3 poll numbers that should scare Democrats. And 3 that should give some hope | Thursday Coffee

They are 56, 61, and 62 – and why they’re a big deal for the 2022 midterm elections

February 17, 2022 7:10 am

President Joe Biden talks on the phone with Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) following the Senate vote to pass the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, Aug. 10, 2021, in the Oval Office Dining Room of the White House. (Adam Schultz/Official White House Photo)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If the central argument for President Joe Biden’s election in 2020 was his competence and decades of experience in Washington, three numbers in a new nationwide Quinnipiac University poll are a warning shot for the White House and Democrats as they look to hold their majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

Here they are: 56, 61, and 62. And how Democrats respond to those numbers could make all the difference in the world this November.

Let’s take that first number first: It’s the percentage of the poll’s registered voter respondents who said they disapprove of Biden’s job performance. Barely a third of those more plugged-in respondents, 37 percent, said they approved, while 7 percent said they had no opinion.

That’s effectively unchanged from January’s 35-54 percent result for Biden, where 11 percent did not offer an opinion.

There’s only one reason for that swing among the latter number, as more Americans feel the pain at the pump and the pinch at the produce counter, their opinions inevitably are going to harden.

(Getty Images)

Now for that second number, 61 percent: It’s the percentage of respondents who say they disapprove of Biden’s management of the economy. As NPR reports, that’s a problem for Biden, but not for the reason you’d think.

Despite empty shelves and rising prices, the economy is actually humming along at a pretty good clip.

During Biden’s first year in office, the economy created 6.6 million new jobs, the president noted during a press conference last week on the January jobs report.

“If you can’t remember another year when so many people went to work in this country, there’s a reason: It never happened,” Biden said, urging journalists to review economic statistics dating back to the Reagan administration. “History has been made here,” he said, according to NPR.

Even so, as the numbers make clear, Americans surveying empty grocery store shelves don’t share that optimism. Biden has tried to stress that congressional authorization of his Build Back Better plan will help tame costs for such items as prescription medication and childcare, NPR reported.

This week, national Democrats also pivoted to a more esoteric strategy, lambasting Republicans for staging a boycott of the White House’s picks to the Federal Reserve Board.

In a call with journalists, Democratic National Committee Chairperson Jaime Harrison accused Republicans on the Senate Banking Committee of “actively trying to kneecap our economic recovery as we emerge from this global pandemic.”

The chances are better than 50-50 that most Americans can’t name a single member of the central bank, whose policies will play a central role in getting inflation under control. But Democrats are clearly hoping the message will penetrate.

Now about that third number: 62 percent. That’s the percentage of respondents who disapprove of the administration’s response to the wave of gun violence that’s gripped some of America’s largest cities — including Philadelphia.

After calls in 2020 to defund the police amid a summer of police shootings and ensuing civil rights protests, some cities are now heading in the opposite direction and are bulking up their funding for law enforcement. Sixteen U.S cities, including Philadelphia, saw a spike in shootings last year, according to

In New York City, new Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, plans to target ‘trigger-pullers’ as part of a 90-day push to curb shootings in the Big Apple, the New York Post reports.

In Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jake Corman, the top GOP lawmaker in the state Senate, has played to those public safety concerns by launching a campaign to impeach Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a progressive whose policies have rankled law-and-order types.

(Getty Images/Colorado Newsline)

Here’s one bonus number: 53.

It’s the percentage of respondents who say they disapprove of Biden’s handling of the pandemic. The margin is more narrow there, with 43 percent of respondents saying they approve of Biden’s management of the greatest public health crisis in a century.

Keep in mind, Biden pitched himself as the adult in the room in 2020, offering a steady hand to steer the nation out of the pandemic after months of chaotic leadership and mixed messaging from the previous Trump administration.

But as the pandemic enters its third year, and states begin shrugging off mask mandates and other restrictions, there’s every indication that a weary American public also is ready to move on from the virus and resume something approximating a normal life.

On Tuesday, a senior Biden administration official told congressional budget writers that the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services will need at least $30 billion to keep its pandemic response up and running, Politico reports, signaling that while Americans may be done with the pandemic, it’s not done with us yet.

Fortunately, all is not lost for Biden and Democrats. Three numbers point the way out of the administration’s current predicament.

That’s the 55 percent of all respondents who say they like Biden as a person, with 34 percent saying they like him as a person and also like most of his policies.

Then there’s the 54 percent of respondents who say they support Biden’s decision to deploy thousands of troops to Eastern Europe to support U.S. allies in NATO (Nearly as many, 57 percent, want the country to stay out of Ukraine if the Russians invade).

All of those numbers, again, point the way toward Biden’s initial selling point: His competence and experience, both on Capitol Hill, and as eight years as vice president, where he regularly interacted with foreign leaders.

The challenge will be convincing voters that the policies that improved their lives are Democratic policies, and that they’re worth continuing.

Math is hard. Electoral math is much harder. Fortunately for Biden and his Democratic allies, it’s not impossible. They’ll just need to show their work.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Wolf administration proposal to trim the spring petitioning period for political campaigns by seven to 12 days could pose a new challenge for upstart candidates looking to get on the May 17 primary ballot, Stephen Caruso reports.

Staff Reporter Marley Parish runs down who the Jan. 6 House committee wants to hear from in Pa. — and why.

Democrats and their allies went on the attack Wednesday, accusing Republicans of playing games with the nation’s economic recovery after Republican members of a key U.S. Senate committee boycotted a vote on President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve Board, I report.

During a meeting with county leadersPresident Joe Biden called on Congress to pass his stalled social spending package as a way to fight inflation, saying it would help with expenses families face, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

In Philadelphia, tangled titles are derailing home-buying dreams, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning: The war on drugs failed. Don’t try it again, a trio of advocates writes in a column first published by our sibling site, Colorado Newsline. And for this Black History Month, opinion regular Charles D. Allen recommends focusing on Black health and wellness.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman [Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller]

The Inquirer considers whether Pennsylvania governor and lieutenant governor candidates should run on the same ticket.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey has scrapped the shuttle section of the Mon-Oakland Connector project, the Tribune-Review reports.

The Republican race for governor is a hot mess that’s just starting to bubblePennLive’s John Baer writes.

Lancaster County’s district attorney is no longer using money from civil asset forfeiture, often referred to as for-profit policing, to pay for the county’s drug task forceLancasterOnline reports.

A solar energy project in Dover, York County, is part of a larger, statewide clean energy push, the York Daily Record reports.

Under a new rule, some contractors in will no longer qualify to work on Allentown’s construction projects, the Morning Call reports.

The Pennsylvania State Police and Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office have launched a crowd-funding campaign to pay for DNA testing in a decades-old cold case, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Researchers have revealed widespread lead contamination in the water at Philadelphia’s schools, WHYY-FM reports.

In Harrisburg, a town hall focused on the city’s gun violence problemWITF-FM reports.

New Erie County Executive Brenton Davis is pushing to overturn a federal spending plan approved by the previous county administration, GoErie reports.

A Democratic super PAC has committed $10 million to fight election misinformationCity & State Pa. reports.

Bipartisan officials on Wednesday told a state Senate panel what they need to conduct safe and secure elections, PoliticsPA reports.

Roll Call takes another look at the GOP boycott of the Biden administration’s Fed nominees.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
10 a.m., House Floor: House Appropriations Committee; DCED budget hearing
3 p.m., G50 Irvis: House Tourism & Recreational Development Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5:30 p.m: Reception for Rep. Brandon Markosek
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Nick Pisciottano
Hit both events, and give at the max, and you’re out a truly preposterous $15,000 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Best wishes go out this morning to Megan Dapp, at Triad Strategies, and to Sari Stevens, at the Pa. Dept. of State, both of whom celebrate today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s an old favorite from Counting Crows that popped up as I was pulling this column together. From their 1996 sophomore LP, ‘Recovering the Satellites,’ it’s ‘Daylight Fading.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Carolina dropped a toughie, losing 3-2 to the Florida Panthers in overtime on Wednesday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.