There’s just a lot of holes to poke in the Biden record, & a Republican candidate, be it Trump or anyone else, is going to have a lot of material to work with.
President Joe Biden faces an avalanche of problems when he returns to the White House in the new year.
For starters, Covid – the virus he vowed to ‘shut down’ the moment he entered office – is out of control. Just weeks ago, he warned the unvaccinated that they face a “winter of severe illness and death.”
Yet the most vaccinated major US cities are setting new records for Covid infections, vaccinated athletes are collapsing across the world, and 2/3 of the Belgian staff at a fully-vaccinated antarctic base have Covid.
Now, the CDC has pivoted to a ‘pox party’ strategy by essentially encouraging people to spread the mildly symptomatic Omicron variant with a shortened quarantine period (5 days vs. 10), followed by ‘get back to work with a mask’ for five more days. The agency also dropped end-of-infection PCR testing guidelines because ‘they can remain positive for up to 12 weeks.’
This means that for the past 21 months, people sat home for extra days and weeks because their test came back with an irrelevant positive. We didn’t know this 6, 12, 18 months ago? Really?
— Yossi Gestetner (@YossiGestetner) December 29, 2021
“At the end of the day, his fortunes are intertwined with COVID,” Democratic strategist Joel Payne tells The Hill. “Joe Biden is president because of COVID, but Dems are struggling right now because of COVID. And until they can find someone to figure this out, people are going to be mad about COVID.”
Bill Galston, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution who also served as a White House policy adviser to former President Clinton, said it is important for Biden to strike a balanced tone and avoid overpromising given the unpredictability of the virus.
“They’re in possession of all the facts and the most experienced scientists and public policy experts in the business, and I think that they’re going to do everything that can be done. I see the decline in the president’s ratings on COVID since midsummer in part as a consequence of what I regard as unwise overpromising that occurred at the beginning of July,” Galston said. “He came perilously close to hanging out a ‘mission accomplished’ banner at the door of the White House.” -The Hill
Next, Biden and Congressional Democrats will attempt to revive the corpse of their $2 trillion Build Back Better agenda – while still facing opposition from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Without their buy-in, the best Biden and crew can hope for is to salvage components of it into smaller chunks that the two moderates may or may not agree to.
“To face this many genuine political fires, from a pandemic raging again to major legislation that might be finished, is the worst way to start a new year,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.” Just to add to the challenge, the midterm season will get fully underway, and it will be harder to persuade any politician to do something that poses electoral risk.”
The White House will also grapple with supply chain issues and inflation in 2022, after repeatedly insisting it was ‘transitory’ throughout the second half of 2021.
“In addition to COVID, this is where Biden and his team fumbled the ball,” according to one Democratic strategist. “They denied there was a problem, and then they looked silly when they had to backpedal. They can’t do that kind of thing again. It looks bad.”
And with inflation expected to persist into the new year, the White House will once again need to tweak its messaging instead of its go-to that Congress needs to pass BBB in order to tame the ongoing price hikes.
“Time is not the friend here,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to ex-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “The last thing that we as Democrats can afford is to go through a prolonged period of negotiating as we head towards the midterms.”
Next up, the Democrat exodus, as at least 23 Democratic members of Congress have announced that they won’t seek reelection this year – setting Republicans up for a potential red wave that would dash Democrats’ plan for wanton spending.
Finally, Biden will have to deal with Donald Trump.
“He remains the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and I think President Biden in 2020 ran offering himself as the alternative to the status quo, and President Trump may have the opportunity to flip that script on him,” said GOP strategist Colin Reed, who suggested that 2024 will likely include ‘strong Republican contenders other than Trump.’
“There’s just a lot of holes to poke in the Biden record, and a Republican candidate, be it Donald Trump or anyone else, is going to have a lot of material to work with.”