Updated Apr 25, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Biden's strategy to win back progressives could be working

This is Joe Biden

President Biden boards Air Force One at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y., today. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden and his campaign have spent the past several weeks courting a particularly skeptical group of voters: Democrats.

Why it matters: His targeted appeals to the Democratic base reveal a campaign that's currently more focused on energizing — or reclaiming — its core supporters than on making overtures to swing voters.

Driving the news: From blasting former President Trump on abortion rights to forgiving student loans to pressing for new climate goals, Biden has been trying boost his popularity among progressives, young people and people of color.

  • Support for Biden among those voters has been consistently lower than in 2020, according to polls.
  • Many of Biden's paid ads also target Hispanics and working-class Black men — key parts of the Democratic coalition that he appears to be struggling to keep in his corner.
  • The campaign has also been running an ad focused on concerns among many voters — including many Democrats — about his age. Biden speaks directly into the camera in that one.

The intrigue: The company Biden has been keeping recently is just as telling.

  • In April, Biden had two events with progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
  • And this week, Biden invited Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Air Force One to go to a climate change event.

What we're watching: Biden announced this week that he'll deliver the commencement address next month at Morehouse College, the historically Black institution in the swing state of Georgia.

By the numbers: The recent strategy came after polls repeatedly showed that self-identified Democrats were less enthusiastic about Biden than Republicans are about Donald Trump.

Zoom in: The Biden administration has also made a flurry of left-leaning policy announcements that have high support among Democratic constituencies.

  • He has repeatedly promised Pennsylvania steelworkers that U.S. Steel will remain an American company and has threatened to triple tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum.
  • In March, his EPA issued an ambitious rule to ensure the majority of new vehicles sold in the United States are all-electric or hybrids by 2032.
  • Then in mid-April, Biden announced he would cancel another $7.4 billion in student debt, bringing his total $153 billion in canceled loans for 4.3 million borrowers.

Between the lines: Four years ago, Biden won his party's nomination by highlighting his long career as a centrist Democrat, capable of beating then-President Trump.

  • But as president, he has aggressively moved left and basked in comparisons to FDR.
  • Some aides felt the move leftward was necessary to keep the party unified with slim margins in Congress, but other Biden advisers still believe he ought to have been more aggressively centrist from the beginning.

The big picture: There's one major policy move that Biden is considering — a crackdown on the border with an executive order — that would indicate he's willing to forsake his party's base to let swing voters know he appreciates their concerns on immigration and crime.

  • Trump is also pursuing a base-first strategy to reclaim the White House, revving up his most ardent supporters by pledging to "free" convicted Jan. 6 rioters, close the southern border and drill for more oil.
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