Biden expresses confidence on the economy. Voters may be skeptical.
President Joe Biden is trailed by Vice President Kamala Harris as they leave an event where he announced an investment in high-speed internet infrastructure at the White House on Monday, June 26, 2023.
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
President Joe Biden has grown confident enough in the economy he leads — despite continuing inflation and high interest rates — that he is campaigning for reelection by eagerly attaching the name “Bidenomics” to his approach.
“Folks, here’s the bottom line,” Biden said as he began a three-week, administration-wide effort to focus on the economy. “By investing in America, we are delivering results. More than 13 million jobs created since I took office.”
In a memo to reporters, two of the president’s top advisers, Anita Dunn and Mike Donilon, credited “Bidenomics” with helping the country bounce back from the pandemic, saying the economy “has recovered more quickly than most experts thought possible.”
The pair repeated the phrase “Bidenomics” nine other times in the 3 1/2-page memo — a sign that the president’s strategists believe that focusing on the economy will help his campaign for a second term.
In their memo, Donilon and Dunn cited polling that shows Americans broadly support some of the president’s key economic policies. But that analysis ignores some dark signs for the president as the 2024 election season begins to heat up.
Independent polls show that large majorities of the country do not believe that the president’s economic policies have set the country in the right direction. In an NBC poll released Sunday, 74% of Americans said the nation was on the wrong track.
Previous polls have shown that much of the concern centers on the president’s economic policies. One Associated Press survey in May found that only 33% of adults approved of his handling of the economy.
On Monday, Biden tried to show that his policies have tangible results. He said more than $40 billion would be distributed nationwide to expand high-speed internet lines — a program he compared to efforts by Franklin D. Roosevelt to bring electricity to rural parts of the country almost 100 years ago.
The disconnect between Biden’s enthusiasm for his accomplishments and poll numbers about America’s feelings on the subject may prove to be the biggest test for the new White House strategy.
Asked Monday whether the president and his top aides were confident that they could change the public’s perception of the economy — and his handling of it — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre gave a blunt answer.
“We’re going to try,” she told reporters.
To that end, Biden’s team has collected data that focuses squarely on the positive. One chart distributed by the White House on Monday shows significant improvement from before the pandemic: a higher household net worth and disposable income, lower credit card delinquency and fewer bankruptcies, and a decline in the number of uninsured and those with debt in third-party collection.
Biden’s advisers — both inside the White House and at the small but growing campaign operation — are quick to offer examples of how things have gotten better: for manufacturing businesses, people who order insulin regularly and local governments struggling with aging infrastructure.
Biden’s aides are also happy to accept comparisons to “Reaganomics,” which has for decades been used to describe the economic policies of former President Ronald Reagan. The president’s advisers argue that Biden’s rejection of tax cuts and his focus on policies that help the middle class are a good contrast with Reagan.
White House officials said Vice President Kamala Harris and many of the president’s top Cabinet officials would travel across the country over the next three weeks to deliver similar remarks on the president’s economic record. On Wednesday, Biden will deliver what aides are calling a “cornerstone” speech in Chicago meant to broadly explain his economic approach.
Now, the challenge for the president and his team is to find a way for their message to break through with the American people.
On the one hand, the president arguably has one of the biggest megaphones in the world, and his advisers intend to use it. But his message is competing with a war raging in Europe and the political and legal chaos surrounding former President Donald Trump as the government pursues legal action against him.
Will giving his economic approach a catchy name — “Bidenomics” — help? Jean-Pierre said she believed it would.
“I think it’s pretty clever,” she told reporters.