President Biden currently enjoys an 53.2 percent approval rating in the FiveThirtyEight average of polls, which is not great by historical standards but much better than Trump’s numbers at any point in his one term in the Oval Office. What might be more important is that he’s major policy initiatives on COVID-19, the economy, and infrastructure all poll better than he does.
Sometimes it’s necessary to do unpopular things, and some things are unpopular in the beginning but later win widespread support and approval. But it’s obviously easier politically to do stuff that people like. If they like the stuff you’re doing more than they like you personally, that’s very good news for you and the political party you lead. It makes it more likely that you’ll be able to do more stuff, including stuff that doesn’t poll well.
It also makes it less likely that voters will sour on you causing your personal approval numbers to go down.
So, Biden is sitting pretty right now and Democrats should be pleased. As Aaron Blake of the Washington Post notes, the Republicans are really struggling to lay a glove on him.
The Hill’s Jordain Carney spoke with a number of GOP senators who either tacitly or explicitly acknowledged their inability to set a tone in opposing Biden. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said the GOP was doing “poorly” on this front. The No. 2-ranking Senate Republican, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said, “We need to get better at it.” But “it’s probably harder to attack somebody who is relatable and likable,” he added. The party’s former No. 2 senator, John Cornyn (R-Tex.), agreed that “it’s always harder to fight against a nice person.”
The thing about Biden is that being nice isn’t some veneer or brand he puts on but just a basic character trait that even his political enemies recognize and acknowledge. This is why even the horrible unfounded charge of sexual assault he suffered in the primaries didn’t make a dent. Voters couldn’t picture it and they didn’t credit it. The same is true of the Republican accusation that he’s personally corrupt–which is what all the Hunter Biden hype was all about.
Superman’s weakness was kryptonite, a rare substance from his home planet that sapped his superpowers. Biden’s character is kryptonite to the Republicans’ playbook for combatting a Democratic president. But his policies, so far, serve the same end.
When Bill Clinton and Barack Obama entered the White House they had stronger majorities in Congress but they each pursued policies that proved less popular than they were, and it led to catastrophic midterm elections. It doesn’t look like Biden is heading in that direction.
Yet, he still has to get things done, and that will be more difficult now and more challenging than it was for Clinton and Obama. I hope vulnerable Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia understand that his best shot at reelection comes if Biden’s popular policies are enacted. Biden will never be the first choice of West Virginians but they may warm to him a bit if he’s delivering things they like. It’s better overall that people approve of what he’s doing than that they approve of him as a person, but the two things are interrelated. Republicans will struggle in the midterms if they can’t develop a coherent attack against either the president or his policies.