Biden’s election year challenge: Blame GOP for nation’s woes

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has an election-year message for frustrated voters: At least he’s trying.

For those who think he isn’t doing enough to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion, Biden announced $800 million in new military support on Thursday. To ease the pain of high gas prices, he’s tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and reopened onshore sales of oil and natural gas leases on public land. And to address historic inflation, Biden has tried to smooth out supply chain-crimping bottlenecks at the nation’s ports.

The president hopes the moves, which are being announced in near-daily rollouts and in a stepped up travel schedule, will present a contrast with Republicans — who, he argues, spend more time complaining about problems than proposing solutions.

“I mean this sincerely — name me something the national Republican Party is for,” Biden said at a recent Democratic National Committee meeting.

But it’s not clear he’s attracting much support. The Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has released a poll that shows only 45% of Americans approve of Biden’s handling of the presidency. 54% of Americans disapprove. The approval rate in the poll taken from April 14-18 is about the same as last month, but down from the president’s 63% approval rating a year ago.

Biden is blessed with bright spots. Applications for unemployment benefits have fallen to the lowest levels in decades and wages are rising. After the pandemic-induced slump, the economy is now growing.

Still, with crime rates rising in some parts of the country and inflation at its highest levels since 1981, these don’t feel like boom times to many. Seventy percent of Americans call the nation’s economy poor. Further, just 33% say they approve and 66% say they disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, with about a third of Democrats, along with almost all Republicans, disapproving.

Primary elections that begin next month will help show whether Democrats are embracing Biden’s vision of a moderate party that counters the increasingly far-right GOP.

In Ohio, Rep. Tim Ryan is well positioned to win the Democratic nomination for an open Senate seat with a message appealing to centrist, blue collar workers that is in line with Biden’s overall approach. But in the president’s native state of Pennsylvania, moderate Conor Lamb could be in a tight Senate primary against the more progressive John Fetterman.

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