Yikes: For the first time, Biden’s job approval lower than Trump’s was on this date four years ago

Tom Bevan of RCP has been tracking the day-by-day comparison and noted the grim Democratic milestone on Twitter this afternoon. If you’d asked me a year ago what would have to happen in America to make Grandpa Joe less popular than Trump a year from now, I would have scratched my head and said, “Stock market crash?”

But the market’s doing fine. All it took was a catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan and another grinding year of COVID death and misery and inflation caused by a combination of supply-chain disruptions and endless COVID relief spending.

It’s a real achievement.

To makes this extra yikes-y for Dems, note that February 2018 wasn’t one of Trump’s better polling periods. This isn’t a case of Biden at his least popular dipping below Trump at his most popular. Trump’s single worst stretch of polling came in the winter of 2017-18, when he touched 37.1 percent in late December before slowly rebounding. He was on his way up on this date four years ago:

By May he would reach the 43-44 percent approval threshold that he’d enjoy for most of the rest of his presidency. Meanwhile, here’s where Biden stands today:

His favorable rating is slightly higher now (41.8 percent) than Trump’s was on this day four years ago (40.4). But at 42.7 percent today, Trump is currently more popular than the president himself is.

Which I guess makes sense. Trump has always had fanatically devoted supporters. Biden doesn’t. He won with a coalition of people who like him well enough and people who hate Trump with a fiery passion, but neither of those factions are apt to stick with him through thick and thin. When Trump had a bad spell, he could count on 43 percent of the public to be in his corner no matter what. When Biden has a bad spell, there’s no telling how low he might go.

Especially since the problems he’s facing can’t easily be “messaged.” What’s he supposed to say to swing voters who thought the Biden era would bring a return to normalcy and instead are staring at this graph in the NYT today?

That’s not Biden’s fault, of course. But go figure that Americans aren’t eager to reward Democrats with another two years in power with results like that.

A.B. Stoddard thinks it’s time for Biden to go on offense with COVID and put the blame where it belongs. If he can’t convince Americans that he’s kept his pledge to restore normalcy, which he obviously hasn’t, he can at least try to convince them that the GOP bears outsized responsibility for the state of the pandemic in 2022:

For nearly two years we have witnessed an entire cohort of Americans reject the social compact and discard the welfare of others, including their own loved ones. In the name of liberty they have proudly protected the rights of Americans to reject vaccines, refuse masks, spread the virus, demand expensive therapeutics, claim ICU beds, clog up hospitals, and gum up the economy.

The virus champions in the GOP know that their unvaccinated supporters are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized and 20 times more likely to die from COVID. You will not hear them lament that more than 10,000 mostly unvaccinated Americans are dying each week as we approach the loss of 900,000 American lives. On this they are largely silent. Mass death is another casualty of the long culture war; the cost of doing business in today’s Republican party…

A pandemic Republicans have eagerly prolonged has pummeled Joe Biden’s presidency and he can no longer fight depravity with good will. There are no more marginal vaccine holdouts to be wooed. No more lives of people who just don’t know any better to be saved.

It’s time for Democrats to stop worrying about alienating the unvaccinated and start explaining to the rest of the country how the unvaccinated—and the Republicans who coddle and truckle to them—have screwed the rest of us.

There might just be a connection between America’s high Omicron death rate and its vaccination habits. Another graph from the Times:

In England, nine percent of senior citizens have yet to receive a booster. In the U.S., that number is 43 percent. I’m skeptical that Biden trying to blame, say, Tucker Carlson for America’s dismal performance in holding down deaths will do him more good than harm, as I think the average voter would say that he’s trying to pass the buck for failing to keep his pledge to “shut down the virus.” But Stoddard’s right that Biden doesn’t have any better play at this point (apart from hoping the virus fades away before the midterms). And if he went on a tear about the GOP pandering to anti-vaxxers, that argument would at least have the virtue of being true.

Speaking of which, here’s a strong and even clever speech today from Mitch McConnell about taking the off-ramp on COVID. Ostensibly these remarks are aimed at Dems mulling whether to spend even more money on another round of COVID relief but I think they’re also aimed at setting Republican messaging for the midterms. McConnell has always been pro-vax and is obviously worried about how the right’s fatal attraction to vaccine skepticism might alienate swing voters this fall. So his message here is double-barreled (and accurate): The vaccines work splendidly so why do we need to keep up restrictions, especially at a moment when other countries are dropping their rules? Pro-vaccine and pro-normalcy is a winning pitch for the party but only Republican officials like Mitch who don’t depend on populist support for their political capital can get away with it. He’s going to do what he can to reach out to swing voters even as MAGA-friendly pols like Ron DeSantis lamely duck questions about whether they’ve had a booster or not.

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