Since Gallup began measuring president approval ratings in 1945, the only president with a lower approval rating than Biden at the time was Trump. However, among Democrats at the national level, Biden’s approval rating still remains high – 92 percent. In Virginia, where Biden’s overall registration rate has plummeted to 43 percent in one year Monmouth University poll last week, the President’s rating among Democrats is 84 percent.
“He’s just not the kind of toxic landfill Trump has become,” said Matt Bennett of the center-left Third Way. “I would guess that even if Biden is not over 50” [percent public approval] You’ll see him represented in Congress with a bunch of Democrats next year. “
Four years ago, the election campaigns outside the year leading up to the midterm elections not only hinted at the collapse of the GOP in 2018 when the Democrats retook the House of Representatives, but also hinted at the damage Trump himself could do to the GOP, especially among independent and public figures suburban voters. Republicans Ed Gillespie and Kim Guadagno in Virginia and New Jersey were the first Republicans to see this in the out-of-year elections – and kept Trump at bay. In Virginia, Trump was the first incumbent president since Richard Nixon to no longer fight for governor of the Commonwealth.
Biden could ultimately prove just as detrimental to the Democrats’ ticket in 2022 collapsed nationally. Americans blame Biden for inflation, he still doesn’t have an infrastructure deal in Congress, and more than 60 percent of voters say the country is on the wrong track.
With the party traditionally losing seats in the first midterm elections in the White House, McAuliffe admitted last month that his campaign “faced a lot of headwinds from Washington.” He told supporters on a Video call that “the president is unfortunately unpopular here in Virginia today, so we have to prevail.”
A Democratic strategist who heads the races in the House and Senate said that in the face of Biden’s grim polls, he would advise his candidates not to approach the incumbent president.
“There’s just no evidence that Biden is net positive in the suburbs,” he said.
But Biden has not yet been shunned. In Virginia, where Biden defeated Trump by more than 10 percentage points last year, many of the state’s most prominent Democrats took part in a photo line-up with the president on Tuesday, including five House Democrats from across the state.
Two weeks earlier, the entire Connecticut congressional delegation, the governor and mayor of the state’s largest city – all Democrats – greeted Biden at Hartford Airport as he arrived for a day of events for his Build Back Better Agenda.
A McAuliffe aide said the campaign didn’t even discuss the possibility of keeping Biden out. Even though Biden’s approval rating in Virginia has fallen, the adviser found that he remains a “likeable figure that people trust” among the Democrats. It’s this McAuliffe Democratic constituency to get out.
Similar forces are at work in New Jersey. Five House Democrats were present at Biden’s appearance with Murphy Tuesday, including MP Tom Malinowski, who won his district by just over 1 percentage point last year and is expected to face difficult re-election in 2022.
Biden’s approval ratings “may wane with independents, but he’s still very popular with Democrats,” said David Axelrod, former advisor to Barack Obama. “If you think this is a tight pick where keeping your base motivated is important, then using Biden makes sense.”
He added, “It will mean more if the House passes the economic laws this week and Biden can sign the infrastructure law.”
Republicans across the country believe that Biden will be an albatross to the Democrats for the next year. Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told reporters Monday that “he is our best asset right now.”
But unlike in previous mid-term elections, Republicans attempting to nationalize the 2022 election won’t have a clean chance at Biden. Because Trump, the twice accused ex-president, continues to interfere in the midterm election campaign. In this climate, Democrats might find it useful to challenge Biden as a reminder of the alternative.
In Virginia, Trump’s threatened presence has turned the traditional mid-term dynamic of hitting the president on its head, with Democrats accepting the Biden-Trump contrast and Republicans trying to localize the election.
McAuliffe’s opponent Glenn Youngkin hit Biden on the news that he was campaigning in the state. But he hasn’t made anti-Biden rhetoric a main feature of the campaign, instead focusing on education, public safety and attacks that focus on McAuliffe rather than Biden.
A Youngkin adviser said that with internal polls suggesting McAuliffe is less popular than Biden in the media markets they focus on, “You have a much better voting position against McAuliffe than” [turning the race into] Biden against Trump. “
On the flip side, for a McAuliffe campaign that primarily focuses on highlighting its democratic base, Biden offers a pre-made reminder of one of the party’s top motivating factors: Trump.
“Biden is coming because there are very few undecided voters left,” said Joshua Ulibarri, a Democratic pollster who conducted a poll in Virginia. “This is now about voter turnout. There is more of ‘us’ than them when we turn out to be. Biden was a man with a plan and is reminiscent of the Trump threat. “
If either campaign believed there was still a sizable portion of the electorate to be won, an appearance by Biden could pose some risk to McAuliffe. But in a hyperpolarized era of politics, there are very few voters to convince. The bigger challenge for the Democrats is an enthusiasm gap in Virginia, with polls suggesting Republicans are more vigorous in voting when competing.
The incumbent president can be particularly convincing to voters who would otherwise sit out, especially in the heavily democratic Washington suburbs of Northern Virginia, whose proximity to Washington makes the region particularly sensitive to national politics. Voters working in the federal government or related industries may pay far less attention to what is going on in Richmond than in the country’s capital – especially young, democratically-minded transplants from other states.
“It’s so important that the incumbent president come out and support you because these people’s lives revolve around federal politics, not state politics,” said Ben Tribbett, a longtime Democratic strategist from Virginia. “Biden is popular with the Northern Virginia Democratic community.”
Speaking of Biden’s campaign in the state, he said, “I think it will inspire people to vote.”