Amid midterm show of Democratic strength, warnings for Biden

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats defied gravity this week as voters shrugged off their concerns about President Joe Biden to deny Republicans the big win they expected, emboldening a Biden team whose political instincts are routinely questioned or dismissed outright by opponents, so even an ally.

It was a remarkable display of resilience against history and dismal polls that suggested voters were fed up with inflation and crime and wanted to punish the party in power. As key races continued to add up on Wednesday, it was clear that Democrats had limited Republican gains in the House and held a potential path to control of the Senate.

Biden spent the final stretch of the campaign on the defensive, avoiding battleground states where his own unpopularity could drag down Democrats. But on election night, he was out after midnight congratulating candidates who were about to be swept from office.

“Never underestimate how underrated Team Biden is,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein tweeted. Biden is expected to speak from the White House and answer questions from reporters later Wednesday.

For all the optimistic talk, however, no amount of Democratic success will be able to stave off what is likely to be a chaotic phase of the Biden presidency. Republicans hope to take control of the House, which would open the door for extreme members of the party to investigate Biden and his family. Any of Biden’s legislative priorities could be ruled out, and funding the government itself could prove challenging.

The future of the Senate remained a draw as the votes were counted; potential Democratic losses there could limit or even cut off Biden’s ability to confirm new judges and other administration officials.

It’s also unclear whether the midterm results will be enough to allow Biden to shake off his doubts as he prepares to run for a second term. A wide-ranging AP VoteCast poll revealed deep concerns about his performance and ability to continue serving.

With Biden approaching his 80th birthday, 58 percent of voters said he lacked the mental capacity to serve effectively as president. Only 44% described him as honest, and only 34% said he was a “strong leader”.

There were other warning signs for his political standing.

When Biden was elected two years ago, 54 percent of voters described him as someone who “cares about people like you.” Among this year’s midterm voters, that dropped to 46%.

Overall, 57% of voters said they had a negative view of Biden. His ratings on the economy, energy policy and border security were all under water. Even his handling of Russia, seen as a success for Biden in maintaining an international coalition opposing the invasion of Ukraine, is viewed negatively.

His tepid approval ratings were driven by strongly negative attitudes among Republicans, but even Democratic voters did not echo their support.

About 2 in 10 Democratic voters said they disapproved of Biden’s job performance overall, a noticeable softness in today’s hyperpartisan political environment.

The poll of more than 94,000 voters nationwide was conducted over nine days, including polls, for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.

A clear advantage for Biden, who campaigned for office simply to be better than the alternative, is the disdain his supporters have for his predecessor.

While 50% of Democratic voters said their votes were intended to show support for the president, an even higher percentage — 65% — said they voted to express opposition to Donald Trump.

“Democrats have argued from the beginning that this election needs to be an election, not a referendum,” said Amy Walter, an analyst who runs the Cook Political Report. “And basically, they are.”

Walter said that Democrats have been able to maintain support in the midterm elections from voters who believe that “Biden is not meeting their expectations, or they feel disappointed or they feel disappointed with his management.”

The outcome takes the heat off the White House, at least for now.

“The pressure goes from ‘How will Biden explain himself after the election?’ on ‘How will Trump explain himself?'” she said. “The more intriguing conversations are happening on the Republican side.”

Some members of Biden’s team began circulating a clip of his meeting with the New York Times editorial board during the Democratic primary.

Asked if his lead in the polls was fleeting, Biden dismissed the question by saying pundits are always too quick to “pronounce me dead.”

“And guess what?” he said. “I’m not dead. And I’m not going to die.”

Al Gore, who was vice president when Democrats suffered heavy losses during President Bill Clinton’s first midterm elections, said this week’s results defied expectations even though Republicans could gain control of at least one house of Congress.

“It’s hard to call it a victory,” Gore said of the Democrats in an interview, “but really in the context of history, it was.”


Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein contributed from Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.


Follow AP election coverage at:

See to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

The Latest

To Top