Biden’s approval rating: What range should Dems target for midterms success?

By Lee Cleveland - December 31, 2021

President Joe Biden spent the beginning of his term in good public standing, receiving approval ratings from top pollsters in the low to high-50s.

Not bad in a very polarized environment. But his honeymoon period came to an end in late summer and his approval scores continue to dip. The reasons are presumably due to :

  • The delta and omicron variants of the coronavirus which have overcome U.S preparedness and led to a surge in cases and deaths
  • Fears about inflation
  • The astonishingly fast collapse of the American-imposed government in Afghanistan and the humanitarian crisis that ensued as a result
  • Critcism of his handling of the border situation, and
  • Republicans controlling more of the messaging

Today (December 31), after about 344 days in office, Presiden Biden has seen his approval rating per fivethirtyeight.com’s aggregate of top pollsters drop to 43.3  percent, a far cry from his post-honeymoon high of 54.7 percent on May 25.

Not good news for Democrats. They are narrowly in control of both Houses of Congress but Republicans are licking their chops for the 2022 midterms, especially because the party out of presidential power has usually (over the last 40 years) made substantial gains in the middle election cycle during a president’s first term.

True to form thus far

The 2021 state elections in Virginia and New Jersey seem to confirm Democrats’ worst fears. In Virginia, Republicans swept all three statewide races (including governor) and won back control of the House of Delegates in an upset. And Governor Phil Murphy in New Jersey hung on to beat his Republican opponent in an election that was closer than expected while Garden State Democrats lost a seat in the state senate and 6 in the state assembly.

In a state as blue as New Jersey, Democrats should have cruised, not struggled.

No wonder Republicans are already planning for a congressional takeover in 2022.

But, should the GOP start making plans yet?

No one is talking about it

A surge in Biden’s approval ratings could not only ruin Republican plans for a takeover but could also result in Democrat gains in both the U.S. House and Senate. And no one is talking about it.

Unlike Donald Trump, who never cracked 50 percent by any reputable pollster in his four years as president, Biden saw his approval ratings aggregate hit 57 percent during his first week in office.

Moreover, Trump, in two presidential elections, failed to obtain 47 percent of the popular vote while Biden received 51.3 percent of the popular vote in 2020.

Simply put, and based on strong numbers, Biden is capable of hitting much higher numbers than Trump whose approval ceiling seems to be about 47 percent.

Trump had to try to “convert” supporters. For Biden, it’s a matter of just “winning them back.

So where does the president need to be by early November to give Democrats a helping hand in November?

The sweet spot

“Getting his job rating closer to 50, high 40s is really where you would like to be,” Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster from Hart Research Associates who conducts the NBC News survey, told Newsweek.

Heading into the 2010 midterms, former President Barack Obama’s approval ratings hovered around 44 percent – And his Democratic Party was trounced.

For Democrats to even begin to think of securing their advantage in Congress in 2022, President Biden must have at least a 49 percent approval rating from not just one pollster but an aggregate of top pollsters.

No, it’s all about poor messaging

Not all Democratic strategists are consumed with presidential approval numbers.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, hopes Democrats don’t focus too much on approval rating stats.

“I think it has more to do with messaging,” Miringoff told Newsweek. “The Democrats, and especially Biden, are going to have to come up with a way of framing this so that prior patterns don’t hold.”

“He’s not controlling his message, and that’s a real political problem,” Miringoff said of Biden.

Do you think Biden’s approval numbers are the result of Democrats’ passive messaging in relation to the brazen and aggressive discourse of Trump and the Republicans?

And do you believe Democrats can salvage what, as of now, appears to be a landslide defeat in November?