He’s in a curious position, with poor job approval ratings but a summertime series of legislative victories, an economy that has generated record jobs growth but also painfully high inflation, and an opposition party unwilling to shed its dependence on former president Donald Trump.
Biden’s remarks on Thursday won’t be in final form, of course. Typically, a sitting president’s midterm message undergoes constant changes at least until Labor Day, and headlines may force significant revisions all the way up to Nov. 8.
Still, it’ll be interesting to hear his pitch, in part because it’ll give his supporters nationwide a road map for trying to win over voters. And here are four things to listen for.
1. How does Biden tackle the economy?
Gas prices have come down from their peak (for now?), but inflation continues to stifle real-wage growth, and voters don’t seem to give Biden credit for either last year’s pandemic-aid package or historically high job growth. Gross domestic product shrank in the first two quarters of 2022. Polls show him underwater on an issue typically at or near the top of voters’ concerns.
Over the coming months, the White House promises, the president and top aides will be promoting the so-called Inflation Reduction Act — which includes once-in-a-generation measures to combat the climate crisis, and steps to lower prescription-drug costs, both key planks of his platform.
In the past year, Biden has conveyed empathy with Americans facing high gas and grocery prices while highlighting job growth on his watch.
Listen for all of those — and for Biden to go after special interests like oil companies or pharmaceutical companies.
2. How negative does Biden go?
This line from my colleague Matt Viser’s curtain-raiser on Thursday’s events caught my eye. Biden plans to “warn about what Republicans would do if voters give them control.”
For all of his public fondness for bipartisanship, Biden has never been shy about attacking Republicans. In 2012, he told a racially mixed audience GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s policies would “put you all back in chains.” Last year, he repeatedly attacked Republicans on the issue of voting rights, comparing their approach to racist “Jim Crow” laws.
It’s a truism of American political journalism that struggling presidents don’t want a midterm election to be a referendum on their record but a contrast between them and their political opposition.
Biden’s no different. And this year, he has help from the Supreme Court in the form of its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which declared access to abortion is no longer a constitutional right, reversing a half-century precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
It’s not just the majority decision. Democrats have been pointing to Justice Clarence Thomas’s concurrent ruling in Dobbs, in which he said the Supreme Court must “reconsider” the right of married couples of use contraception, the right of same-sex couples to physical intimacy and the right of same-sex marriage.
Listen for Biden to say the GOP is coming for those rights. And listen for how he invokes Trump, and Trumpism.
3. Is there a Biden agenda if Democrats hold Congress?
OK, so Biden will argue Democrats are a bulwark against Republican policies. Will he lay out what he plans to do in the second half of his first term if his party holds one or both chambers?
How much of his remarks will be an affirmative case for future policies, rather than a recitation of past success and warnings about the GOP?
Biden got burned last summer when he prematurely celebrated “Independence from Covid-19” — even as cases, hospitalizations and deaths surged because of the Delta variant. As The Daily 202 has documented, Delta and an economy that wasn’t back to normal led to his steep slide in the polls.
What’ll be his pitch ahead of the midterms? Well, here, we have a pretty decent road map. Last month, Biden delivered decidedly campaign-flavored remarks on covid — including what sounded like a jab at Trump.
Listen for something like this, from that July speech:
“Here’s the bottom line: When my predecessor got COVID, he had to get helicoptered to Walter Reed Medical Center. He was severely ill. Thankfully, he recovered,” Biden said. “When I got COVID, I worked from upstairs of the White House, in the offices upstairs, for that five-day period.”
Going into the midterms, Biden needs to convince voters that the state of the country is better than they think or at least not as bad as they feel. That mission begins Thursday.
Voters in N.Y., Fla., and Okla. choose nominees for November
“Today, voters in New York, Florida and Oklahoma choose their nominees for November’s elections as the highly charged primary season winds down. Just four states remain on the primary calendar — Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Delaware — with contests in September. Louisiana holds its hybrid primaries on Election Day, Nov. 8,” John Wagner, Amy B Wang and Eugene Scott report.
AP-NORC poll: Most in U.S. say they want stricter gun laws
“Most U.S. adults want to see gun laws made stricter and think gun violence is increasing nationwide, according to a new poll that finds broad public support for a variety of gun restrictions, including many that are supported by majorities of Republicans and gun owners,” the Associated Press‘s Sara Burnett reports.
Western sanctions are wounding but not yet crushing Russia’s economy
“While most economists agree that Russia is suffering real damage that will mount over time, the economy — at least on the surface — does not yet appear to be collapsing. The ruble’s initial nosedive in value quickly reversed after the state limited currency transactions, and after Russia’s imports plummeted — an economic picture that can hardly be described as healthy, but one that calmed public fears about a currency crisis. Unemployment hasn’t noticeably surged, and Russia continues to earn the equivalent of billions of dollars every month from oil and gas exports,” Jeanne Whalen, Robyn Dixon, Ellen Nakashima and Mary Ilyushina report.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Files copied from voting systems were shared with Trump supporters, election deniers
“Sensitive election system files obtained by attorneys working to overturn President Donald Trump’s 2020 defeat were shared with election deniers, conspiracy theorists and right-wing commentators, according to records reviewed by The Washington Post,” Jon Swaine, Aaron C. Davis, Amy Gardner and Emma Brown report.
“A Georgia computer forensics firm, hired by the attorneys, placed the files on a server, where company records show they were downloaded dozens of times. Among the downloaders were accounts associated with a Texas meteorologist who has appeared on Sean Hannity’s radio show; a podcaster who suggested political enemies should be executed; a former pro surfer who pushed disproven theories that the 2020 election was manipulated; and a self-described former ‘seduction and pickup coach’ who claims to also have been a hacker.”
Former security chief claims Twitter buried ‘egregious deficiencies’
“Twitter executives deceived federal regulators and the company’s own board of directors about ‘extreme, egregious deficiencies’ in its defenses against hackers, as well as its meager efforts to fight spam, according to an explosive whistleblower complaint from its former security chief,” Joseph Menn, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Cat Zakrzewski report.
“The complaint from former head of security Peiter Zatko, a widely admired hacker known as ‘Mudge,’ depicts Twitter as a chaotic and rudderless company beset by infighting, unable to properly protect its 238 million daily users including government agencies, heads of state and other influential public figures.”
How a secretive billionaire handed his fortune to the architect of the right-wing takeover of the courts
“In the largest known political advocacy donation in U.S. history, industrialist Barre Seid funded a new group run by Federalist Society co-chair Leonard Leo, who guided Trump’s Supreme Court picks and helped end federal abortion rights,” the Lever‘s Andrew Perez and ProPublica‘s Andy Kroll and Justin Elliott report.
“The donation was first reported by The New York Times on Monday … Our reporting sheds additional light on how the two men, one a judicial kingmaker and the other a mysterious but prolific donor to conservative causes, came together to create a political war chest that will likely supercharge efforts to further shift American politics to the right.”
What are the real warning signs of a mass shooting?
Experts say that “mental illness is not a useful means to predict violence. About half of all Americans will experience mental health issues at some point in their lives, and the vast majority of people with mental illness do not kill,” the NYT‘s Shaila Dewan reports.
“Instead, many experts have come to focus on warning signs that occur whether or not actual mental illness is present, including marked changes in behavior, demeanor or appearance, uncharacteristic fights or arguments, and telling others of plans for violence, a phenomenon known as ‘leakage.’”
Your first brush with coronavirus could affect how a fall booster works
“When it comes to viral infections, past is prologue: The version of a virus to which we’re first exposed can dictate how we respond to later variants and, maybe, how well vaccines work,” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports.
“People have been infected, vaccinated, boosted, reinfected and boosted again — in varying combinations. People’s immune systems are on slightly different learning curves, depending on when they were infected or vaccinated, and with what variants or vaccines.”
Biden expected to decide tomorrow on whether to cancel $10,000 in student loans
“With the Inflation Reduction Act now signed into law, White House officials have in recent days revived discussions over student debt cancellation. They face an Aug. 31 deadline, which is when loan payments are set to resume after a pandemic-driven pause,” Jeff Stein and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report.
“Internal White House discussions have centered on temporarily extending that pause and simultaneously canceling $10,000 per borrower for those below an income threshold, but the president has not yet communicated a decision, according to two people familiar with the matter.”
Rodman could ‘complicate’ efforts to free Griner, Biden administration says
“The Biden administration is discouraging former NBA player Dennis Rodman from traveling to Russia to help free fellow basketball star Brittney Griner, saying such a visit would only complicate existing efforts to secure Griner’s release from Russian prison,” the Hill‘s Morgan Chalfant reports.
Biden liaison to Black voters leaves White House for law firm
“Trey Baker, who helped lead efforts to draw Black voters to Joe Biden in the 2020 election and worked as a conduit between the White House and the president’s African-American base, is leaving the administration,” Bloomberg News’s Mario Parker reports.
“Black voters are a crucial segment of Biden’s base. The president has frequently credited those voters with resuscitating his presidential primary campaign and catapulting him to the White House. African-Americans voted in higher numbers in the 2020 election than they did in 2016, with Biden carrying 92 percent of the vote, according to an analysis by Pew Research Center.”
The number of women living where abortion is banned, visualized
1 in 3 American women have already lost abortion access, Katie Shepherd, Rachel Roubein and Caroline Kitchener report. And more restrictive laws are coming.
“Texas, Tennessee and Idaho all have existing restrictions on abortion, but the laws slated to begin Thursday will either outlaw the procedure entirely or heighten penalties for doctors who perform an abortion, contributing to a seismic shift in who can access abortion in their home states.”
California congressman becomes latest Republican to invoke Nazis to defend Trump, bash Biden
“Rep. Mike Garcia, a Republican who faces one of the most competitive House races in the country, likened the Biden administration to the Nazi regime during an interview on a conservative podcast last week,” Melanie Mason reports for the Los Angeles Times.
“Referencing the recent FBI search for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida residence of former President Trump, Garcia accused the Biden administration and what he called the ‘deep state’ of ‘weaponizing federal agencies’ for political purposes.”
Walker, criticizing climate law, asks: ‘Don’t we have enough trees around here?’
“Georgia Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker is criticizing the sweeping climate, health-care and deficit-reduction bill signed into law by President Biden, arguing that it includes wasteful spending to combat global warming and asking, ‘Don’t we have enough trees around here?’” John Wagner reports.
Not Walker’s first head-scratcher: “In a July 9 appearance, he spoke about climate change, suggesting that Georgia’s ‘good air decides to float over’ to China, replacing China’s ‘bad air,’ which goes back to Georgia, where ‘we got to clean that back up.’”
Biden is in Delaware until tomorrow. He has nothing on his public schedule today.
Pumpkin spice latte season is almost upon us. Here’s why that’s bad news for Joe Biden.
— New York Times Pitchbot (@DougJBalloon) August 20, 2022
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.