Jan 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Democrats stiff Biden as poll numbers hit low point

Photo illustration of Joe Biden surrounded by traffic cones.
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Democrats in swing states and vulnerable districts in this year's pivotal midterms are distancing themselves from President Biden on social media as his poll numbers hit their lowest point.

Why it matters: The digital distance is one sign of the concern candidates feel about a person they'd normally embrace. Incumbent presidents — including one who believes he needs to come to their hometowns to sell his message — would normally be political gold for candidates from the same party.

Details: Swing-state Senate candidates like Abby Finkenauer in Iowa, Val Demings in Florida and Cheri Beasley in North Carolina, who might face tough general election races if they win their primaries, have avoided tweeting about Biden.

  • Operatives told Axios that while candidates like these won't completely shy away from the president, they won't be engaging on social media to thank him for passing legislation, for example.
  • They want to develop a brand distinct from Biden and the national Democratic Party.
  • Demings appeared to dodge this week when asked whether she'd like the president to campaign with her.
  • "I am running my race," she said.

Many Democrats in front-line districts have also stopped mentioning the president on their campaign accounts since Sept. 1, per data compiled by Quorum and reviewed by Axios.

  • That was a day after the administration completed its chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
  • Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), Jared Golden (D-Maine), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) were among the front-line members who haven't mentioned "Biden" or "@POTUS" on their campaign accounts since Sept. 1.
  • Reps. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) and Antonio Delgado (D-N.Y.) have mentioned Biden’s name but only in the context of urging him to act on specific issue matters.

The only mention Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) made of the president came through retweeting a CNN interview tweet that mentioned Biden.

  • She commented generically, saying, "We should be happy about [the bill], whether it’s Biden’s signature or [Donald] Trump’s signature. If Trump’s signature had been on that thing, I’d be just as happy to visit people and talk about what this bill would do.”
  • Some of these members have made mention of the president on their official legislative accounts.

What they’re saying: “I want every Democrat to run as ‘Democrats who deliver,’” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said during an interview with Politico's Rachael Bade.

  • She asked if, given the president’s poll numbers, front-liners should be running as “Biden Democrats.”

What we’re watching: Joe Biden has historically been at his best on the campaign trail, when he interacts with people.

  • Traveling the country — as he said last week he believes he needs to do more — has the potential to boost his approval rating.
  • That, in turn, can propel the party's national brand, as well as Democrats running across the country.
  • “The president getting his approval rating in some places from 43 to 47[%] over the next six or seven months, in a lot of places, that’s the difference between being competitive and in a place to win and not,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida.
Go deeper