Biden, a consummate political salesman, is ramping up steps to market his hard-fought $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package to the public, in the prospect of reversing his recent polling dip and bolstering Democrats’ chances in the 2022 midterm elections.
Questions over Biden’s ability to leverage the major legislative victory
Concerns are emerging among Democrats about the White House’s capacity to execute the relentless campaign necessary to recast a broad bill that has been gridlocked for months into a victory that will help them retain control of Congress.
The package is apparently popular, with a clear majority of voters supporting increased spending for rail, roads, ports, water systems, broadband, and the electrical grid. However, the president and his allies are fully aware of what they are selling — Mr. Biden himself, and his notion of the case for American politics, that delivering on actual campaign pledges is the only way to surmount Trump-era politics’ rage and culture-war message.
Jared Bernstein, a longtime economic adviser to the president, summarized the Biden brand and plan for his poll comeback by stating that when you do fundamentally helpful stuff for people and ensure they know about them, you will get credit for them.
However, the setbacks Mr. Biden faces are daunting. As President Barack Obama‘s vice president a decade ago, Biden achieved considerable success as a traveling salesman for the stimulus and health care measures.
The infrastructure bill is a long-term fix for decades of neglect. Many of the projects may not be picked, much less built, for years, which means that many Americans may not feel the windfall immediately. And, for all his passion, Mr. Biden is not an exceptionally consistent messenger.
Further, the bill’s initial momentum has been undermined by months of intraparty bickering that has stuck the president “in the sausage factory,” as one senior White House adviser put it. And a fresh showdown over the unresolved $1.85 trillion social spending plan threatens to send Biden to the congress’ chopping block. Rising inflation and economic misery, along with the protracted pandemic and the lingering effects of the bungled Afghanistan pullout, have soured the public sentiment and knocked Mr. Biden’s once-vibrant approval rating into the mid-40s.
Democrats race against GOP to brand Biden’s “victory”
Whereas 32 Republicans backed for the package — including minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky-who dubbed it a “godsend” for his state — the party is actively working to offset its political impacts. Some conservative senators have even portrayed the bill’s passage as a victory for erstwhile President Donald J. Trump, whose half-hearted infrastructure drive became a running joke.
On Tuesday, Rep Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, who chairs the House Democrats’ campaign committee, warned the White House not to waste the opportunity, stating that Mr. Biden needs to get himself out there across the country before the next crisis pulls the news cycle.
Rep. James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, one of the Biden’s key allies, regards it as a race against time to mark the victory as a Biden milestone. His primary worry, he stated in an interview, was that Republicans would simply begin attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies to laud works that many members of the GOP party disapproved.
Mr. Clyburn cited one instance this week in his home state: Gov. Henry McMaster, a Trump-allied Republican, attended a launch event for a popular $1.7 billion highway project that was back financed by a state tax increase he had vetoed.
Mr. Clyburn, the House’s third-ranking Democrat noted that Democrats have never been particularly adept at communicating what they have accomplished. And that they have to do the task, yes, but they also have to go back and inform people that they did it. “We got to get off our duffs,” said Mr. Clyburn
White House officials are likewise keen to make infrastructure fast sales. The Build Back Better Act, which covers a staggering assortment of social spending programs, is likewise popular but is almost certain to face solid Republican opposition. Democratic pollsters’ recent focus groups indicate that swing voters may be steered against the new package by messaging casting it as a “socialist” imposition.
Mr. Biden’s staff maintains that both bills are a political windfall and that they are committed to capitalizing on his infrastructure victory as soon as feasible. According to a Democratic official who sought anonymity, the president has attended strategy meetings, impatiently urging aides to simplify their descriptions of programs to make them more understandable to voters.
Mr. Biden has slated a signing ceremony at the White House on Monday that will feature legislators, mayors, and governors from both parties, followed by a week-long tour of the country to sell the plan.
Meanwhile, the administration is reverting to a sales force style by assigning cabinet members, led by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm, to advocate infrastructure projects in cities, towns, rural areas, and tribal communities. According to Andrew Bates, a White House spokesman, Vice President Kamala Harris will likely contribute.
Also, the administration is planning a messaging blitz on television as well as other media outlets geared at African-American and Hispanic communities. The White House digital team is crafting social media explainers and videos to educate various groups about the infrastructure plan’s benefits.
Mike Schmuhl, who handled Mr. Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign and is now the Indiana Democratic Party’s chairman noted that you can have surrogates travel the country and discuss the policies, but at the end of the day, it’s the president’s agenda, his vision, and he’s got to sell it.
Biden acknowledges the public’s concerns around purchasing power and pledges to tackle inflation.
Mr. Biden, on the other hand, does not have the luxury of working only on selling the bill. His presence at the port of Baltimore on Wednesday, for example, was not purely an infrastructure event: it was meant to address rising concerns around supply chain glitches, as well as market the $17 billion in the bill allotted for port upgrades.
Mr. Biden’s prevailing problem parallels the one he had in 2010 and 2011 when he was assigned to states and cities to sell President Obama’s stimulus and health care proposals, which were controversial at the time and passed with virtually no Republican support.
Aides to both Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden said he was a passionate and skilled marketer in principle, particularly excellent at courting local authorities and hugging it out with ordinary people, attributes that ultimately enabled him to convince voters he was fit to succeed Mr. Trump.
However, Mr. Biden, both then and now, tended to waffle on and make his share of gaffes. One erstwhile West Wing assistant recounted clenching his fists as he watched daily clips of his performances.
At the time, Mr. Biden unsuccessfully pressed Mr. Obama to spend less time in Washington focused on government processes and more time articulating his policies to voters — the same call Democrats are now making of Mr. Biden.
“Rep Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat facing a tough contest next year in a suburban New York City swing seat argues that they have an incredible opportunity to go out and sell a bill that has a true impact on people’s lives. However, he contends that everyone must make a strong argument for it — and celebrate it — if it is to benefit Democrats in districts like mine in 2022.
Even so, Mr. Biden’s centrist inclination, which is motivated by a desire to reignite a bygone era of bipartisanship, is providing a safe safe refuge for a handful of moderate Republicans who feel that delivering results for their constituents will compensate for the damage caused by a brief dalliance with a Democratic president.
New York Rep Nicole Malliotakis, whose district encompasses Staten Island and southern Brooklyn observed that it is a difficult time to act bipartisanly given some of the phone calls to her office. Rep Nicole was among 13 Republicans in the House who voted for the package.
She added that it’s unfortunate, there are a lot of people who are more concerned with the optics of crediting the president. However, it is her responsibility to serve the people who elected her, and they expect her to deliver real infrastructure because they have real problems locally — with frequent floods and they must address the aging sewer systems.”