Democrats are still gearing up for a brutal midterm election. The clouds hanging over the party have only darkened in the past few weeks, increasing the chances of another “shellacking” like the one President Barack Obama described after the midterm election in 2010, when his party lost the House majority by dozens of seats.
It’s been clear since the start of President Joe Biden’s term the midterms would likely be ugly. After all, he began his presidency with extremely narrow majorities in the House and Senate. Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin scrambled the Biden agenda by blocking the Build Back Better bill while Republicans prevented the John Lewis Voting Rights Act from advancing in the Senate. To top it off, a new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research Poll shows only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s performance, marking the lowest point of his presidency.
Now three major factors threaten to make conditions even worse for Democrats.
For one, the war in Ukraine continues to cause global instability. Turbulence overseas will also have ripple effects on the world’s economy and supply chains. And despite Biden’s success supporting Ukraine, shoring up NATO and avoiding a direct conflict with Russia, he is not getting much credit from voters for his handling of the war; 54% of Americans think he is not being tough enough, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC poll.
Then there is Covid-19. Biden’s ability to usher the nation back to some semblance of normality has always been a key measure of his success. Biden won the 2020 election over former President Donald Trump in part because he was seen as a stabilizing force who could more effectively curb the spread of Covid-19. While vaccines and therapeutic treatments have provided tremendous progress in terms of preventing hospitalizations, the pandemic is still raging. More than a million Americans have died from the virus and cases are on the rise once again.
The administration’s public health messaging has caused confusion on numerous occasions. Local and state policies have varied, with many areas choosing not to reinstate Covid restrictions despite the current surge. Federal courts have also undercut vital mandates and new Omicron subvariants are still wreaking havoc. Things could get worse as the midterms approach, with the White House warning 100 million people could potentially be infected in the fall and winter.
Congress has thus far failed to fund the administration’s request for a $10 billion Covid relief package, despite repeated warnings the consequences could be dire. And although Republicans are responsible for blocking the funding as part of a dispute over immigration, the public will likely lay the blame on the president if conditions deteriorate, disruptions abound and critical supplies like tests and therapeutics are not readily available.