This Week: The Briefing, Volume X, Issue 14
- Biden needs an empathy coach
- Republicans recover on redistricting
- Greitens may be slipping in Missouri
President Joe Biden’s biggest problem was that he never really had an emotional connection to the voters who elected him. As Suffolk University’s David Paleologos put it, they just disliked Donald Trump.
Now, with supporters who merely tolerate him and opponents who increasingly loathe and disrespect him, Biden’s approval ratings are, by Gallup’s measure, six points below where Barack Obama’s were at this same point in 2010.
Last week, Biden tried to do something empathetic about gas prices by releasing a million barrels a day from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This will do little for gas prices — it represents a grand total of nine days’ supply over the course of six months — but it permits Biden to claim he is doing something.
The more troubling suggestion in his Thursday speech, however, was that electric vehicles will solve the problem of high gas prices and Russian manipulations. That might be true in the long run — say, by 2050 — but electric vehicles make up about 2% of all cars on the road today, and most people who are feeling the pain of high gas prices can’t afford to just run out and buy electric vehicles in response to world events. This tends to be lost on people who spend five decades in government with a high six-figure salary. This is builds upon Biden’s empathy problem. So do the lurid tales about Hunter’s high-living and potentially illegal conduct.
Biden is in a lot of trouble right now. Democrats are fearful, even to the point of pressing him to allow more oil and gas drilling. Members of both parties are pressuring him to supply more and better weapons to Ukraine, because there are concerns that he is still afraid of upsetting Putin by doing too much to contribute to the rout of the retreating Russian army.
Most of Biden’s agenda failed in Congress months ago, and the public is already sour on his performance. So far, there is nothing to report that is out there to save his party from its own rout this fall — not yet, anyway.
Michigan: A rare poll of this race suggests that former Detroit Police Chief James Craig is leading the Republican primary to take on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. At 34%, he stands a good eight points ahead of the second-place candidate, 74-year-old businessman Perry Johnson.
Redistricting: Thanks to late victories in Ohio, New York, and Maryland, Republicans appear on track to successfully defend their favorable redistricting results from 2010 in the new 2020 redistricting round. Judges struck down obscene Democratic gerrymanders in New York state and Maryland. In Ohio, the state supreme court let the Republican legislature’s boundaries remain in place for this election. The net result is that Democrats gained almost no ground at all, despite several favorable court rulings early on.
In short, Republican plans to retake the House are progressing as expected. Biden’s low popularity levels will aid significantly in accomplishing this, placing swing seats in danger and perhaps even seats that lean Democratic by registration or by their 2022 vote..
Alabama: a new poll suggests that veteran Mike Durant, a latecomer to the GOP primary, has 33% support and a 10-point lead over former Richard Shelby aide Katie Britt. The formerly Trump-endorsed Rep. Mo Brooks has fallen far behind in what seems to be a spectacular collapse.
This result points to a June runoff election between Durant and Britt as the most likely outcome of the May 24 primary. In any case, this seat will not be seriously contended by Democrats.
Missouri: Finally, a poll that does not have disgraced former governor Eric Greitens in the lead. But it’s still a narrow-run race. With several conservative endorsements, Rep. Vicky Hartzler appears to be surging at 25% to Greitens’ 24%. This comes just as allegations became public that Greitens was unstable and physically abusive toward his ex-wife and their three-year-old son during their marriage.
Republicans have been very concerned about this race because of Greitens’s history and reputation — he was forced out of office over a scandal involving an affair and allegations that he had used revenge pornography as blackmail. Although prosecutors dropped the case after he resigned the governorship, he is not the ideal candidate.
Hisvulnerability, and for a time, the possibility that former President Donald Trump was going to endorse him anyway, probably caused a few Republican heart attacks. But there seems to be some hope that this threat will be averted. If this primary can become a race between Hartzler and attorney general Eric Schmitt, whom the poll puts at a close third with 22%, then Republicans both in Jefferson City and Washington would be pretty happy about it. Trump had a few nice words for Rep. Billy Long, who polls at 8%, but stopped short of endorsing him.
So long as Greitens is not the candidate, Republicans are expected to win this one in a cakewalk. On the Democratic side, state Sen. Scott Sifton dropped out of the race last week and endorsed a last-minute entrant, the self-funding beer heiress Trudy Busch-Valentine.
Pennsylvania: The smart money is on John Fetterman in next month’s Democratic primary, much to the irritation of the state’s Democratic establishment. His lead over Conor Lamb, at 33%-10% in a poll commissioned by The Hill, is massive at this late date, and comes in spite of Lamb’s numerous endorsements. The third candidate, Philly-based state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, clocked in at 8%.
The party-boss-endorsement style of politics seems to be failing yet again in the face of a populist wave, this time on the Democrat side. Fetterman’s almost Trump-like personal demeanor and his very far-left politics seem to be exactly what Democratic voters are looking for.