Biden Decline Prompts Three Questions

By John Hood

RALEIGH — When President Joe Biden’s approval numbers began to plummet in early August, driven by public disgust with the disastrous American withdrawal from Afghanistan, hopeful Democrats suggested that as the news cycle moved on, Biden would recover.

It was a plausible theory. So far, however, there’s been no such recovery. As of late September, the RealClearPolitics average of job-approval polls has Biden at 45%, down from 53% as recently as late July.

Here in North Carolina, a swing state with a Republican lean, the president and his party remain in big trouble. A new survey conducted by High Point University’s polling unit has Biden’s support among registered voters at 41%. The John Locke Foundation’s latest Civitas Poll, taken in mid-August, had Biden at 42%.

We are, of course, a long way from the next election. Other presidential administrations have gotten off to rocky starts only to regain their footing later on. At this moment, then, more than a year before the 2022 midterms, it would be unwise to offer a firm prediction about outcomes. But it’s not too early to ponder these three big questions:

First, what best explains Biden’s tumble? There are many potential explanations. For example, the delta variant has spurred a new wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. Fairly or not, the Biden administration is taking much of the blame, even as some of its preferred policies, such as vaccine mandates, enjoy majority support. (I oppose the Biden’s employer mandate on prudential, legal, and constitutional grounds, but I admit that many fearful Americans support it).

While public confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic has fallen, it remains one of the president’s strongest issues — by which I mean that the public is closely divided on it rather than clearly disaffected. In the High Point University survey, for example, 46% of registered voters approve of Biden’s performance on COVID-19 and 46% disapprove.

On other issues, there’s no such close call. Only 37% approve of Biden’s performance on the economy, with 52% opposing it. He’s also upside-down when it comes to shouldering the responsibility of the commander in chief (36% approval to 51% disapproval) and managing the Afghanistan crisis (26% to 59%).

Now for a second question more specific to our state: if Biden remains unpopular a year from now, can North Carolina Democrats avert electoral calamity by avoiding the party’s national brand and clinging more tightly to Gov. Roy Cooper? This has long been a tried-and-true strategy for Democrats in states such as North Carolina. Former Gov. Mike Easley, for example, cruised to reelection in 2004 even as former President George W. Bush won the state by more than 12 percentage points. Down the ballot, Democrats didn’t suffer the devastating losses one might have expected that year. Easley served as their “firewall,” as more than one Democrat told me after the 2004 elections.

In this respect, at least, Roy Cooper is no Mike Easley. Although he won reelection last year with 51.5% of the vote, Cooper’s support has dropped since then. In the High Point poll, he’s at 48% approval to 33% disapproval. In the Civitas poll, which screens for likely voters, he’s at 44.6% approval to 44.6% disapproval. In other words, the bottom certainly hasn’t fallen out for Cooper. But he’s not popular enough to wall off the state’s Democratic candidates from the Biden brand.

Here’s the final question: if the political climate doesn’t improve for Biden and the Democrats over the next year, is the GOP fated to achieve smashing victories? Not necessarily. Politics is about comparisons, not just plebiscites. North Carolina Republicans must recruit credible candidates. They must offer substantive ideas for building on past accomplishments and solving problems. And they must eschew conspiracy theories that may discourage their own voters from turning out, as happened in last year’s special Senate elections in Georgia.

Biden’s decline gives Republicans an opening. That’s doesn’t mean they can just stumble through it and expect a big gain.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member and author of the new novel Mountain Folk, a historical fantasy set during the American Revolution (MountainFolkBook.com).

13 COMMENTS

  1. Unless we fix the 2020 election, Democrats will forever win by cheating! We will no longer have elections but rather installations of selected people by those who give them the most money! Every single person needs to stand up and fight for our elections to be fair, free and honest! Johnston county was found to be one of the most fraudulent in the state. We all need to join together and fix this problem.

      • If it’s such a lie how come the elected officials on all sides don’t want to prove it’s a lie by doing an audit? Our votes have been stolen since at least 2000 by all parties! Repubs and Dems (the uniparty) are all guilty and we the people need to take control back and hold them accountable. We need our government officials to know they work for US not the banks, pharma, big business, etc. The Constitution even states they are supposed to be Representatives OF THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE and BY THE PEOPLE! It’s not about who won it’s about whoever is in office is actually the one who was elected by our fair and legal votes. IF COOPER won fine but show us it was a fair and legal process. Why are elections the only government entity that doesn’t get a true audit? Hmmm…

    • Give it a rest. Unless you have credible evidence of largescale voter fraud (You don’t), then your claims and calls for action are both dishonest and Un-American.

      • We do and gathering more everyday to present to the GA. Wait and watch or get involved, your choice but nothing will stop it fr coming to light!

        • Where have i heard all this nonsense before? “You just wait”? Only “you just wait” isn’t evidence and never will be. I lost interest in evidence free claims after the Kraken failed to materialize.

      • Well I know Biden hasn’t solved covid yet like he promised and he has now created a bigger mess by allowing afghans and illegals into our country without testing or vaxxing.

  2. Trumpsters have been brain washed with Trump’s BIG LIE that they so even consider the truth when the DUMBSTERS bought and paid for AZ audit by the Cyber Ninjas proved that’s was no fraud and the election was legitimate.

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