WASHINGTON (AP) — This should be a high point of Joe Biden’s presidency. He’s repeatedly beaten the odds with a string of legislative accomplishments and a historically strong midterm election where Democrats held the line against Republicans. He has been praised for his unwavering support of Ukraine. The pandemic cloud has dissipated.
But instead, going into his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he finds himself facing a problem that has shadowed him for years — public doubt.
Polls show a majority of Americans are largely unaware of his successes and don’t approve of his job performance. Eager to be reelected, even Democrats have doubts about him.
This all makes it a very high-stakes moment to Biden. Biden’s speech in the Senate is his final chance to present his case before his formal announcement of candidacy, which will likely be made within weeks.
“The State of the Union is often considered the opening bid in an argument for reelection,”Patrick Gaspard is a former White House Political Director and top official of the Democratic National Committee. “And in this situation, it’s certainly the case.”
Gaspard, who is currently president of the liberal Center for American Progress, said Biden has a strong record since taking office and now needs to demonstrate that he’s “a man with a vision for tomorrow.”
Biden’s allies insist that the president is routinely underestimated, dating back to the 2020 Democratic primaries. His supporters claim that he is a sharp contrast to Republicans who are now dependent on extremists.
“They’re just not mature enough to sit at the table and govern,”Cedric Richmond is a former White House top official and now senior advisor to the Democratic National Committee.
American presidents nearly never give up the chance to run for a second term. Lyndon Johnson was the last American president to run for reelection, and he did so in 1968 when his presidency had been thrown out by Vietnam War.
But there’s also never been a president as old as Biden. He’s 80, and would be 86 at the end of a second term. In 1988, he was the first to run for the White House.
Lyndsay Chervinsky, a presidential historian, said Biden’s age is “the X factor”This is what sets him apart from his predecessors. Even though other presidents had low approval ratings in their first terms, “no one was suggesting that they not run.”
“If he was ten years younger, none of these conversations would be happening,”She said.
Biden gave a glimpse of his campaign pitch on Friday in Philadelphia, when he spoke at a Democratic National Committee meeting. Biden rattled off legislative successes, some of them after being left behind in Congress. He also criticized Republicans. “extremists,”You can even call them “nuts”One point.
“Let me ask you a simple question. Are you with me?”He spoke to his cheering audience, who responded by chanting. “Four more years!”
The State of the Union draws more attention than political appearances. Last year, 38 million people tuned in, compared to nearly 100 million who watched the Super Bowl.
Biden’s challenge will be to find the right way to harness that fleeting focus, said presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
“The speech will probably be remembered for two or three lines,”He said. “He has to decide which he wants those to be.“
Biden plans to travel to Wisconsin on Wednesday and Florida on Thursday to continue pushing his agenda after the State of the Union, part of an administration-wide plan for top officials to fan out across the country this week.
He’s promised to announce a decision on running for reelection in the early part of this year. Donald Trump, who continues to falsely claim he did not lose to Biden, already announced in November that he would seek another term. Trump is just four years younger that Biden.
After a Democratic midterm showing that was strong by historical averages in a president’s first term, Biden has successfully tamped down handwringing within his party over whether he should seek another term. Biden has not yet met his primary opponent.
His track record is impressive. He’s also secured investments in infrastructure, computer chip manufacturing and financial incentives to encourage Americans to adopt cleaner technologies for fighting climate change.
“At the end of the day, you can’t argue with the extraordinary accomplishments, more than almost any other modern president, that President Biden has achieved, again, under the toughest of circumstances,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a Sunday interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Biden is still subject to skepticism by the nation.
According to a poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 37% say Biden should seek a second term. This is down from 52% in the November midterm elections.
Victories in Congress to the contrary, many Americans don’t see him making progress either.
According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, 36% believe that Biden accomplished his goals. “a great deal”Or “a good amount” since taking office, while 62% said he’s done “not very much”Or “little or nothing.”
Cedric Richmond, a former top White House official who is now a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee, says the numbers don’t concern him.
“When you hit a campaign, and you’re going to spend the kind of money that campaigns cost now, people will get inundated”Biden offered reminders of the many changes he made as president.
Richmond stated, “Right now.” “people are more focused on their lives than political commentary and polls and all of those things.”
Now the question is whether Biden can use his big speech to shift voters’ focus to him — and get them to see the country his same way.
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