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Unpopular Joe Biden sticks close to home as midterm campaigns enter final two weeks

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President Biden embarked this week on what is likely the final throes of Democrats’ total control of Washington with a visit to the safe confines of Democratic Party headquarters and mundane ceremonial duties, rather than campaigning as if his presidency depended on it.

Facing the loss of the House and Senate on Nov. 8 and the dire implications for 2024, the unpopular president is keeping to a light campaign schedule this week featuring virtual party events, a COVID booster shot and another trip back home to Delaware.

Mr. Biden took a motorcade Monday to the Democratic National Committee’s campaign center in Arlington, Virginia, to rally party workers. He also attended a tree-planting ceremony and an event at the White House celebrating the Hindu festival of Diwali.

At the DNC offices, Mr. Biden said recent polls showing Republicans gaining momentum are unreliable.

“Now the polls have been all over the place,” Mr. Biden said. “If you speak to most pollsters they’re not sure anymore. Not about the outcome, but about polling.”

Even as he questioned the accuracy of polling, the president said he expects public-opinion surveys to show “one more shift back to our side in the closing days, because we’re seeing the good news on the economy.”

He was apparently referring to a report due out Thursday on third-quarter GDP, which could ease fears of a recession after two straight quarters of contraction in the economy.

Voters so far are not feeling optimistic about the economy this year amid inflation running at 8.2%, near a four-decade high. An NBC News poll released Sunday showed that 71% of voters believe the nation is on the wrong track, and 57% disapprove of the president’s handling of the economy.

Mr. Biden’s job-approval rating is hovering around 42%.

Given all that is at stake in the midterm elections, the president put a brave face for his visit to the DNC.

“Whether we maintain control of the Senate and the House is a big deal. So far we’re running against the tide and we’re beating the tide,” the president said.

Mr. Biden himself is not riding any waves, barely campaigning in person for Democrats who mostly prefer not to be seen with him. His schedule this week calls for him to attend what the White House is calling “virtual political receptions” for Democratic House members from Nevada, for endangered Democratic Rep. Cynthia Axne of Iowa and for Rep. Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania Democrat.

He will fly home to Wilmington on Thursday night and remain there for the weekend, save for a brief trip to nearby Philadelphia on Friday to attend a Democratic Party reception.

Just last week, Mr. Biden insisted that he has requests from up to 18 Democrats who want him to campaign with them. Asked Monday why the president’s travel schedule this week includes no such trips, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president “has a large bully pulpit” no matter where he’s speaking.

“Almost every day, you have seen the president in front of the American people,” she said. “He has been able within the past several weeks to set that national conversation, to be able to talk about what’s at stake. … He’s talked about student debt relief. He’s talked about the economy. He’s talked about infrastructure. He’s talked about abortion.”

Asked whether Mr. Biden will talk about any of those issues while standing on the same stage with actual candidates, Ms. Jean-Pierre replied, “Stay tuned.”

Nile Gardiner, a foreign-policy specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the turmoil in British political leadership “is a relative sea of calm compared to the absolute basket case that is the clueless Biden Presidency.”

“The level of inefficiency, incompetence and mismanagement in the Biden White House is simply staggering,” he said on Twitter.

The president, in an interview with MSNBC that aired over the weekend, said he “has more substantive experience on the issues facing the country, both in foreign policy and domestic policy, than any president ever.”

At the DNC offices on Monday, Mr. Biden warned of dire consequences if Republicans win majorities in the House and Senate.

“They will shut down the government and refuse to pay our bills,” the president told Democratic Party workers. “We, the Democrats, are the ones that are fiscally responsible. Let’s get that straight now.”

He also warned that the GOP wants to cut retirement programs.

“I will not cut Social Security,” he said to loud cheers and applause amid chants of “Let’s Go, Joe!”

Democrats have been worrying openly about their prospects of holding the White House in 2024, given Mr. Biden’s job-approval ratings even before the midterm elections. Should the party lose the House and Senate, the calls for a new candidate such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom to replace Mr. Biden will only grow louder.

The president told MSNBC that he intends to run again but hasn’t made a final decision.

“Once I make that judgment, a whole series of regulations kick in and … I treat myself as a candidate from that moment on,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s my intention – my intention to run again. And we have time to make that decision.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report.



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