As President Joe Biden kicked off a final four-state campaign sprint on Thursday to boost struggling Democrats ahead of midterms, he fired back at a key GOP criticism that the economy has lagged under his watch. .
“Here’s the deal: economic growth is up, price inflation is down, real income is up, gasoline prices are down,” Biden said at a rally near San Diego in support of Democratic Representative Mike Levin, who is in a tight race to hang on to his seat.
By some narrow measures, Biden’s claims could be interpreted as true — for example, gasoline prices and inflation have retreated somewhat from all-time highs they hit over the summer.
But both are well above levels seen in January 2021, when he first took office, and for voters struggling with soaring prices, the claims may ring hollow.
The consumer price index rose 8.2% in September from a year ago, up from 1.4% at the start of Biden’s term. The average price of a gallon of gas is around $3.75 nationwide, down from around $2.30 when it first opened.
As Biden launched a final campaign sprint Thursday to boost Democrats ahead of midterms, he fired back at a key GOP criticism that the economy has lagged under his watch.
Inflation has eased somewhat from historic highs seen over the summer, but remains near 40-year highs and well elevated since Biden took office
In the third quarter, which just ended in September, real wages rose 0.8%, the first quarterly increase after two consecutive years of decline or stagnation.
And real gross domestic product, the measure of all economic output in the country, returned to growth in the last quarter after six months of contraction, up 2.6% on an annualized basis according to a preliminary estimate.
It followed two consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, which is an informal definition of a recession, although Biden denied that a recession had started. Most economists agreed, but many believe a full-blown recession is inevitable next year.
Ultimately, voters will decide whether they feel more economically secure today than they did at the start of Biden’s term, a turbulent time with unemployment still painfully high at 6.4%.
Unemployment has fallen significantly, remaining near a six-decade low at 3.5%, and Biden has frequently touted the strength of the labor market as evidence of his successful economic management.
But economic fears, particularly around inflation, have emerged as a top concern among midterm voters, and Republicans have hammered home the issue as they seek to regain majorities in the House and Senate.
“Joe Biden is completely detached from reality,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said last month. “Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, they can’t afford rising gas and grocery prices, and real wages are falling.”
Real gross domestic product, the measure of all economic output in the country, returned to growth in the last quarter after six months of contraction, up 2.6% in the prior estimate
The average price of a gallon of gas is around $3.75 nationwide, down from around $2.30 when Biden was inaugurated, but down from the record high of $5 set in June. .
Biden’s rally in California was his second of the day, following an earlier event in New Mexico, and marked the start of a three-day campaign sprint across four states, with stops also scheduled in Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The tour began in Albuquerque, where he spoke about his forgiveness of billions of dollars in student debt and criticized record oil company profits as he tried to deflect criticism over gas prices.
Biden urged voters in New Mexico to defeat “reckless and irresponsible” Republicans and re-elect Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
New Mexico is normally safe Democratic territory, but Lujan Grisham faces a determined challenge from his Republican opponent, former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti.
“Your generation won’t be ignored, you won’t be shunned, you won’t be silenced,” Biden told students at Central New Mexico Community College, where he also said people shouldn’t be jailed for possession. of marijuana and promised another attempt to ban assault weapons.
Biden’s tour began in Albuquerque, where he spoke about his write-off of billions of dollars in student debt and criticized record oil company profits
Biden has urged New Mexico voters to defeat ‘reckless and irresponsible’ Republicans and re-elect Democratic New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (with him above)
Biden repeated many of the same points during his second rally at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, Calif., where Rep. Levin is battling to retain a seat historically held by Republicans.
Levin is facing Republican businessman Brian Maryott, with the Cook Political Report now calling the race “a blow of luck”.
“Democracy is on the ballot,” Biden told the California crowd. “The truth is…this election is going to determine the direction of the country for at least a decade or more.”
Opinion polls show Republicans could regain control of the House of Representatives, and possibly the Senate.
The decision to deploy Biden only to areas where he has won hands down in 2020 was made in part due to concerns about voter energy in races Democrats see as must-wins.
Party officials are also concerned about some candidates who have seen their races narrow in the final days of the campaign.
President Joe Biden is on stage with Rep. Mike Levin, D-California, and his wife Chrissy, after Biden spoke at a campaign rally on Thursday
Real Clear Politics projections show Republicans expected to win House and Senate next Tuesday
Biden’s route in the final days of the campaign illustrates the limited political clout of a president who has been held at bay by some Democrats facing tough races this cycle.
It also suggests that the president, whose approval ratings remain submerged, has concluded he can be more effective in using the final days before the near polls to build support for Democratic candidates in areas he has. easily won in 2020.
“Democrats are clearly on the defensive and that’s borne out as the campaign draws to a close,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.
“Their winning odds don’t seem realistic, so now look at what you can preserve.”
A president’s party typically faces significant losses in midterm elections. Since 1934, only Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, Bill Clinton in 1998, and George W. Bush in 2002 have seen their parties gain midterm seats.
Some recent presidents have suffered big losses in their first midterm races. Republicans under Donald Trump lost 40 House seats but gained two Senate seats in 2018; Democrats under Barack Obama lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats in 2010, and Democrats under Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in 1994.
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