2022 election: The political environment is terrible for Democrats — and it may get worse

China’s big new battle with Covid-19, for example – fueled by its low vaccination rate – and its repressive lockdowns again threaten to disrupt the global supply chain lines that have helped fuel inflation in the first place. And if, as expected, the war in Ukraine severely affects the harvest in Europe’s breadbasket this year, the Americans could drive up prices for staples, as the occupied country is a huge source of grain and sunflower oil worldwide.

So it’s highly likely that the scary conditions currently dampening Democrat hopes could actually worsen ahead of Election Day.

Inflation is pounding on Democrats’ midterm hopes

All of this explains a sense of inevitability embedded in Washington’s conventional wisdom that Republicans are heavily favored to retake the House of Representatives while the Senate could also turn red.

Some economic analysts have suggested that inflation has peaked at its worst fall since the 1980s. But a key index tracked by the Federal Reserve — the personal consumption spending price index — rose 6.6% for the year ended March, according to numbers released last week. Energy prices, which had been rocketed by the war in Ukraine, rose by 33.9% and food by 9.2% over the same period. Another report last week showed a surprise 1.4% drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter. While there were technical factors that could mean the number isn’t as bad as it seems, it did raise fears of a recession after several major Wall Street banks warned of an impending downturn.
The 10 Senate seats will most likely rotate in 2022

These numbers show the underlying weakness of the Democrats’ arguments as they near the midterm elections. Biden fails to take full credit for the economy’s strong recovery from the pandemic and historically good job numbers as millions of Americans are angered by high prices.

Biden’s victory over then-President Donald Trump in 2020 was an example of the power of comparison. He offered a return to calm leadership after the tumult of the previous four years of scandal, lies and mayhem in the White House.

But the midterms of 2022 are already turning into a referendum on the President and Democrats, who control all the levers of political power in Washington and thus carry the can for the current public discontent.

A new Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday confirms that.

While Biden’s overall job approval rating rose to 42%, just 38% of respondents agreed with his handling of the economy. And 68% disapproved of its inflation record. The issue proved particularly troublesome for independent voters, who will be crucial in close races in the House and Senate in November.

Misfires in the White House

The president’s plight over inflation has been exacerbated by earlier claims from his own White House that the rise in prices is “temporary” — a measurement error that threatens to erode voter confidence in government pronouncements and is an easy target for Republicans offers .

And although Biden has taken several steps to address high prices, including programs to unblock US ports and congested supply chains, and released millions of barrels of oil from the country’s strategic reserves, his efforts appear to have had no tangible impact on the country have lives of many Americans. And it’s also not clear whether crediting the high cost of living to “Putin’s price hike” will get him out of his political bind.

“Ultimately, when it comes to inflation, the government needs to stop saying it can’t do anything about it, right? That’s usually one of the clues when she says it’s not our fault,” Will Hurd, a former Republican congressman from Texas, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday.
A frustrated Joe Biden will attack Republicans in the midterms -- and into 2024

“No one wants to hear that. And they want to say, ‘Hey, how are you going to get us out of this?'”

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported Sunday that Biden had been repeatedly warned in a series of confidential election transcripts that inflation and the pesky immigration issue would undermine his standing and Democrat hopes in the midterm elections. The memos, written between April 2021 and January 2022, were discovered by Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin during coverage for a new book called This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden and the Battle for America’s Future obtain.

“Voters don’t feel that he has a plan to address the situation at the border and it’s starting to take its toll,” John Anzalone, Biden’s senior pollster, and his team wrote in one, according to the Times report Memo.

Biden drops his own approval rating

With that in mind, Biden stood up in the massive ballroom at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Saturday night and quipped, “A special thanks to the 42% of you who actually applauded. I’m delighted to be here tonight with the only group of Americans with a lower approval rating than me.”

That the event happened at all was a testament to one of the achievements of Biden’s presidency — the rollout of vaccines and testing that have allowed many Americans to regain a semblance of their old lives two years after Covid-19 shut down the economy around the world changes. The president can also be credited with a rare bipartisan triumph — an infrastructure bill that eluded his predecessors. And his leadership helped build an unexpectedly unified Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which may have helped mitigate some of the political damage from last year’s chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan.

But either these gains aren’t getting the attention of the public, or the White House has failed to fit them into a coherent election narrative. The difficulties Biden has faced in implementing his sweeping social spending and climate plan, which has been blocked by moderate Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have added to the sense of drift.

Whether Biden failed to push through a sweeping reform agenda some critics have complained about was not hinted at in his 2020 campaign, or the White House failed to include items like home health care for the elderly and free preschool education in the Selling a sweeping Build Back Better bill, Biden has been deprived of the big win in a measure once likened to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Whether any of Biden’s plans will go ahead still seems deeply uncertain as time is running out before the mid-term campaign dominates the political summer. The deadlock threatens to dampen enthusiasm among Democratic grassroots voters in November as the Republican Party wages a campaign based on extreme positions on issues such as trans rights, immigration and racial tenets in America’s schools to squash turnout among its most committed voters to increase . The GOP superimposes these issues with claims intended to appeal to more moderate voters that high food and gas prices show Biden has ruined the economy.

The stalled Build Back Better plan has also drawn hints of bitterness within the Democratic Party. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading progressive, warned on CNN’s State of the Union last week that Democrats would lose their majority if they “don’t stand up and deliver.”
Biden has been under pressure to fulfill a campaign promise to reduce student debt burdens after repeatedly extending a Trump-era pause in federal student loan repayments over the pandemic. But debt relief of $50,000 per borrower — which Warren has called for — is not on the table, the president said at the White House last week after submitting a request for millions more dollars in aid to Ukraine. Biden has not made it clear whether he would use executive power to immediately grant mass debt forgiveness.

Warren’s comments contained more than a hint of a post-election blame game, seven months before voters go to the polls. However, they do not change the fact that the tiny 50-50 Democratic majority in the Senate means Biden does not have the technical capacity to legislate much of his agenda.

While Biden shed light on his political standing Saturday night, he has privately complained that the media has not focused on comparing his presidency to the lawlessness and scandals that have defined Trump’s tenure, CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere and Kevin Liptak reported last week.
There is a chance that Trump’s push for candidates repeating his voter fraud in this month’s GOP primaries will allow Biden to flesh out this issue in his own midterm campaign. But as Republican Glenn Youngkin’s gubernatorial victory in Virginia last November demonstrated, Democrats can no longer rely on a vigorous anti-Trump campaign to work if the ex-president is not on the ballot.