The conga line of Democratic lawmakers retiring got even longer on Monday. Indeed, two announced within 10 minutes of each other that they won’t seek reelection this year, including Rhode Island Representative Jim Langevin.
These members are likely seeing the same trend lines in American politics as the rest of us: Democrats are increasingly unpopular at levels their party hasn’t seen in decades.
Even if a lawmaker in a very Democratic district is likely to be reelected, the odds are that next year they will be serving in a Republican-led Congress simply trying to create gridlock and investigate an incumbent Democratic president ahead of his reelection. It’s hardly an inspired existence.
But the situation for Biden and for Democrats is especially dire.
Consider this: a Gallup poll released on Monday that asked respondents about party preference found that over the course of the past year, Democrats went from a 9-point advantage to now having a deficit, and Republicans now have a 5 point advantage. That’s the largest lead Republicans have held in Gallup’s tracker since the Republicans took back the US House in 1994.
Indeed, when NBC News put the latest polling numbers into their analysis, they came to one conclusion: this November could be “a shellacking.”
The reasons why Democrats are suffering is pretty clear. A year into the Biden presidency, Americans feel worse about the economy and the pandemic than they did when he took office. Indeed, for the first time last week, a FiveThirtyEight average of polls found that more Americans disapproved of Biden’s handling of the pandemic than approved.
Overall, a new CBS poll says only 26 percent think things in the country are going well.
Possibly troubling for Democrats is that recent polls are not an aberration. It has been this way for at least three months. Since the fall of Afghanistan in August, Biden’s approval rating has been stuck in the low 40-percent range. A Quinnipiac University poll last week gave Biden his worst ever approval rating, 33 percent, though so far that poll appears to be an outlier.
Only Donald Trump finished his first year with worse poll numbers since pollsters began tracking approval ratings for presidents.
Democrats spinning these poor numbers will note that there is still a long time before the November election, and things can change. Further, the question pollsters ask about whether respondents would want a generic Democrat or Republican in Congress doesn’t always translate when voters are faced with a specific Democrat and Republican on the ballot.
They are right about both points.
But it is not as though Democrats can point to anything suggesting that it will get better in the future. More Democratic incumbents are retiring. Other rising star Democrats might want to sit out running for higher office this year.
And while Biden’s agenda might begin to get chopped up into smaller bills that could get passed, it will be hard to sell these smaller bills as the panacea that will fix the country.
The one large news development that is on the horizon is a possible invasion from Russia into Ukraine. Given that Democratic polling problems began with a bipartisan rebuke on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, polling could get even lower.