But the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer presents the president with a unique opportunity to re-energize his base, as he fulfills his campaign promise to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court.
There’s also the underrated 6 percent growth in GDP, an accomplishment for which most presidents would be basking in praise after one year in office. And though it feels strange to say so, last week’s bridge collapse in Pittsburgh underscores America’s desperate need for infrastructure upgrades. Good thing Biden already delivered on getting a bipartisan infrastructure deal passed—an accomplishment for which he’s received little credit, thus far.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is under fire from frustrated Democrats over his boss’s cratering popularity. But there’s one economist whose analysis Klain reliably tweets. He’s Robert Shapiro, and he is bullishly optimistic about the economy.
“I’m the first to say ‘Biden Boom,’” Shapiro told the Daily Beast. “You have to go back to Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ to find job growth this strong.” Shapiro cited the fast-rising GDP, an historic increase in business creation, and even the Great Resignation as evidence of a strong economy and the success of Biden’s economic policies.
“People moving from ruminating to resigning requires a lot of confidence they’ll find something better,” Shapiro added. “It can only happen in a booming economy.”
“The economy is clear, the politics less clear,” Shapiro said, posing the inevitable question, “Why hasn’t this broken through?” His answer: “People don’t process what seems at odds with their lived reality, and part of it is messaging.”
Most confounding for Biden is that he is “underwater” in the polls on the economy, meaning more people think he’s doing a bad job than a good job. Republicans lead in nearly every poll as the party voters trust to handle the economy. It’s no wonder Klain tweeted Shapiro’s column last month declaring, “The Biden Jobs Boom is bigger than we thought,” and in December of last year, “It’s a Biden Boom and no one has noticed it yet.”
The highest rate of inflation in 40 years is eroding wage gains, which colors how people view the economy. Shapiro believes inflation will start to ease within a couple months and continue to decline fairly steadily for the rest of the year, as the pent-up demand created by the pandemic begins to subside.
“Like the period after World War II, Biden’s job is to lead us through the trauma,” Shapiro said.
He’s referring to a time when an economy geared to the war had to rapidly reconfigure itself to the soldiers coming home and starting families, and a huge company like General Motors had to shift from making tanks to cars, which took time. The president won’t get credit for a strong economy “until inflation is receding, and the pandemic is declining,” said Shapiro.
Ah, but what to do with the midterms looming?
“Stay upbeat, things are better than they were a year ago,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network and a close ally of Shapiro’s. “If people feel in the fall [that] things are better, we’ll be fine.”
Tell the story of what the Biden administration has accomplished and quit fretting over what hasn’t yet been done, Rosenberg advised. “It’s astonishing that all of the polls have the Republicans ahead of us on the economy. We haven’t made the case. Things are better. It’s our central political project for the next 10 months to make that case.”
If what Shapiro forecasts in terms of wage gains and inflation easing comes to pass, “Biden can bounce back,” said Matt Bennett, co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. “His numbers came down fast, and could go up fast, and he could have a V-shaped recovery.”
Then, there’s arguably Biden’s biggest opportunity, the SCOTUS vacancy.
The president is expected to announce his nominee for the Supreme Court before he delivers his State of the Union address before Congress on March 1. It’s seen by some viewed as the relaunch date for his presidency, and his best chance to capitalize on the events before him.
The opportunity to showcase accomplished Black female jurists and make this historic pick should be a net positive for Biden, as it was for Reagan in 1981 when he picked Sandra Day O’Connor, making good on his own campaign pledge to name a woman to the highest court.
From SCOTUS to infrastructure to the sneakily resilient economy, the potential for a Biden bounce is laid out before him.
Biden says he doesn’t follow the polls. He doesn’t have to—every Democrat running in November will let him know how he’s doing by welcoming him on the campaign trail, or shunning him as a liability.