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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Biden’s Agenda Popular, But Midterm Apathy a Formidable Obstacle for Dems

Adam Wollner has a warning for Democrats in his article, “Democrats are trying to sell Biden’s agenda. But key voters aren’t paying attention” at McClatchy:

“What we find is people are checking out at record high levels because they feel everything is contentious, exhausting and divisive,” said Celinda Lake, a veteran Democratic pollster who worked on Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. “It speaks to what a steep hill we’re climbing.”

Lake said she is seeing lingering political fatigue particularly among swing women voters and irregular Democratic-leaning voters, including younger and Black Americans, groups that were critical to Biden’s 2020 victory.

She said the degree to which these voters are now intentionally checking out of politics is a “brand new phenomenon” that is presenting unique hurdles for Democrats. The party is planning to make Biden’s economic agenda a cornerstone of its campaign to maintain control of the U.S. House and Senate next year.

“We know how to deal with benign neglect,” Lake said. “But now with a more deliberate strategy, when we need people to feel engaged, it is much more dangerous.”

Wollner notes, further, “And on top of a general disillusionment with politics, Americans across the board are still navigating a disruptive pandemic that has continued to overshadow most other political issues….“People are trying to sort out their own lives rather than sort out the nation’s business, and that makes it much tougher to move an agenda forward,” said longtime Democratic pollster Peter Hart. “It’s not so much the administration is making mistakes as it is the sign of the times.” Also,
Even though the midterm elections are more than 14 months away, Democrats say they need to shore up public support for Biden’s agenda now to avoid the losses the party in power have historically experienced in a president’s first term.

Some of that effort is already underway. The Biden-aligned nonprofit group Building Back Together is spending $10 million on ads this summer promoting the president’s agenda, and the party’s campaign committees encouraged lawmakers to focus on economic policies during the August recess. Democrats hope Biden will be able to sign the $1.2 trillion infrastructure and $3.5 trillion budget packages Congress is currently considering into law this fall.

While the party is struggling to reach some voters with their early messaging, Democrats are confident that Biden’s agenda is popular. For instance, a new polling memo from the Democratic-aligned nonprofit group Future Majority and shared with McClatchy showed that 57% of voters across 37 battleground congressional districts support the bipartisan infrastructure legislation. Among undecided independents, 63% support it.

Wollner adds, “Democrats are hopeful their economic pitch will be persuasive for swing and progressive voters alike. But for young and Black voters, who are traditionally less likely to vote in midterm elections, some strategists warn the party needs to do more to ensure they turn out in 2022.”

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