This November’s midterm elections are considered by political observers as one of the most critical in decades. President Joe Biden is suffering from low approval ratings and congressional Democrats are privately and publicly pessimistic about their prospects. An assessment of the overall political environment current may give us clues about what to expect in the Fall.
First, some history. Last year, at the beginning of his term, President Biden enjoyed a five-month honeymoon with the American public. More than half the country approved of his performance as President, and his levels of support during that period—reaching 54% in some surveys—were much higher than President Trump ever attained.
Biden initially received high marks for dealing with the impacts of COVID-19. Heading into the summer of 2021 there was a sense that the country was on the brink of a robust economic recovery, that competence had returned to government, and that life was returning to normal.
Then came Afghanistan. The public’s confidence in the Administration fell sharply as the situation was seen, across the political spectrum, as hasty and poorly-planned. A Democratic pollster noted that, after August 2021 independent voters “began to conclude that not only had Biden failed to deliver on his promise to restore America’s leadership in the world, but also every explanation he gave for the withdrawal’s problems made things worse.”
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