Articles

The State of Biden’s Presidency Is Blah

February 16, 2023
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The Beltway conventional wisdom is in: President Biden’s State of the Union address was a great success. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared it “inspiring.” NPR said the president likely came across to many as both “confrontational” and “reasonable,” while CNN swooned that “his message was one of unadulterated optimism.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Mr. Biden “talked with vigor,” and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffriesproclaimed the address “compelling.”

The president suckered the House GOP’s Knucklehead Caucus—led by the crazed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—to scream at him, providing a made-for-TV moment. After speaking for 73 minutes, he spent another 20 shaking hands in the chamber before departing for the White House, apparently to leave an image of camaraderie and energy.

Even if it was a boffo performance, most Americans weren’t watching. Viewership on the four main broadcast and three biggest cable news channels was 24.2 million, down 29% from the 33.8 million who watched his performance last year. Perhaps the other 307.7 million Americans had laundry to do or episodes of “Yellowstone” to binge.

Regardless, the media and Washington insiders proclaimed the speech a successful pre-launch of Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign. The first of NPR’s “five takeaways” from the president’s speech was that it made “Democrats more comfortable with the idea of Biden as the standard-bearer again in 2024.” It undoubtedly did. The first of the New York Times’ “seven takeaways” was that the speech “could help address doubts about his vigor as a 2024 campaigner.” It might have. But these impressions, while helpful, are likely insufficient. They could easily be undone by the kind of stumbles Mr. Biden regularly provides.

And whether it was lack of viewership, the speech or the guy giving it, polling shows the State of the Union didn’t change the president’s standing with the public. A Morning Consult poll after his remarks found that 46% of respondents didn’t think Mr. Biden had kept his campaign promises, while 39% said he had. That’s unchanged from the start of February. The president recently has received some good news, including slowing inflation and a robust—perhaps too strong—January jobs report. But none of that has propelled his approval rating above 50%.

Ironically, the closer the next election comes, the worse things are likely to get for Mr. Biden. With each passing day he gets a little older and voters’ focus gravitates to his age. That Mr. Biden would be 82 in 2024 and looking to serve until he’s 86 already causes many voters concern. Democratic strategist James Carville openly worries about “the age issue,” which he said in a recent podcast appearance “is going to be key.” In the same interview, he asked his fellow Democrats, “Could we please find somebody under 75 to be our president? Just for the fun of it?”

The president’s age also focuses public attention on Vice President Kamala Harris’s incompetence. As bad as Mr. Biden’s numbers are, hers are worse. FiveThirtyEight’s rolling average has Mr. Biden at 43.1% approve, 51.5% disapprove. Ms. Harris is at 40.5% approve, 52.1% disapprove

Ms. Harris has some of the worst vice-presidential press since Spiro Agnew, who served under Richard Nixon. It’s deserved. Mr. Biden gave her two assignments—voting rights and illegal immigration.

The Beltway conventional wisdom is in: President Biden’s State of the Union address was a great success. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared it “inspiring.” NPR said the president likely came across to many as both “confrontational” and “reasonable,” while CNN swooned that “his message was one of unadulterated optimism.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Mr. Biden “talked with vigor,” and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffriesproclaimed the address “compelling.”

The president suckered the House GOP’s Knucklehead Caucus—led by the crazed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene—to scream at him, providing a made-for-TV moment. After speaking for 73 minutes, he spent another 20 shaking hands in the chamber before departing for the White House, apparently to leave an image of camaraderie and energy.

Read More at the WSJ

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