Joe Biden Could Face Midterm Wipeout as Omens Mount

With just more than a year until the midterms, there are ominous signs for President Joe Biden's Democratic Party as it faces losing control of Congress.

The party's majority in the House is slight, and in the Senate only obtained by Vice President Kamala Harris' tiebreaker vote.

With that said, there is close to no room for defeat come 2022—but at present, there are several signals the party might suffer.

Biden's Approval Woes

President Joe Biden's approval has trailed off, with indications that the public perception of him is tied to that of his party.

His approval rating remains underwater, according to trackers from FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics—having been above 50 percent during a honeymoon period in his first few months in office.

Separate polling has also shown his rating drop significantly among independents—a crucial group in any tight elections, particularly given the polarization between Democrats and Republicans.

While a useful tool in any congressional campaign's arsenal might generally be getting the president to stump for them, such impact diminishes as his popularity wanes.

Congressional Struggles

Meanwhile, Democratic infighting is seeing Biden's agenda stall—and putting internal divides on full display.

As such wrangling persists, the view of Congress from Democrats polled has plummeted.

Gallup polling from October 1 to 19 saw Americans' approval of Congress overall drop to 21 percent, among 832 U.S. adults—the lowest so far for 2021.

Among Democrats asked, this went from 55 percent in September to 33 percent in the October polling.

Such a drop may make motivating Democrats to vote difficult, if it proves to be the case more widely that they disapprove of the actions of Congress—and should they continue to.

Analysis alongside the polling from Gallup referenced the last time Democrats held the White House, House and Senate, comparing the pattern in approval.

"As congressional Democrats continue to struggle to reach consensus on the scope of major new social spending, rank-and-file Democrats' approval of Congress has subsided. This is not a new pattern; in fact, it is nearly identical to Democrats' ratings of Congress in 2009, the last time Democrats took the reins in Washington," it said.

At the midterms in 2010, Democrats lost the House and only narrowly held the Senate.

Analysis from Gallup added: "Congressional Democrats' delay in passing Obama's healthcare reform plan, the Affordable Care Act, may have dampened Democrats' approval in late 2009, just as Democrats' inability to reach consensus on Biden's major social spending bill appears to be frustrating party members today."

As reported by Newsweek, the current disputes somewhat mirror those over the Affordable Care Act more than a decade ago.

Should Democrats reach an agreement on the spending bill soon, that could perhaps help to shift opinions of Congress. But any bounce persisting might depend on if the factions can remain aligned on other points, as 2022's votes near.

Recent History

It is common wisdom that the party in the White House struggles in the midterms, and this has been the case in recent times, statistics gathered by UC Santa Barbara's The American Presidency Project show.

In 2018, the Republicans lost 40 seats in the House under then-President Donald Trump, though gained two Senate seats.

For former President Barack Obama, when Biden was vice president, 13 House seats were lost in 2014 along with nine Senate seats. In 2010, the Democrats lost 63 House seats and six in the Senate.

With the aforementioned woes for Biden, such recent precedent also does little to rally optimism.

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, told Newsweek recent polling numbers were "inauspicious indicators for Democrats hoping to maintain control of Capitol Hill beyond 2022."

"Even in the best of circumstances, the party in power often struggles to mobilize turnout in a midterm year. For Democrats, internal squabbles between moderates and progressives are scrambling the party's message to voters and undermining a coherent narrative about how they're working to solve big problems like climate change, healthcare, and inequality," Gift said.

"Add to that a botched Afghanistan withdrawal, a worsening crisis at the border, persistent COVID numbers, and increasing signs of economic inflation, and Democrats will have their work cut out for them next election.

"The inability to come together as a party behind Biden's signature legislative proposal—infrastructure—also undermines a key argument that Democrats have been making for years: that policy paralysis in Washington is entirely the result of Republican obstructionism.

"Democrats may well end up passing a diluted version of the infrastructure bill—but if they don't—it will further depress their chances of energizing voters in advance of 2022."

Richard Johnson, lecturer in U.S. politics and policy at Queen Mary University of London, similarly suggested the Democrats may face a tough time in 2022—pointing to the tendency for the party in the White House to lose seats, and highlighting potential difficulties posed by redistricting.

"The Democrats could be in for quite a tricky midterm season," Johnson said.

"Not only does the party in the White House traditionally lose seats, but the House redistricting process after the 2020 Census has tended to favor Republicans. While many Democratic states have adopted neutral boundary commissions to draw legislative seats, the process remains in political hands in many important Republican states. Given how narrow the House and Senate are at the moment, it's quite likely Democrats will lose control of at least one, perhaps both, of the chambers."

Democrats should look at the opportunities granted to them in the present moment to push forward with legislation, Johnson suggested—adding that while this may not boost them in elections in the near term, it could have longer-term benefits.

"The Democrats need to understand what a narrow window of opportunity they have to pass significant legislation and should seize it. Policy makes politics, and should they pass transformative social legislation, it is likely that they will help generate future political constituencies loyal to the Democratic Party," Johnson said.

"While the fruits of this may not be realized in the near-term, in another election cycle or two, such a strategy would pay off. We saw this with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which initially was met by a huge backlash, but once the policy went into effect it has become one of the most important pieces of social policy passed by the Democrats in recent generations and was a major force in motivating turnout from groups of voters who had benefited from it."

While pushing forward is proving difficult in some aspects for Biden, at present the main thing holding him back is getting his own party united. While it is difficult to please all factions, he has more sway over Democratic figureheads than he does GOP leadership. And if power shifts to the Republicans in 2022 in either chamber, it is their strengthened blocking efforts he will have to face. The omens suggest harder battles for Biden loom.

Newsweek has contacted the White House and the Democratic National Committee for comment.

biden speaks in new jersey october 25
President Joe Biden gives a speech on his Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal and Build Back Better Agenda at the NJ Transit Meadowlands Maintenance Complex on October 25, 2021 in Kearny, New Jersey. Omens are pointing towards his party struggling come the midterms in 2022. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images