By T.N. Ashok
Washington, Dec 3 (IANS): Contrary to popular belief and Donald Trump's inflation propaganda, US President Joe Biden has seen his approval rating hit a record high soon after the November midterms elections to the Senate and the House in which he managed to stem the Republican 'tirade' of high living costs, limiting losses in the House, preventing a 'Red Tsunami' and stoically defend his economic programmes.
The biggest upset for the Republicans was the loss of Trump-backed Mehmet Oz to John Fetterman in Pennsylvania and the very narrow win of Trump-backed TV Anchor Kari Lake by 500 votes against democrat's Katie Hobbs in Arizona where the Maricopa County ballot is in dispute with Hobbs not yielding. Jared Polis (D) wrested the governor's post in Colorado, and Lauren Bobert, Republican election denier of Trump, beating entrepreneur Adam Frisch (D), who has conceded.
Biden managed to retain the Senate majority at 50 to 49 and the Georgia runoff between Pastor Raphael Warnock and football star Herschel Walker is set to tip the scale in democrats' favour on Dec 6 to 51, even as a wafer-thin majority goes to the Republicans in the House at 222 to 213, who will assume office in January 2023.
Currently, the Democrats and Republicans are split 50 seats each in the Senate with the VP Kamala Harris holding the tie breaking advantage to enact legislation and in the House, the Democrats led by a razor thin majority of 220 to 212.
The Congress now stands divided with Democrats holding the majority in the Senate and the Republicans holding the larger numbers in the 435-member house.
Following the midterms, the Democrats have started infusing fresh blood into the leadership positions in the party electing Hakeem Jeffries to the post of the House party leader, the first black from Brooklyn in New York to hold such a high position.
The party has also ended a 20-year legacy of octogenarian leaders - Nancy Pelosi as speaker, 82 years, Steny Hoyer 84, House Majority leader 84. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Jeffries' election a "turning point in the history of the United States Congress".
"It's not surprising that House Democrats are turning to someone from Brooklyn to lead the way next year, because when you're from Brooklyn, you learn quickly traits like persistence and serious mettle. You learn how to work with all kinds of different people. Hakeem Jeffries exemplifies all these traits," Schumer was quoted by the Wasington Post as saying.
Jeffries will be assisted by Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who was elected Democratic whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who was selected as caucus chairman, replacing Jefferies who was elevated. All three ran unopposed.
A rising star in the Democratic Party, 52-year-old Jeffries creates history as the first Black party leader in either chamber of Congress. He will take over from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has served as House Democratic leader since 2003. Pelosi, 82, decided to step down after two decades of leadership to allow the younger generation to step in.
Paying glowing tributes to senior leaders in the party, he said Pelosi had brought strength and leadership maturity to the house. Jeffries said his mandate is to "advance the ball for everyday Americans and get stuff done." "That's what Democrats do. That's what our record says. Each and every day, House Democrats, committed to fighting hard for working families, middle class folks, those who aspire to be part of the middle class," Jeffries said.
Even as democrats were allowing younger leaders to take over, Biden's popularity was up as he strongly defended a weakened inflation reduction act from his once strong Build Back Better initiative and demographics since redistribution increased in support of his governance.
The Emerson College which conducted a poll showed that 45 per cent of voters approved of Biden's performance on the economic front and women in the forefront in voting for his party on the abortion rights issue that dominated the election landscape in the November midterms. The new numbers record a 3 per cent increase in the last month. 49 per cent of voters disapproved of his performance, which is a 2 per cent drop since last month. Female voters contribute to the increase in Biden's popularity at the hustings.
"Biden's increase in approval appears to be driven by women voters. Since July, women voters' approval of the President has jumped 10 points, from 39 per cent to 49 per cent," Executive Director of Emerson College Polling Spencer Kimball said.
Anger amongst women voters over the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade was a key factor in the midterm elections voting patterns as Biden emerged popular with his Executive Order allowing women to travel to different states and even overseas to get abortions done. Obviously, they related to aborting a foetus borne out of rape, incest and malformation or abnormality.
Biden's approval ratings appear directly proportional to the reactions against the Supreme Court ruling. The President's approval rating is the highest since December, and support for him finally recovered after sliding to 36 per cent in July early this year. A large part of the rebound was due to increased support from his own party, the Post said.
When gas prices touched a record high of $5 to $6 a gallon and groceries prices went soaring as inflation went through the roof hitting a 40 year high of 13 per cent, Republicans seemed to take the initiative out of the Democrats campaign of threats to democracy (Jan 6 Capitol Hill insurrection), and the steam out of Biden's series of economic legislations benefitting the middle class from lowering costs of health care, capping the prices of drugs such as insulin, CHIPS legislation that promised to generate more employment, and waiver of student loans below incomes of families earning less than 125,000 dollars a year.
Media reports say that Biden has seen a series of positive polls this week as a Politico-Morning Consult post November midterm survey found that 46 per cent of all the respondents said they approved of Biden's performance.
However, in a Quinnipiac University poll, Americans were asked about President Biden's - handling of Covid-19: 50 per cent approve, 45 per cent disapprove, Climate change: 44 per cent approve, 49 per cent disapprove, Foreign Policy: 38 per cent approve, 54 per cent disapprove, the Economy: 37 per cent approve, 58 per cent disapprove and the Southern Border Situation: 27 per cent approve, 60 per cent disapprove.
The biggest percentage change was seen in Biden's handling of the economy. In July, his approval rating with regard to the economy was at 28 per cent. Fifty-three per cent of Americans approve of Biden's plan to cancel some of the federal student loan debt for Americans earning less than $125,000 a year.
Eligible borrowers will have up to $10,000 of debt forgiven, while those who received Pell Grants will receive up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness.
What Mattered to the voters: In the Emerson poll, 39 per cent of voters said that the economy is the most important issue in their vote, while 15 per cent of the voters said that threats to democracy were the most important to them, and 10 per cent said that access to women's reproductive healthcare was the most important.
Referring to the 2024 presidential election, 45 per cent of voters said that they would lean toward Biden, while 44 per cent would lean towards Trump. Six per cent of voters said they would vote for someone else, and 5 per cent were undecided, the Emerson poll suggested.
"Women voters supported the Democratic congressional candidate over the Republican candidate by 10 points, while men broke for the Republican candidate by 12," Kimball said.