Biden scrambles for 'last-minute' effort to woo voters; whether to lift China tariff to ease inflation a 'tricky choice'
Published: Oct 27, 2022 12:35 AM
US President Joe Biden Photo: IC

US President Joe Biden Photo: IC

The steadily poor approval ratings, a series of dismal recession forecasts as well as Republicans' redoubled attacks on Democrats have created a consistent headache for US President Joe Biden in the closing days of his midterm election campaign, and Chinese observers believe that Biden may make more gestures or empty promises to voters on improving the economy as last minute efforts, but that none will be effective to dispel voters' growing dissatisfaction toward him. 

It is highly unlikely that Biden can leave any meaningful political legacy on domestic affairs in the last two years of his term given that Democrats may lose at least one chamber of Congress in the midterms, Chinese observers said, warning that Biden may choose to go further on his "aggressive" diplomacy, especially getting tougher on China and Russia in the next two years, for which China should be fully prepared. 

Many American media, politicians and even the White House are getting less confident on Democrats two weeks ahead of the midterm elections. The White House has lowered its earlier optimism about the midterm elections and is now worried that Democrats could lose control of both chambers of Congress, Reuters reported on Tuesday.   

Recent polls show that Biden and his Democrats are facing gloomier prospects. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday showed that Biden's approval rating edged closer to the lowest level of his presidency, as 39 percent of Americans approve of Biden's job performance, a percentage point lower than a week earlier.   

Biden is uneasy about these latest polls, and he dismissed them in a speech at Democratic Party headquarters on Monday, saying there is still time for "one more shift" that will help his party, according to AP. 

The poor approval ratings reflect Biden's ineffective governance and poor performance, which has resulted in the sharp decline of people's favorable views, toward the Democrats. 

Lü Xiang, research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday. "There's no hope for Democrats to secure the House of Representatives with only two weeks left," Lü said. 

"The most urgent problem for American people is the economic issue, but the president has nothing to talk about as he doesn't have any positive policy propositions to create new growth points or improve the US' economic environment," Lü said. 

Since last week, several economy forecasts pointed that the US is already in or could enter into recession soon amid the four-decade high inflation. 

Subject of inflation is one of the fiercest weapons the Republicans have been using to attack the Democrats ahead of the November 8 midterm elections, and Chinese observers said the economic issue is the most critical factor in the midterm elections, which is followed by traditional issues such as immigration and crime, and then the personal performance of the candidates. 

Diao Daming, an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Biden may still spend the last few days focusing on responding to voters' concerns, at least by making a show of addressing inflation and other economic issues, or simply laying out some new ideas. 

But with so little time, it is almost impossible for him to present anything tangible and feasible to make voters feel they can trust him on the effectiveness of his plans, Diao said. 

Meanwhile, the chance for Biden to scrap any tariffs on China imports for easing inflation, although it cannot be fully ruled out, is rather slim, Diao said. 

It is a tricky choice. Diao explained that there are many uncertainties about whether removing China tariffs would be good for Democrats in the midterms, and the removal is likely to be used by Republicans to attack him on China policy.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said two weeks ago that removing tariffs will do little to tame inflation, although Biden in June asked his team to look at the option of lifting some Trump-era tariffs on Chinese imports to combat inflation. 

No political legacy left?

Western media are speculating whether the Democrats could lose control of one or both houses of Congress. Reuters said losing control of one or both houses of Congress will profoundly shape the next two years of Biden's presidency, with Republicans expected to block legislation on family leave, abortion, policing and other Biden priorities. 

Lü said the Democrats may still have a chance to control the Senate, but that is not because of Biden's ability. "In fact, it is a gift from Donald Trump. The Republican candidates Trump supported in several key states lacked political experience and behaved poorly in state elections," Lü said. 

Some Chinese observers believe the Democrats could lose both the Senate and House, and in that case Biden is likely to face a "vetocracy" in pushing forward domestic legislation in the next two years. 

The Republicans may continue political attack against Biden, possibly with issues of wrong decision to withdraw the US military from Afghanistan and Hunter Biden's covert connection with Ukraine, Chinese observers said.

A Beijing-based senior expert on international relations who asked for anonymity told the Global Times on Wednesday that it would be challenging for Biden to make some substantial achievements in domestic affairs and to be re-elected in 2024 no matter if the Democrats can keep the Senate or not. 

The Republicans will not give Biden any chance to leave positive political assets in domestic affairs and some diplomatic accomplishments will also become harder to achieve such as sustaining aid to Ukraine, said the expert.    

Thus, Biden may show a tougher stance on China and Russia, the expert noted, saying that an "idle" Biden may head toward a great power competition with hostile attacks on China and Russia as he has "nothing else to do," which may further bring China-US relations toward a downward spiral in the next two years, the expert warned.