Biden juggles a long list of issues to please the Dem coalition

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Washington — President Joe Biden wants to control inflation. He wants Congress to protect access to abortion. He wants to attack the right to vote. And he’s attacking China, encouraging the construction of new factories, fighting climate change, canceling student debt, erasing federal convictions for marijuana, reducing the deficit, working to reduce prescription drug prices and is delivering aid to Ukraine.

Biden tries to be everything to everyone. But that prevents him from saying he is focused on one issue above all others as he tries to counter Republican momentum ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

“There’s not just one thing,” Biden said Wednesday when asked about his top priority. “There are multiple, multiple, multiple issues, and they are all important. … We should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. You know that old expression.

Biden’s extensive to-do list is an acknowledgment that the coalition of Democratic voters he needs to run on Election Day is diverse in race, age, education and geography. This group of voters has a long list of overlapping and competing interests on crime, civil rights, climate change, the federal budget and other issues.

Republican candidates trying to end Democratic control of Congress have a much more even voter base, allowing them to direct messages about the economy, crime and immigration more closely to white voters, older voters, those without a college degree and those who identify as Christian.

In the 2020 election, AP VoteCast suggests, Biden drew disproportionate support from women, black voters, voters under 45, college graduates, and city and suburban dwellers. This has given Biden a broader base of support than Republican Donald Trump and is also a potential long-term benefit for Democrats as the country becomes more diverse and better educated.

But in midterm elections that normally favor the party that doesn’t hold the White House, it forces Biden to call on all those constituencies.

“Coherence and cohesiveness have always been a challenge for the modern Democratic Party which relies on a coalition that crosses racial, ethnic, religious and class lines,” said Daniel Cox, senior polling and public opinion researcher at the curator American Enterprise Institute. “It takes considerable political skill to maintain a coalition with diverse interests and backgrounds. Barack Obama managed to do this, but subsequent Democrats struggled.

Biden devoted his public remarks last Tuesday to abortion, Wednesday to gas prices, Thursday to infrastructure and Friday to deficit reduction, student debt cancellation and historically black colleges and universities. In most of his public speeches, Biden says he understands the pain caused by consumer prices rising 8.2% from a year ago and is working to cut costs.

Cox said there are signs Biden’s 2020 coalition is fracturing, with younger Liberal voters not so fond of him, and he doesn’t appear to have done much to build Hispanic support.

But compared to 2016, when Trump won the presidency, Biden has made relative progress with a leading bloc that typically favors Republicans: white voters without a college degree, as he won 33% of their votes to 28. % who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to a 2021 analysis by the Pew Research Center.

Keeping those voters in the Democratic coalition could be key to retaining control of the Senate.

Biden has traveled to Pennsylvania several times, campaigning for Senate nominee John Fetterman on Thursday in a bid to secure a seat in the state. Fetterman, in his sweatshirts and shorts, exudes a blue-collar image, a contrast to Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, who rose to fame as a television show host.

“Democrats need to retain as much of this bloc as possible, especially in key whiter states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin,” said William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The test for Democrats is how to address broader concerns about the economy and inflation that affect everyone, while highlighting specific issues that could energize various segments of their base.

This may involve compromises.

While Republicans have made crime a national issue, Biden’s message that he supports the police could help those white voters. But it could also discourage young voters in the Senate elections in Georgia and Florida who think the police are part of the civil rights problem, said Alvin Tillery Jr., a professor at Northwestern University and director of its Center for the Study. of Diversity and Democracy.

Tillery said he doesn’t know how the president can bridge those differences, though Biden may be better placed to focus on the police overhaul that Democrats have been trying to negotiate with Republicans — only to be unable to achieve. to a consensus that would be able to erase a GOP filibuster.

“Maybe they blunted some Republican attacks, but they also softened support for people who ran for them in the 2020 election,” Tillery said. “I don’t know how they resolve this except to say they need to be more forceful in saying the things they wanted to achieve were blocked in the Senate.”

Tillery added that the overarching challenge may be that people view inflation as a national phenomenon rather than a global one. Republicans blame high prices on Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief from 2021, as recent months have also shown inflation to be a global trend driven in part by the aftermath of the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, driving up energy and food prices.

“The reality is – like all presidents – he is a victim of things beyond his control,” Tillery said. “Inflation is a global problem. It’s much worse in other parts of the world, but he can’t send a message that way.

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