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President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress are in political free fall as key voting blocs conclude that the majority party in Washington is ignoring their most pressing problems.

Biden’s job approval rating had nosedived to near 40% as the annual holiday season commenced, with Republicans taking the lead in generic-ballot polling gauging which party voters would prefer be in charge on Capitol Hill.

The corresponding changes in Democratic and GOP fortunes have coincided with skyrocketing inflation and lingering pandemic conditions that are causing anxiety and frustration among the independents and suburban Republicans whose critical votes put Biden and the Democrats in power.

Challenging economic conditions and risks from the coronavirus would pose political hurdles for any administration, as they did for former President Donald Trump. But Republican pollsters say the troubles afflicting Biden that threaten to remove congressional Democrats from power in 2022 run deeper. For voters, inflation and the pandemic are priorities. Meanwhile, they see Democrats in Washington focused on creating and expanding social programs — and fighting among themselves to do it.

“The agenda the Democrats are pushing is not the agenda the American people feel they’re dealing with,” said David Winston, a GOP pollster who advises congressional Republicans. “This is a more fundamental problem.”

BIDEN'S JOB APPROVAL PLUMMETS IN SWING-STATE ARIZONA

One year after Biden ousted Trump and the Democrats captured the Senate, completing the takeover of Congress initiated in the 2018 midterm elections, the party is in a total quagmire.

Centrist and liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill are at odds over Biden’s $2 trillion proposal to invest taxpayer dollars on a host of new social programs, infighting that has lasted for months and contributed directly to the party’s deteriorating political position. Accordingly, newly revealed polling, reported first by Politico, shows that Trump is leading Biden head-to-head in a hypothetical rematch in crucial battleground states — and the Democratic Party’s image among critical voting blocs is cratering .

In the aftermath of Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin’s upset victory this month in Virginia, a state the president won by more than 10 points in November, centrist Democratic think tank Third Way commissioned a series of focus groups with Biden voters in the suburbs of Richmond and Washington to find out what went wrong. What they found was startling. According to the memo prepared by ALG Research:

  • “Our weak national brand left us vulnerable.”
  • “Voters are unhappy with the direction of the country and don’t think we get it.”
  • “Voters believe the economy is bad, and no amount of stats can change their mind (at least in the short term).”
  • “Voters think we are focused on social issues, not the economy.”

Senior spokesman for Third Way Matt Bennett told the Washington Examiner the Democrats are in distress with no clear path to recovery, although he said enacting Biden’s social spending program, the legislation known as “Build Back Better,” would improve the party’s prospects significantly.

“We don’t know yet precisely what the Democratic brand problem is or where it comes from. Our sense is that the brand issues substantially predate Biden and are about a range of things — distrust on handling the economy and a sense that we are out of touch on some culture issues,” Bennett said. He added that Republicans have benefited substantially from Trump’s exit from the White House.

“The GOP brand has been given a temporary reprieve from Trump,” Bennet said. “[It’s] not clear that congressional candidates can slip that noose as deftly as Youngkin did. But it won’t be as potent as when Trump is actually on the ballot.”

Historically, presidents are rebuked in midterm elections, with the brunt falling on members of their party in the House and Senate. In that regard, the world of hurt that could await Democrats in 2020 is normal. The same happened to Trump in 2018, when Democrats flipped 40 House seats and captured Senate seats in Arizona and Nevada. The same happened to Republicans George W. Bush in 2006 and Ronald Reagan in 1982 and 1986.

But Republican pollster Wes Anderson said Biden is experiencing more than the beginnings of the typical midterm election reprimand.

Anderson conducted “an absurd amount” of focus groups in 2019 and 2020. The sessions included swing voters, most of whom were independents, but also some soft Republicans and conservative Democrats. The overwhelming opinion he ran into was broad support for Trump on a range of issues. But Biden appealed to them because he was campaigning as a centrist and they were almost totally exhausted by Trump’s provocative behavior. Biden, they thought, would be competent and restorative.

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Instead, they see a president who is governing like a boilerplate liberal and who is beholden to the left wing of his party. This Biden is not the uniter they bargained for. After they watched his leadership of the botched withdrawal of American military forces from Afghanistan, swing voters determined that he was also not the “competent” alternative to Trump that they thought they voted for.

“Currently, a sizable majority of American voters have decided that President Biden and his party are 1) horribly incompetent, 2) deeply divisive, and 3) controlled by the radical Left. In that order,” Anderson said. “Any one of these factors is a real problem for the Democrats. All three are deadly.”

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Walnut Creek voters might decide on a new tax. What would it pay for?

WALNUT CREEK — City officials are mulling whether to ask voters to pass a half-cent sales tax increase in the November election to help pay for a wish list of enhanced programs or facility improvements.

If approved by more than 50% of voters, the tax increase would be the city’s first ever, according to City Manager Dan Buckshi. A recent survey of residents indicates there’s support for the sales tax hike, which would generate about $11 million annually over a 10-year period, he said.

Although the survey’s first questions try to gauge residents’ interest in bolstering funding for crime prevention, public safety or disaster preparedness, Buckshi said it also asks about other potential expenditures that city officials may determine deserve higher priority, such as redoing a community center at Civic Park, a city-owned art school on Shadelands Drive, a public swimming pool at Heather Farm and the park itself.

“The vast majority of our infrastructure can be maintained, but we have those four facilities that are in need of replacement,” Buckshi said.

The survey also asks residents how they feel about paying more for  youth and senior programs, sustainability initiatives and financial aid to local businesses.

Because it’s considered a general tax, however, the sales tax increase doesn’t have to be spent on any of those things. The extra revenue goes into the city’s general fund to be spent at the City Council’s discretion, including operational expenses.

And if the council decides to spend the money on park, pool and art school improvements, there wouldn’t be nearly enough to go far because those projects together would cost upwards of $150 million. Heather Farm Park’s facilities, which Buckshi said could emerge as the top priority, would cost $60 million alone to replace.

Buckshi suggested the council isn’t likely to use the money to pay for city services because Walnut Creek is in “sound financial shape.”

The city received about 400 responses to the eight-page survey, which also included broader questions about how Walnut Creek could improve. The survey was developed by EMC Research, an Oakland-based data analytics firm, and distributed to random city residents.

While the city hasn’t finished tallying the responses, Buckshi said they suggest there is broad support for a sales tax increase.

Sales tax increases have a track record of passing in the region. In 2020, Contra Costa County voters approved Measure X, a half-cent sales tax that ended up paying for an array of service enhancements, by a large margin.

But on the mobile app Nextdoor, many who heard about the Walnut Creek survey, chimed in against a tax.

“Our ‘city leaders’ and those who vote for them repeatedly should be the ones to pay this proposed new tax!” one resident wrote.

Another derided city leaders for letting development “go rampant” and promoting Walnut Creek as a ” ‘Destination City’ at the cost of Public Safety and the neglect of neighborhoods.”

The proposed tax increase also had a few rooters, including a resident who wrote: “Taxes pay for civilization.

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