As some Democrats worry that President Biden’s sagging approval ratings have placed them in a hopeless position entering the midterms, the president met Monday with a wily political veteran from a place called Hope.
Biden had lunch with President Bill Clinton, the White House said, a sit-down between the nation’s 42nd and 46th commanders-in-chief that comes six months ahead of the midterms.
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said she expected the pair of Democrats would chat about a broad array of topics.
“I’m sure they will have a wide-ranging discussion,” Psaki said in an afternoon news conference. “He’s had a number of conversations with him over the course of time since his time in office.”
She also noted Biden had lunch with President Barack Obama last week.
It was not clear what Biden discussed with his Democratic predecessors. But perhaps no two politicians in America have a better sense of the challenging road now facing the president.
Clinton, 75, and Obama, 60, both saw their Democratic Party take a licking in the first midterm election of their two-term presidencies, fitting a historical pattern in which the party ruling the White House gets roughed up at the ballot box after two years in power.
The drubbing the Democrats took in 1994, Clinton’s first midterm election in the White House, was dubbed the “Republican Revolution.” The GOP took both chambers of Congress, and Clinton — the former Arkansas governor from the city of Hope — tacked toward the center.
In 2010, early in Obama’s presidency, Democrats lost the House in a red wave but retained control of the Senate.
Criticism of President Donald Trump, a Republican, helped Democrats take control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections. But Republicans maintained their hold on the Senate.
Biden, battered by soaring inflation, COVID-19 fatigue and the bitter aftertaste of America’s ugly exit from Afghanistan, has struggled in national surveys, and shown surprisingly weak standing in some Democratic strongholds. Rising urban crime continues to vex his presidency.
His administration’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and steadily falling COVID-19 death counts have yet to offer him a clear polling boost, instead — at best — stabilizing his falling fortunes.
Biden’s nationwide approval rating was 42% on Monday, according to an aggregated poll analysis by FiveThirtyEight, down from about 53% at the start of his administration.
Even in deep-blue Massachusetts, where he won the Democratic presidential primary in 2020, his job approval sat at a less-than-stellar 46% in a Boston Globe survey conducted last week.
Clinton had a 59% nationwide approval rating at the same point in his presidency, according to FiveThirtyEight, though it sank into the low 40s during his second year in the White House.
Clinton still found his footing and rolled past Bob Dole, the Republican, in the 1996 presidential race.
Psaki said Monday that Biden would be speaking more in coming months about “what he is going to do to lower costs to address inflation, what he would propose to address a broken immigration system, and the contrast with the other side, which, in our view, does not have a lot in the cupboard.”
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