One data point from a new Washington Post/ABC News poll aptly sets out the challenge facing the White House and Democrats over the next couple years heading into 2024.
Fully 62% of Americans say that during President Biden's time in office, he has accomplished "not very much" or "little or nothing," while just 36% say the president has accomplished either a "great deal" or "good amount. Two-thirds of independents are among those who say Biden hasn't accomplished much.
The polling comes as President Biden prepares to deliver the annual State of the Union address Tuesday in which he will set forth the battle lines for 2024 in the view of the White House. The speech provides an opportunity for Biden—likely with the largest national audience of any political event all year—to plug his accomplishments in stark contrast to House Republicans' performative outrage agenda.
In fact, the Biden administration plans to devote the lion's share of its energy over the next two years to making certain Americans do feel the impact of the historic amount of legislation Biden and Democrats managed to pass during his first two years in office.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, some $369 billion in investments targeting climate change, the CHIPS and Science Act which has already spurred some $200 billion of private investments into American manufacturing—this funding is a potential game-changer for many parts of the country that have fallen behind the pace of innovation.
In fact, some analysts are beginning to wonder if the massive investments in manufacturing could help ease some of the economic angst of middle Americans.
"There's a long lag time in public perceptions re economy," tweeted CNN analyst Ron Brownstein, "but eventually, as inflation recedes, will the large number of non-[college] jobs spurred by his key initiatives help [Democrats] regain ground in blue-collar communities?"
That's a pretty tall order, beginning with the assumption that the main source of blue-collar resentment is economic in nature and not racially motivated.
But short of that lofty goal, Democrats do have some basic facts on their side that could help lay a foundation for their economic argument.
Inflation is receding, gas prices have eased, Biden created more jobs in his first two years than any president on record, and yet unemployment is at record lows.
As recent Navigator polling showed, even though Democrats are proving to be able stewards of the post-pandemic economy, most voters just don't know it. In the survey, for instance, just 29% of registered voters correctly believed more jobs were created last year than lost while a 32% plurality incorrectly said more jobs were lost. The survey also found that once respondents were apprised of the robust job creation and historically low unemployment rates, they were more likely to trust Democrats handling of the economy.
In many ways, House Republicans are also making the contrast between the parties relatively easy for Biden. Polling and focus groups alike show that voters view GOP priorities as misaligned with their own. In several recent focus groups, independent voters also called Republicans' growing number of inquiries a "get even" list designed to exact "revenge."
The media will undoubtedly devote gobs of ink and airtime to Biden's delivery and whether he seemed energetic enough to get some meaningless approval bounce of a point or two. Forget about all that—it's unlikely to make a lick of difference to perceptions of Biden in the near term.
The key question is how well Biden lays out the contrast between Democrats and Republicans and whether Democrats are able to spend the next two years making that contrast a lived experience for Americans.