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A Spoonful of Sanity for Biden in 2023

December 29, 2022
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memo from White House senior adviser Mike Donilon landed in Washington inboxes last week, claiming President Biden is enjoying a “strong jolt of momentum.”

Mr. Donilon spun a tale with Mr. Biden’s “approval rating on the upswing, a resilient economic climate, and strong support for the President’s agenda.” Neither “Republican extremism” nor abortion or “concern for our democracy” decided the November election, he said. Instead, the answer lies in “what hasn’t been fully reported on” or “fully understood”—namely, “how important a role the achievements and agenda of the President and the Democrats played in the midterms.”

Maybe. But let’s consider the effect of those “achievements and agenda” in key states.

Ohio’s Republican Gov. Mike DeWine won re-election by 25 points and led the GOP in sweepingevery state office by 18 to 21 points as well as all three Supreme Court slots by 12 to 14 points. The U.S. Senate race was closer—a nearly 7-point win for Republican J.D. Vance—only because Mr. Vance was a flawed candidate and Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan spent the campaign declaring his independence from Mr. Biden. Ohio won’t be in play for Democrats in 2024. 

Floridians weren’t impressed by the “Biden-Harris Administration achievements and agenda” either. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis prevailed by more than 19 points against Democrat Charlie Crist. The GOP swept every statewide office by 18 to 22 points, picked up four House seats and won supermajorities in both state legislative chambers.

Then there’s Georgia, a new battleground that Mr. Biden carried narrowly in 2020. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won by 7.5 points, leading the entire statewide GOP ticket to victory with the exception of Senate candidate Hershel Walker. He lost because Sen. Raphael Warnock focused on Mr. Walker’s lack of “character and competence” rather than on the Biden record.

Similarly, Arizona Democrats played down their Biden links, choosing instead to highlight character differences and state issues. The Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Katie Hobbs, focused on election integrity. In the only Senate debate, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly broke with Mr. Biden on border security, blaming him for the “mess.” In a state Mr. Biden won by 0.3% in 2020, keeping it local helped Ms. Hobbs eke out a 0.66-point victory against Republican Kari Lake. Showing daylight between himself and the administration won Mr. Kelly a 5-point re-election victory.

The clearest test of Mr. Donilon’s thesis is Wisconsin. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is one of Mr. Biden’s loudest, most persistent critics. If the Biden agenda were popular, Mr. Johnson should have lost in the Badger State, which Mr. Biden carried. Instead, Mr. Johnson won a third term.

Friday night, White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bateslaunched a follow-up email. He emphasized Mr. Biden’s “historic bipartisan winning streak” on legislation, including bills on infrastructure, China and semiconductors, and guns. But while Mr. Biden signed each of these bills, they were conceived, written, negotiated and passed by Democratic and Republican members of Congress. The White House was largely out of the loop.

What prompted this end-of-year White House rhetorical offensive? Three factors:

 

memo from White House senior adviser Mike Donilon landed in Washington inboxes last week, claiming President Biden is enjoying a “strong jolt of momentum.”

Mr. Donilon spun a tale with Mr. Biden’s “approval rating on the upswing, a resilient economic climate, and strong support for the President’s agenda.” Neither “Republican extremism” nor abortion or “concern for our democracy” decided the November election, he said. Instead, the answer lies in “what hasn’t been fully reported on” or “fully understood”—namely, “how important a role the achievements and agenda of the President and the Democrats played in the midterms.”

Maybe. But let’s consider the effect of those “achievements and agenda” in key states.

Read More at the WSJ

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