Mar 27, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden, Democrats (mostly) ditch "Bidenomics"

Data: Axios analysis Stef W. Kight

For the first time in more than two months, President Biden on Tuesday publicly uttered a word that he and other Democrats have largely abandoned: "Bidenomics."

Why it matters: Republicans are now using the term — mockingly — far more than Democrats heading into the meat of the presidential campaign, even as the economy has improved under Biden.

The intrigue: After Axios asked the White House why Biden wasn't saying "Bidenomics" — including in his State of the Union address this month — he used the term at a Tuesday afternoon event in North Carolina.

  • It was the first time he'd done so since Jan. 25.
  • "Leading economists aren't making much fun of 'Bidenomics' anymore," he said of his programs to boost the middle class through public spending. "They're thinking maybe it works!"

Flashback: The president has had an off-and-on relationship with "Bidenomics" during the past year, however.

  • Biden initially was reluctant to use the term, but last June he decided to embrace it. His advisers calculated that voters were going to blame — or credit — him for the country's economy regardless of what anyone called it.
  • The goal was to co-opt Biden's Republican critics and do for "Bidenomics" what former President Obama did with "Obamacare" — take a word that seemed a political liability and turn it into an asset.

In recent months, though, "Bidenomics" mentions by Biden, Democrats in Congress and others in the party have fallen off a table.

  • It's a shift that amounted to an acknowledgement that the White House's messaging effort was falling flat with many voters.

By the numbers: Congressional Democrats initially followed Biden's plunge into touting "Bidenomics." They used the word 483 times last July in tweets, Facebook posts, press releases and floor statements, according to data from Quorum.

  • But it wasn't long before those Democrats were grumbling to Biden's team that the White House was tone deaf in its branding as voters were struggling with inflation.
  • Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a close ally of the White House, was publicly critical.
Hermes: Data: Quorum; Note: Includes X posts, Facebook posts, press releases, floor statements and newsletters to constituents; Chart: Axios Visuals

"Bidenomics" mentions by congressional Democrats dropped during the fall and now have nearly disappeared, to less than a dozen a month.

  • But Republicans in Congress can't stop saying it: They've used "Bidenomics" nearly 500 times this month in their public statements, per Quorum.

Reality check: Even before his two-month sabbatical from saying "Bidenomomics," Biden gradually had been ditching the term.

  • Last June and July, he referred to "Bidenomics" about 50 times.
  • In December and January, he used it just six times.
  • NBC News reported last fall that Biden was using the term less even as the White House maintained the branding at some of his events.

Biden's ambivalence about the term was evident as some of his advisers were warming to it.

  • Last June, Biden told reporters: "You guys branded it. I didn't. I never called it Bidenomics....Let's get it straight: The first time it was used was in the Wall Street Journal. OK? I don't go around beating my chest, 'Bidenomics.' "

Zoom out: The president's shift from "Bidenomics" is part of a broader move toward trying to energize his base ahead of the election, instead of trying to convince swing voters that the economy is better than what they tell pollsters.

  • Biden's post-State of the Union strategy has focused on shoring up his weaknesses among Democrats. He has cut ads to address concerns about his age and appeal to Black and Latino voters.
  • By contrast, the campaign's $20 million-plus in ads last year focused mostly on Biden's economic record — though the ads didn't frame it as "Bidenomics."
  • The ad buy didn't move Biden's poll numbers, but his campaign has said it let voters know of his legislative accomplishments.

What they're saying: Biden "will continue talking about Bidenomics, which is a sharp contrast with congressional Republicans, who are siding with special interests and the rich over middle-class families," White House spokesperson Michael Kikukawa said in a statement.

  • "The president's economic approval is rising, and he is on the road touting his accomplishments that are widely supported and making a real difference in peoples' lives."

Stef W. Kight contributed reporting and analysis.

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