Biden needs to show he’s feeling voter pain on prices, Democrats say

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Biden needs to show he’s feeling voter pain on prices, Democrats say

Democrats say President Biden needs to appear more in touch with voters’ needs on the economy — particularly on inflation — if he wants to win election for a second term.

Biden is known as the empathizer-in-chief, but these Democrats say the president needs to do much more to show he’s feeling voters’ pain at the grocery store — and other places where prices have soared from four years ago — if he’s going to get their votes in November. 

Biden has been losing support among voters over his handling of the economy. Gallup surveys show that Americans overall have lost confidence that Biden will “do the right thing” to steady the ship. Only President George W. Bush fell to a lower confidence point among voters of any president for the last 20 years, Gallup found, and that was toward the end of Bush’s second term after the Great Recession had kicked in.

“The reality is, you can look at any national poll and people feel bad about the economy, and that’s because they’re struggling with inflation and cost of living,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “So, the president has got to go out there and tell people, ‘I know you’re suffering, but we’re making progress, and we will continue to make progress if I have a second term.’ They haven’t made much progress on this and the clock is ticking.”  

Biden frequently talks up the economy, particularly jobs numbers and record-low unemployment. But he has shied away from addressing inflation head-on, even Democrats acknowledge.

As the election inches closer, some Democrats remain critical of the White House and doubtful of the campaign’s ability to pivot in time to lure undecided voters to their column. 

“They’re incapable of understanding the real pain that inflation is causing,” said one Democratic strategist. “And that’s because they are incapable of admitting fault or flaw.”

“Until they admit inflation is a serious problem and that they needed to do more, it doesn’t matter what they say,” the strategist said. “It’s just cheerleading to your base. The average voter will call bulls—.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal story, former Obama strategist David Axelrod said Biden’s reluctance to empathize with voters on rising costs has been a “constant, constant problem.” 

“His desire to claim credit is a huge obstacle to connecting with voters on this issue,” Axelrod said. “We learned this in 2011 and 2012. You can cite data until the cows come home, but what counts is how people are perceiving the economy.” 

To be sure, Biden has addressed inflation at recent political fundraisers and in a series of press releases put out by the White House. 

In one statement last month, Biden said that “fighting inflation and lowering costs is my top economic priority.” 

“I know many families are struggling, and that even though we’ve made progress, we have a lot more to do,” he said. 

Still, he noted that inflation “has fallen more than 60 percent from its peak, and core inflation fell to its lowest level in three years.”

When he sat down for an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett last month and was asked about turning consumer confidence around, Biden credited his administration and said, “We have already turned it around.” 

But even his staunch supporters say he has to do a better job empathizing with voters while convincing them that he can help to fix the problem. 

“You gotta tell the story,” said Michael Eric Dyson, the renowned historian and author. “It’s narrative versus narrative and perception versus perception.”

“He’s got to become a preacher, an evangelist to tell that story. He’s got the money, but money can’t buy perception and speak the language of the people he’s trying to reach.” 

Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons, who served in the White House for Biden until last year, said empathy comes easy to the president, and that because of his past and his struggles as a single dad in raising two children, it should be easy for him to relate to voters. 

“Empathy is one of President Biden’s superpowers,” Simmons said. “The more he uses it, the better off he is politically.” 

But Bannon warned that Biden runs the risk of falling into the same trap as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, when she sought to sell voters on a prosperous economy and neglected to see that voters were gravitating toward a more populist message from then-candidate Donald Trump and even her former primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We run the risk of repeating that in this election,” Bannon said. “They need to switch gears and significantly alter their message to acknowledge … the pain and suffering that inflation is causing. And so far they haven’t made any progress, and the clock is ticking.”