It has often been said that when your opponent or enemy is making a hash of things, stumbling, bumbling, unable to get out of their own way, step aside. Don’t interfere. Let the enemy destroy himself.
As Joe Biden sinks to an almost inconceivably low 38% approval less than nine months into his presidency, according to the latest poll by liberal-leaning Quinnipiac, Republicans have largely followed that advice. Perhaps they are relishing the chance to throw the so-called basement strategy right back in the faces of the Democrats who stood on the sidelines in 2020 and just watched as Donald Trump struggled day after day with a country suddenly descending into a deadly pandemic, economic calamity, and widespread racial unrest. Biden hid in his basement, marveling at Trump’s troubles and watching his own dumb luck mount with each COVID-related death, and swept into the White House by default. Would the GOP be well advised to follow the mirror-image strategy for seizing control of Congress in 2022?
Well, why wouldn’t they? Biden’s numbers are an embarrassment to the Democratic Party. He is underwater on every single issue, including his one previous area of strength, his handling of the pandemic, where he now receives 48% approval and 50% disapproval from the 1,000 respondents. This president is at 39% on his handling of the economy, 37% as commander-in-chief, 34% on foreign policy, 28% on Afghanistan, and 23% on dealing with the self-imposed crisis on the southern border. He is at a staggeringly low 34% among the crucial bloc of independent voters.
Perhaps even more devastating are the strikingly low numbers on the very qualities which, we are told, were responsible for Biden’s election: leadership, honesty, and competence. Just 41% in the survey say he has demonstrated good leadership. Only 44% say he is honest; 50% say he isn’t. And in the unkindest cut of all, by a 55%-42% margin, Americans say the Biden administration is incompetent.
Quinnipiac polling analyst Tim Malloy pulled no punches in summarizing the shockingly negative poll: “Battered on trust, doubted on leadership, and challenged on overall competency, President Biden is being hammered on all sides as his approval rating continues its downward slide to a number not seen since the tough scrutiny of the Trump administration.”
As Republicans watch from the sidelines, enjoying the show and tabulating the degree of self-destruction occurring in the ranks of the Democratic Party, they are at a crossroads in approaching the midterms. History has not been kind to first term presidents, whose party loses an average of 28 seats in the House in the succeeding midterm elections. And the GOP needs to pick up just five seats to gain control in ‘22. Add that historical pattern to Biden’s troubles and Democrats’ drive toward socialism, and Republicans will ultimately have the luxury of two possible baseline strategies.
Do they stand back, risk-free, and let Biden’s failures and the Democrats’ toxic statements and actions largely speak for themselves? They can afford to play rope-a-dope as Democrats inevitably try fruitlessly to blame them for the problems they themselves have created while in charge of the White House and both branches of Congress.
Or do the Republicans try to run up the score by pounding the Democrats into dust, striving for a huge rather than comfortable victory, at the risk of overplaying their hand? Barring an unforeseen turnaround, they will likely settle on a strategy that, one way or another, highlights the still-sinking fortunes of this administration and the reckless plans of the Democratic Party to control, tax, and spend the country into oblivion.
The GOP has already stood largely silent in the Democrats’ intramural wrangle over trillions of dollars in social spending. And they may ultimately need to do little more than to continue standing on the sidelines, throwing the occasional verbal barb or idea of their own, but mostly assuming the role of not-Democrat or not-Biden. And if they succeed in clawing power back from the Democrats in the House and Senate in 2022, they will have reversed the curse of Biden’s ascent to the presidency on the sole basis of being not-Trump.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.