COVID-19 undermines Joe Biden’s competence argument heading into the New Year

COVID-19 undermines Joe Biden’s competence argument heading into the New Year

The coronavirus is infecting President Biden’s image.

Mr. Biden won the public’s trust with his vow to do more to stop the spread of the virus than his predecessor, but 11 months into his tenure the public is growing weary of surging cases and new variants.

John Couvillon, founder of JMC Analytics and Polling, said Mr. Biden shot himself in the foot when he declared in a July 4 address that the nation was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus” and the virus “no longer controls our lives.” 

“The reality is that the public is going to lose confidence in the competence of Biden to handle the situation.” Mr. Couvillon said. “If you remember that was Joe Biden’s calling card in the election where he promoted competence, and that calling card had a particular resonance among independent suburbanites.”

Indeed, Mr. Biden campaigned on the idea that former President Trump was too flippant about the threat of COVID-19 and too slow to respond.

Exit polls in the 2020 presidential election showed that almost a quarter of the electorate saw the rise of the coronavirus as the “most important” factor to their vote. 

Among those voters, Mr. Biden outperformed Mr. Trump by a 61% to 38% margin and also carried 81% of voters who said the coronavirus was their top issue.

A year later, polls show voter confidence in Mr. Biden’s handling of the virus has fallen off since the beginning of the year — dipping from upwards of 70% approval to below 50%.

The loss of confidence is bleeding into his overall approval rating, which has sunk from 55% to 43% this year, according to the latest Real Clear Politics average of polls.

For Democrats, it is a bad omen.

They already face historical headwinds as they look to defend their fragile House and Senate majorities.

Mr. Biden also is closing out the year after failing to pass his $1.75 trillion social welfare and climate bill — the centerpiece of his agenda — through the Democratic-controlled Senate.

As for the coronavirus, Mr. Biden’s latest headache is the omicron variant that is ripping through at least 90 countries and most U.S. states. 

First detected around Thanksgiving, it is the dominant strain around the country and forcing Mr. Biden to acknowledge that vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike will see infections. 

He is pleading with Americans to get vaccinated and booster shots in larger numbers so that hospitals aren’t overrun with the disease. 

And he’s fending off criticism for waiting until Christmas week to announce an ambitious plan for omicron that involves military doctors and tests that will be sent to homes, though not until January.

Testing lines snake around the block in New York City, and holiday gatherings and New Year’s Eve parties are in peril, something most Americans didn’t think would happen one year into the vaccine push and nearly two years after the virus reared its head.

There have been similar scenes in Washington, where the city has started handing out free testing kits to people willing to wait in massive lines. The city also announced that starting Jan. 15, customers must show proof of vaccination at restaurants, entertainment venues and gyms.

The National Hockey League paused its season two days before a scheduled Christmas break after numerous players were placed in coronavirus protocols.

The situation has put Mr. Biden on the defensive.

“Come on,” Mr. Biden snapped this week at a reporter when asked why more testing wasn’t ramped up sooner. “‘What took so long?’ Well, what took so long didn’t take long at all. What happened was the omicron virus spread even more rapidly than anybody thought.”

The rollercoaster ride has opened Mr. Biden up to more criticism from Republicans and his predecessor.

Joe Biden was supposedly ‘elected’ because he was going to quickly get rid of COVID-19, sometimes referred to as the China Virus,” Mr. Trump said in a statement this week. “How’s that working out?”

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

Health, The New York Today