is chasing after fewer goods and services. So you can just imagine the results of the reckless, indiscriminate pumping of money into the economy after COVID restrictions had dramatically slowed down the production of goods and services. 

This is both a Trump and a Biden problem. But Trump is out of office, and Biden has done so much to make it needlessly worse that he will suffer the political consequences. Already, polls show that voters are convinced Biden is responsible for the inflation they are seeing. 

Governor 2022

New York: New revelations about the sleazy behavior of Gov. Andrew Cuomo leave everyone in an awkward position. Republicans would like to see Cuomo survive so that they can cut  him off at the knees and destroy him next fall. 

Democrats should have gotten rid of Cuomo months ago. They had the chance and the political power to do it through the impeachment process, but they declined to do so. 

Even so, Democrats are unlikely to pay the price for their cowardice in what has effectively become a one-party state in the last 15 years.

Senate 2022

Georgia: If football legend Herschel Walker finally decides not to run for Senate, this would open the door for a number of other Republican hopefuls to get in. Already running are Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, businessman Kelvin King, and former Trump White House official Latham Saddler. The Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock, has seen his polling decline to 43% approval recently, although no poll has shown him losing to any of the actual or potential Republican challengers so far.

Iowa: With Sen. Charles Grassley still on the fence about seeking re-election, Rep. Cindy Axne, D, has ruled herself out of the Senate race. She will be supporting the youthful former Rep. Abby Finkenauer, who lost narrowly last year to Republican Ashley Hinson. Meanwhile, Retired Admiral Michael Franken, D, who lost the Democratic primary for Senate to Theresa Greenfield in 2020, has stated that he plans to enter the race as long as his health is good. 

Missouri: Rep. Ann Wagner, R, will run for re-election, leaving the state’s open Senate seat race to all the other candidates. Former Gov. Eric Greitens, R, is the most prominent Republican candidate at this point, but Reps. Billy Long and Vicky Hartzler have both announced as well. 

There are no formidable Democratic candidates in the race at this point.

North Carolina: The campaign manager and finance manager of former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, D, abruptly quit, leaving her campaign that much less credible than before. Beasley, who had been appointed to the post, lost her election last year in a close race.