Monday, 20 May 2024

A Jarring and Growing Disconnect

Tim Phillips By Tim Phillips | May 12, 2024 | United States

Tim Phillips (c) Cybereport

Sitting in the ornate Washington, DC event space at Semafor’s World Economy Summit, I listened as a member of the Federal Reserve and then a Biden cabinet official (Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su) and then President George W. Bush’s former Treasury Secretary all blithely talked about how our American economy is actually healthy. The audience of well dressed leaders from across the world looked on in agreement. Later, I read Nobel Prize recipient and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman as he lectured Americans that they were experiencing a strong economic recovery for which, he implied, they should be grateful. Just this week, Newsweek touted a story where “experts” declare the economy is doing “relatively well.”   

It was jarring. You see, before the Semafor summit, I had just finished a week in the blue collar, heavily Latino suburbs of Manassas and Woodbridge Virginia which are about 25 miles south of Washington, DC. There, person after person told me of their economic struggles. They decried inflation especially on food and gasoline. They talked about rent increases and high interest rates. I asked each person a final question: do they still believe the American Dream is possible for them? Their answers were revealing. They were still working toward it but their pessimism and doubt were growing stronger.  

They also see President Biden as out of touch and failing. Across their working class neighborhoods you could feel nostalgia for the Trump years when it comes to the economy even though there were few if any political signs in their yards or bumper stickers on their cars and trucks. At local restaurants and service oriented storefronts - especially in Woodbridge there are few national chains - the disdain for Biden and his economic policies was especially strong.      

It’s worth noting that Biden carried Woodbridge, Manassas and the overall county of Prince William by wide margins in 2020.  

The feeling was similar a few days later in the battleground state of Georgia. I spent time talking with voters in the North Atlanta suburbs of Gwinnett County and then further north in Cherokee County. I talked with folks at ubiquitous QT convenience stores - many of them blue collar workers and small business owners in the trades stopping in for gasoline or to grab snacks.  They voiced the same frustration with the economy and the same deep concerns over their own future.  In oddly similar terms, these Georgia voters detailed how Biden was failing on the economy and out of touch on the personal level.  

In Latino neighborhoods near Duluth, Georgia (where years ago I coached my kids’ little league baseball teams) a group of middle aged men walking out of a tiny local taco shop told me they were all voting for Trump which would be the first Republican they’ve voted for in their lives.  They did not think of themselves as Republicans but as Trump voters. 

National and state level polling data confirms my anecdotal experiences on the ground.  New polling from Gallup shows that just 38% of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in Biden’s handling of the economy. This is the lowest number for a president recorded on this question by Gallup since President George W Bush’s 34% rating during the Great Recession of 2008.  Later that year, Republicans were decisively defeated by Barack Obama.  

A new CNN poll has Biden down to 34% on his approval rating for the economy. Even worse for Biden, the CNN poll has 65% of Americans saying the economy is “very important” to them in deciding their vote.  So at a time when Americans are MORE focused on the economy than at any point since 2008, Biden is scoring the LOWEST numbers on the economy of any president since, you guessed it, 2008.  

Polling in battleground states is equally bad for Biden with, again, his handling of the economy leading the way.  No single poll is reliable these days given falling response rates and Americans not wanting to share their views with strangers on phone calls.  However, in aggregate, a number of polls can strongly indicate trend lines.  In Georgia, Arizona, Michigan and Pennsylvania the trend lines for Biden are troubling as Trump leads in all these states. Only Wisconsin seems to show some a Biden lead at the moment. 

The Democrat legal assault on Trump using federal and state courts in jurisdictions from Florida to New York is coming off to swing voters in these battleground states as heavy handed and politically motivated.  These legal attacks provide sugar highs for the liberal base but are doing no discernible damage to Trump while further eroding the already falling trust in the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the blue state political class (Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and Fulton DA Fani Willis for example).  Tellingly, political independents view Biden more than Trump as “a greater threat to democracy” by a 53% to 42% margin according to a recent national poll from Marist Institute for Public Opinion.  

In 2016, Trump’s victory was a giant middle-finger of frustration and rebellion first against the elites in the Republican Party from the grassroots base.  Then in the general election, Trump was the vehicle for rebellion against the Democrat elites and their allies in mainstream media, entertainment and much of big business. Now in 2024, Trump’s strength is once again a rebellion against a coalesced liberal elite class that has become far more strident and arrogant in insisting to Americans that they have the nation on the right track while they relentlessly attack Trump to the point of trying to put him in jail.   

Democrat leaders have become ever more tone deaf. President Biden’s repeated jokes about Trump’s “legal troubles” and “stormy weather” come off as smug to many swing voters across the nation. Even more mind numbing, President Biden continues to tout the economy under his leadership saying just this week in Wisconsin that the economy is fine. Then, in a CNN interview, Biden actually said the polls showing Americans not happy with the economy are “wrong” and he implied that Americans are wrong when thinking that they are struggling economically!

Sure, what I see on the road talking to swing voters is anecdotal and a snapshot in time. Yes, it’s still only spring and over 5 months of campaigning remain ahead. Absolutely, Joe Biden is going to have the largest campaign spending advantage that any presidential candidate has had since Nixon in 1972.  

However, Joe Biden and his Democrat allies are in big trouble. They’ve lost the confidence and trust of the American middle.        

The Author, Tim Phillips, is a Republican strategist and consultant with long experience at the presidential, senatorial, and congressional levels. He has appeared regularly in major media publications and across all the major television networks. His current company is Hyperfocal. From 2006 through 2021, he was President of Americans for Prosperity. He is actually on the board of Renaissance Evolution. 

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