Democrats worry about Biden but Obama’s former campaign manager sees a ‘sugar

Surrounded by dozens of Democratic donors at a glass art gallery space in Chicago last week, President Joe Biden urged them to look beyond negative poll numbers and feel assured their donations were not being wasted.

Then Biden joked to the crowd: “I could still screw up.”

The attendees at his campaign fundraiser laughed. Yet many Democrats are fearful there is a serious disconnect between the popularity of Biden’s agenda and the man himself, as the president’s approval ratings remain stubbornly low and voters continue to register concerns about his age.

Some of those worries were tempered by the results of Tuesday’s election, when Democrats romped to victory in Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Inside the White House, the Democrats’ big night was a bright spot in an otherwise dim week as it grapples with the response to two wars and tries to minimize the president’s flagging poll numbers. Just 38% of adults approve of Biden’s job performance, according to a November Associated Press-NORC poll.

But few outsiders are confident that the off-year wins will necessarily lead to Biden’s reelection or broader Democratic success next year.

Nowhere is that disconnect more apparent than Ohio, where a Democrat-backed measure to establish a constitutional right to abortion prevailed by 13% last Tuesday. While it was once the nation’s premier swing state, Ohio was carried easily by Donald Trump in the last two elections. And Ohio Democrats don’t expect Biden to compete in the state next year.

“This ain’t the yellow brick road to the presidency just because Ohio pushed back against Republican overreach,” said Nina Turner, an Ohio-based progressive leader who served as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ national campaign co-chair in 2020.

Turner warned that Biden is losing support among young voters, especially from communities of color. The president’s supporters are “delusional,” she said, if they think he’s in a strong position heading into 2024.

“The people in the bubble — I call them the brunch bunch — can continue to spin this. They do that at their own peril,” she said. “What is happening on the streets is a lot different.”

Former Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., said the idea that Tuesday’s victories would translate into electoral successes for Biden next year was “wishful thinking.” He said he’s worried that Biden is faring far worse than a generic Democrat would against Trump, although major Democrats have so far declined to challenge Biden.

“I think I’d be stupid not to be somewhat concerned,” Yarmuth said. Noting Biden’s increasingly aggressive posture against his predecessor, Yarmuth added: “I think that’s an indication that he realizes that he’s got to knock Trump down, not just tout his own record.”

Still, Biden’s team argues that Tuesday’s results only validated the broad popularity of issues that will be core to the president’s reelection campaign, such as abortion rights, democracy and legislative accomplishments including Biden’s nearly two-year-old infrastructure law.

“We’ve heard the press…

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