Biden and Democrats are stuck no matter what they do
Long before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the devastating economic ripple effect of economic sanctions reverberating around the world, the 2022 election landscape already looked bleak for Democrats.
Voter displeasure with inflation, supply chain shortages, and the general ineffectiveness of authoritarian pandemic policies have put Democrats across the nation – and in Florida – behind the proverbial eight-ball. President Joe Biden’s feeble presence on television has only further exacerbated the problem, eroding what little remaining confidence Americans had in the current direction of the country.
But now, thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s barbaric misadventure in Ukraine, things are only getting worse for Democrats. Prices at the gas pump are skyrocketing, causing a corresponding further decline in the national prospects of Democrats in Congress, and curtailing the ambitions of Democrats in Florida.
A recent Wall Street Journal poll, released Friday, underscored the depth of the damage unleashed on Democrats: more people say they will definitely vote in November, and of those, more of them think the economy is going in the wrong direction. More people have lost confidence in Biden, more people have an unfavorable opinion of Democrats in general, and the Republican Party is reaping the electoral rewards.
Those results even include the bump in public opinion Biden has won for his handling of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the president’s handling of the crisis, and 50 percent of those surveyed believe he tries to do the right thing. But none of that goodwill is translating into an improvement in Biden’s overall job approval numbers. Since November, opinions on his overall job approval rating have only improved by a single point. In November, he was underwater with an approval rating of 41 percent approve to 57 percent disapprove compared with today’s rating of 42 percent to 57 percent.
Election observers say the situation is only going to get worse for Biden and Democrats in general, as the pinch felt at the gas pump starts to take a bite out of what little support Democrats can still count on. Few voter concerns do as much damage as pocketbook issues, and high gas prices are some of the most publicly visible and painful reminders that Democrat energy policy is failing America.
The Wall Street Journal poll reflects this, too, with 50 percent of those surveyed more concerned about the U.S. economy than the war in Ukraine. Perhaps more confounding for Democrats is the fact that while Americans actually support harsher sanctions on Russia, they acknowledge those sanctions will lead to higher energy prices.
Biden is caught between a rock and hard place, because Americans want him to do more to stop Russia, even if it hurts their own pocketbooks. But the Wall Street Journal polls shows those same voters are ready to blame Biden and Democrats for those cost increases because they believe Repubicans are better at handling the economy, inflation and rising costs.
DeSantis re-election chess board is set
On Monday afternoon, the Florida legislature is expected to vote on a $112.1 billion spending plan and send a package of bills to Governor Ron DeSantis that will help him position his campaign chess pieces on the board and keep Democrats in check through November.
But before we unpack some of the weapons in DeSantis’s re-election arsenal, it’s worth mentioning that unlike President Biden, DeSantis is significantly more insulated against any voter blowback on gas pump prices. Gasoline pump prices have risen slower in Florida than in 33 other states. In the Sunshine State, gas prices are up 54 cents. But in nearby Georgia, prices are up 72 cents, and Alabama leads the nation with the highest spike with motorists paying 74 cents more per gallon than last month.
DeSantis enters the election cycle with close to $100 million in cash parked in his Friends of Ron DeSantis war chest, a number that dwarfs even the self-funded, record breaking, juggernaut gubernatorial campaigns of Rick Scott in 2010 and 2014.
His advantages don’t end there. Florida lawmakers have handed him several legislative victories over the last eight weeks that he will undoubtedly turn into campaign events disguised as the official business of bill signings. But don’t take my word for it. Even CNN recognizes the fact that the Florida legislature is setting the tone nationally for Republican priorities:
Florida legislators have had a busy week, taking action on a number of GOP priorities related to America’s culture wars as the state’s legislative session draws to a near-close.
The state’s GOP-controlled House and Senate this week passed controversial laws that would: ban certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom; create a new security office to investigate election crimes and increase penalties for violating the state’s elections laws; and ban public schools and private businesses from teaching people to feel guilty for historical events committed by people of their races.
The bills now head to the desk of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. DeSantis, who is up for reelection in 2022 and weighing a potential 2024 presidential bid, has signaled support for all three legislative measures.
The pieces are now almost in place for DeSantis to begin his 2022 campaign in earnest, and Democrats in Florida are poised to be steamrolled again. The expectations for DeSantis are already through the roof, especially since he is one of the few Republicans that can successfully inherit the fervent support that Trump once enjoyed among the Republican base.
With high expectations comes the pressure to perform. Anything less than a spectacular blowout for DeSantis in November might create a speed bump for his national ambitions. But if DeSantis can leverage those legislative wins and execute his game plan over the summer to deliver big margins for the GOP on election night, the stage will be set for a potential DeSantis versus Biden showdown in 2024.