WASHINGTON — (AP) — President Joe Biden has an election year message for frustrated voters: At least he’s trying.
For those who think he’s not doing enough to help Ukraine repel the Russian invasion, Biden on Thursday announced $800 million in new military support. To ease the pain of high gas prices, he tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and reopened onshore sales of oil and natural gas leases on public lands. And to deal with historic inflation, Biden has tried to smooth out supply chain bottlenecks at ports across the country.
The president hopes the changes, which are being announced in near-daily rollouts and an accelerated travel schedule, will present a contrast to Republicans – who he says spend more time complaining about problems than offering solutions .
“I mean this sincerely — name me something the National Republican Party is for,” Biden said at a recent Democratic National Committee meeting.
But it’s not clear that he’s attracting much support. A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds just 45% of Americans approve and 54% disapprove of Biden’s handling of the presidency. The approval rating in the April 14-18 poll is about the same as last month, but down from the president’s 63% approval rating a year ago.
There are positives for Biden. Jobless claims have fallen to the lowest levels in decades and wages are rising. The economy is growing after the pandemic-induced slump.
Still, with rising crime rates in some parts of the country and inflation at its highest level since 1981, this doesn’t seem like a boom time for many. Seventy percent of Americans rate the national economy as poor. Additionally, only 33% say they approve and 66% say they disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, with about a third of Democrats, as well as nearly all Republicans, disapproving.
The primary elections that begin next month will help show whether Democrats embrace Biden’s vision of a moderate party that counters the increasingly far-right GOP.
In Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan is well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination for an open Senate seat with an appealing message for centrist blue-collar workers that aligns with Biden’s overall approach. But in the president’s home state of Pennsylvania, moderate Conor Lamb could be in a tight Senate primary against the more progressive John Fetterman.
Biden has suggested that one way to address his political challenges is to hit the road and speak directly to voters about the impact of his administration’s policies. He recently increased his domestic travel to promote a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package that was approved by Congress last fall. Biden has visited Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Oregon since last week, and is in Seattle on Friday.
But some of the top Democrats running for office aren’t asking for the president’s help. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke said he has no interest in national Democratic figures visiting his state because he is now running for governor. Florida Rep. Val Demings, while campaigning for the Senate, hasn’t been comical about Biden’s help, as has Ryan.
“My philosophy is: I run. I am the candidate. I don’t need validators,” Ryan said at the Knox County Democratic party office in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Nearby were cardboard cutouts of Obama and Hillary Clinton. There wasn’t one from Biden, although there was a campaign sign bearing his name outside.
When asked if appearing with Biden could be damaging, Ryan was exceptionally blunt.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I really do not know.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris nevertheless plan to increase travel to the United States in the coming weeks, as well as step up fundraising on behalf of the Democratic Party, according to administration officials and allies. . But most of their activity will likely take place in late summer and early fall – after the primaries are over and voters will have a choice in the ballot boxes reserved for them.
Some in the administration have pushed for Biden and Democrats to draw a stronger contrast with Republicans, saying for example that the president should highlight more forcefully a new study that the decision of the Republican governor of Texas , Greg Abbott, to introduce redundant inspections on truck travel costs in the United States. savings of 9 billion dollars in 10 days.
At a Democratic fundraiser Thursday at a yacht club in Portland, Oregon, Biden predicted Democrats would add two seats in November to secure a 52-48 majority in the Senate.
“The far right has taken over this party,” he said of Republicans. “And that’s not even conservative in the traditional sense of conservatism. It’s mean. It’s ugly.”
But trying to blame the other side in the midst of mounting issues can have its limits. Democrat Terry McAuliffe has tried to turn last year’s Virginia governor’s race into a referendum on the dangers of the modern GOP — even calling Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin “Trump in a sweater vest.” McAuliffe lost in a state that Biden had carried by 10 points just a year earlier.
Some who would otherwise be the White House’s fiercest allies say it will be up to Biden to energize voters before November — whatever Republicans do.
“He’s not an effective communicator,” said Wes Bellamy, founder of Our Black Party, which advocates for issues aimed at strengthening African-American communities.
The president “speaks in a tone that doesn’t really resonate with a lot of his base and I don’t think they’re doing a good enough job of being active on the ground,” Bellamy said.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that when the president addresses one issue, he can provoke another. Some of what the administration has done to rein in pump prices, for example, runs counter to Biden’s climate change promises — especially after his bill collapsed. social spending, “Build Back Better”, in Congress.
“His medium-term strategy when it comes to the environment is pretty disappointing and probably won’t work,” said Brett Hartl, chief policy strategist at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund.
Hartl said Americans, especially young people who backed Biden in 2020 thinking he would help make the country dramatically greener, are now disillusioned with “a very steady string of defeats on the climate crisis.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki suggested Biden could help Democrats avoid a Republican midterm frenzy by evoking the phrase “Don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative”. White House in 2020.
“Really, if you look the other way, they have nothing in the closet. They have no plan,” Psaki said at a recent event for “Pod Save America.” more.”
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in Mount Vernon, Ohio, and Josh Boak in Portland, Oregon, contributed to this report.
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