Well, it’s officially Election Day 2021. Like firehouse Dalmatians, we are giddy on election days, although things don’t seem to be that happy for former Governor Terry McAuliffe in Virginia. At least that is the current assumption in DC, who knows, maybe Governor McAuliffe will have the last laugh late tonight? And while it’s been a tough go for President Biden on the home front for the past several months, one bright spot appears to be his trip to Europe. So that’s where we begin and then give our take on where we think things might be heading for the Biden agenda at home.
(cover photo cred: Pool / Getty Images News)
We’ll then be back tomorrow with a special post-Election Day edition of the newsletter and the podcast.
Let’s start in Europe…
From Europe With Love…
So President Biden is apologizing his way through Europe! (Relax, my view of his trip to date is not that snarky, sometimes the apology strategy makes a lot a sense, like his well-executed, and much needed apology to our longtime French allies for blindsiding them as we snatched away the biggest defense deal they've ever had to sell nuclear subs converted to diesel subs to Australia.)
While it was clumsy as an Inspector Clouseau pratfall vis a vis Paris, the big strategic move to equip the Aussies with more powerful US/UK nuclear powered subs was strategically correct so kudos to Biden for a good clean up on aisle six job with French President Macron, who clearly enjoyed it. Of course, that was followed by economic concessions to the EU on steel imports the next day. So, mes amies, there ain't such thing as a free baguette. But all in all, I think so far Biden has performed well in Europe. The Climate apology and overall discussion, while no big lurch forward, still helpfully moves the focus of the discussion to a huge issue most voters care a lot about as opposed to the Keystone Kops show in the Democratic House. So that alone is politically good for Biden. So, perhaps positive media coverage and publicity from the trip will give a little and much needed nudge to the President's collapsing poll numbers. What say you, Gibbsie?
Well, the main thing that Joe Biden is apologizing for is the four years in which our former President Donald Trump did everything he possibly could to antagonize all of our friends in the world, while cozying up to people like Vladimir Putin. So, unfortunately for Joe Biden, part of this continues to be filling in the damage and fixing the potholes that Donald Trump created on the international stage. It won't get a lot of publicity, except in policy corners, but the G20 agreeing to a global minimum tax is tremendously important and caps off about a decade of policy and diplomatic work in a very positive way. I agree with you, Mike. A repair of our relationships with the French and others is important. And, I think it's an extremely important moment for him on the world stage around the pressing issue of climate. It's important because the Chinese and Xi Jinping have decided they no longer need to worry about cooperating with the world order and playing a constructive role. The United States and President Biden should seize the Chinese absence from meetings like the G20 and COP26 to assert America back into the role we should always be in. If the Chinese want to walk off the world stage, the only thing we should do is come in immediately after them and show the world the constructive, and indispensable role we can play.
Well, I agree a good counterweight to the Chinese is reuniting our Atlantic Alliance with Europe. And there's progress in that area with the increased European interest in projecting power into the Pacific. So from little acorns, hopefully big strong non-bamboo oaks will grow. I also give Biden a few political bonus points for a nifty little bit of business he pulled off with His Holiness Pope Francis. The U.S. Bishops have been throwing some shade at practicing Catholic Joe Biden over his pro-choice stand on abortion and the Pope reached into the Vatican’s venerable box of indulgences and gave Biden a little cover on that, which was a nice gift from the Holy Father. So, as I've said, so far a good trip and maybe worth a boost, or at least a stall in Biden’s sinking numbers. But all trips end and soon the POTUS will be back home amidst the endless Democratic internal slappy fight on Capitol Hill.
While I think they are going to pass something, and pretty soon, Sen. Joe Manchin threw yet more cold water yesterday on the President/House Leader’s plan to land at a spending number of about $1.75 Billion so things are still stuck. What could ungum the works? As I’ve written here before, watch the results today in Virginia because nothing will cattle prod the Democrats into fast action quite like a rousing Governor-elect Youngkin victory speech.
Is This the Week for The Biden Agenda (Part 782)?
I continue to believe that from the framework introduction on Thursday morning to the House Democratic Caucus through right now, momentum continues to increase for getting this done. Democrats, I think, understand, as we've said, countless numbers of times, the truly problematic thing would be to get nothing done. It would completely destroy any ability to wage an effective midterm election campaign.
But yesterday was a confusing turn of events as several sides switched tactics and took positions they hadn’t been for before. First, House Progressives now want to vote this week on BOTH the Build Back Better plan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal, believing the assurances Biden has given them is good enough. Astute readers will realize this is a shift from just a few days earlier. On the other side, Senator Manchin said a lot at his press conference. While none of it was particularly new (he said again he doesn’t understand the rush and won’t be pushed while underscoring the idea of wanting more info on the budgetary impact of the legislation), his tone reminded everyone that any deal on Build Back Better goes directly through him. The difference here, of course, is many believed Democrats had momentum in getting Manchin to be in the 'yes' column. He may still get there, but he’s going to do it on Manchin time, not anyone else’s timetable. My hunch is House Progressives know this process needs a push of big mo and nothing would do that quite like the House voting to send this to the Senate. Can they get that now? That’s unclear. House Speaker Pelosi is also pushing to get this done this week, but it is now likely House moderates turn to flex their muscles. SO, just when you think the plane has been cleared to land, it’s more circling the airport…again.
I think the White House and Democrats have to understand that we've seen a significant deterioration in the political environment for Democrats over the past year. The fact that, as we sit here, Virginia in a jump ball demonstrates that. You don't need to read the NBC poll to show that the President's approval rating at 42% is worrisome. Joe Biden won New Jersey by 16 and Virginia by 10. We’ll know more about how Virginia turned out on Wednesday. We'll know how the Democratic base turned out. We'll know how the suburbs went. But there's no doubt that the President is in a tight spot.
I worry less about how the Virginia races and the President’s current approval rating predicts the future, because that assumes that you're not doing anything between Election Day 2021 and Election Day 2022. One bright spot in the poll that I think is important is there was a big upswing on the number of people that believe the worst around COVID is behind us—an almost 20% increase. Joe Biden's numbers began to crater in August, mostly because this number had gone significantly down and far more people thought the worst was actually in front of us. So, we'll see if optimism around COVID helps to drive economic growth and return to a bit more normalcy can help the President. It won't do it alone, but it will be important.
The downside of that NBC number, however, is even though the public increasingly thinks COVID is behind them, they're giving Biden absolutely zero credit for it, as you can see in the time series chart showing his numbers collapsing over time.
So, I don't know Gibbsie, if the Democrats understand that not getting anything done is a disaster, they are really being glacier slow to do anything about it. But then again, as Comrade Tlaib likes to the remind us, the Revolution has patience. We’ll find out how Terry McAuliffe feels about that soon enough.
My Spidey sense tells me that Virginia passed the too close to call status about a week ago, but enough already with pundit opinions, I’m ready for numbers. So my tidbit for today is keep an eye on suburban/exurban Loudoun County, Virginia. Biden won it by 24 points in 2020 (Hillary won it in 2016 by 17 points) but there's no doubt it'll be closer this time. It’s not my cup of tea, but the simpleton friendly fight over local school control and curriculum has legs there and Youngkin is (shamelessly) milking the issue. I know some cocky R’s who think Youngkin will actually win Loudoun. I’m not that drunk, but I think he could close the Loudoun margin to high single digits behind McAuliffe, which would be a hammer blow and a clear sign that not only will Youngkin win, but the final result will be a lot bigger than “razor-close.” Cue the media to go apeshit, the pundits to splutter, Democrats to wet a million beds and Joe Biden to reach for the good Irish whiskey. Even a mid-teens margin in Loudoun will be a very good sign for Youngkin. Even a low teens loss should be good news for the Republicans. The other place to watch is going to be downstate: the suburban areas around Tidewater and Norfolk, as well as turnout in the Trumpier rural areas.
We'll be glued to our television sets just like you will with the popcorn out. And in the FIRST EVER Hacks on Tap Election Results newsletter, we will be back tomorrow with a short SPECIAL EDITION looking at the results from Virginia.
Murphy and Gibbs