Joe Biden has transformed his difficult month of July in a jubilant month of August. Last month, the US president was drowning in negative headlines about his handling of many crisesfrom the war in Ukraine to record gas prices and the apparent disappearance of its flagship legislative proposal.
Now, as the summer draws to a close, Biden is riding high, propelled by the passage of the Democrats’ climate and health care package and glimmers of hope for his party’s prospects in the midterm elections. That optimism was evident Thursday, as Biden took the stage for a rally hosted by the Democratic National Committee in Rockville, Maryland.
“We have come a long way in 18 months. Covid no longer controls our lives. Record numbers of Americans are working,” Biden told the cheering crowd. “We never gave up. We never gave in. We deliver for the American people now.
Biden’s speech offered a glimpse of Democrats’ closing message to voters as they enter the final sprint leading to the November election. With the passage of the Cut Inflation Act and the overturning of Roe v Wade by the conservative-led Supreme Court, Democrats believe they have an effective strategy to win re-election this fall, and they are ready to challenge previous predictions of a Republican bombardment.
“At the peak of the year, it was almost as if the Democrats were being shut out, and most were preparing for the worst,” said Anthony Robinson, political director of the National Democratic Training Committee. “I think we’re in a completely, completely different headspace when it comes to mid-ranges. There is still a lot to do, but I think there is a certain change in the tide.
This week, new indicators indicate that Democrats may be able to avoid the widespread losses typically suffered by the president’s party midterm. Democrat Pat Ryan narrowly won a special congressional election in upstate New York on Tuesday, giving him the chance to represent a flagship district that has gone from backing Donald Trump in 2016 to backing Biden in 2020. Democrats have also exceeded expectations in other recent special elections in Nebraska and Minnesota.
Ryan has focused his campaign on the need to protect abortion rights in the wake of the Roe reversal, which ended the federal right to abortion access. Democrats say Ryan’s campaign could provide a playbook for other candidates seeking to motivate voters to go to the polls in November.
“I think he found what resonated in his community and met people where they are,” Robinson said. “It wasn’t a bunch of numbers and numbers. It was just about the raw emotion and the fact that people’s lives are at stake. It’s something that I think is important for everyone.
Passing the Democrats’ spending package also helped ease concerns that candidates would have little to campaign on, despite the party’s control of the White House and Congress. The Cut Inflation Act, which Biden signed into law last week, includes $369 billion in funds to cut America’s planet-heating emissions and several provisions aimed at reducing health care costs, particularly for Medicare beneficiaries.
“Democrats have their mojo after passing many policies that will have a tangible impact on people’s lives, and now the key is to really sell it with confidence ahead of midterms,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “Lowering prescription drug prices, lowering health care costs and making the water and the air healthier for people’s children is a really good message to give to voters who are wondering, does it matter if do I vote Democrat or vote at all?”
Biden continued the winning streak on Wednesday, as he signed a decree to cancel at least $10,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers. The order fell far short of what progressives had demanded, but even Democrats who had pushed for more debt cancellation celebrated the news.
“Ultimately, Biden exceeded most progressives’ expectations of what he would do on student debt,” Green said. “If people want more, they definitely won’t get it with Republicans. But it will completely wipe out the debt of around 20 million people and represent a huge chunk of their debt for many more.
Ahead of Thursday’s rally, Biden met with Democratic donors for a $1 million fundraiser, where he attacked Donald Trump and party loyalists and his Republican predecessor’s electoral base.
“We are now witnessing either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme Maga agenda,” he said, referring to Trump’s Make America Great Again campaign slogan. “It’s not just Trump…It’s almost semi-fascism,” Biden added.
As Biden has enjoyed this recent flurry of victories, his approval rating has also risen, though he remains underwater. A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday found that 41% of Americans approve of Biden’s professional performance, marking the first reading above 40% since early June.
Earlier this month, Democrats overtook Republicans in the generic congressional ballot for the first time since last November, according to FiveThirtyEight.
These developments have led some election forecasters to change their forecasts for the November election. FiveThirtyEight’s forecast model suggests Democrats are now slightly favored to keep control of the Senate, and the political Cook report downgraded its outlook for Republican gains in the House after Ryan’s victory in New York.
But Republicans are still favored to regain control of the House, reflecting the headwinds Democrats face as they look to November. Secure Republicans several key victories in recut battles, giving them a more favorable house card. Given the extremely narrow majority of Democrats in the House, redistricting alone may provide enough of an advantage for Republicans to retake the lower house.
Americans’ anxiety about the economy presents additional challenges for Democrats. Inflation is higher than it was in over 40 years oldsqueezing family budgets amid concerns the United States has went into recession. A NBC News Poll taken this month revealed that 74% of voters believe the country is on the wrong track, marking the fifth month in a row that the reading was above 70%.
Republicans remain confident that the pessimistic national mood will convince voters to reject the Democrats in November, and they predicted that student debt cancellation would eventually backfire on Biden. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, attacked the policy as a “bailout for the rich.”
“The Biden bailout unfairly punishes Americans who saved for college or made a different career choice, and voters see through this short-sighted and ill-veiled vote buying,” McDaniel said Wednesday.
Democrats recognize they still have their work cut out over the next three months, which is more than enough for Republicans to weather their sudden reversal of fortune. But as he addressed an exuberant crowd chanting “four more years,” Biden seemed more poised than ever to overcome historical trends and protect his party’s majorities in Congress this fall.
“’We the people’ are the first words of our constitution, and ‘we the people’ will always determine the fate of America. If ‘we the people’ unite, we will prevail,” Biden said Thursday. “We just gotta keep the faith. We just gotta persevere. We just gotta vote.”