LENOX — Dare to say it? The worst of the multispiked COVID pandemic may be behind us, finally. Emphasize … may be.
So, now, we of the worriers can obsess over the economy. Out-of-control inflation, choked supply chains. Congress fiddling and faddling as the early-December disaster of failing to renew the nation’s credit line looms.
Democrats engaged in their periodic circular firing squads as Republicans watch gleefully, anticipating that they can regain control of Congress in 2022 and the White House in 2024 — they already have the Supreme Court.
Plenty to chew and choke on, so, it’s interesting to take the pulse of the public through the looking glass of several respected national polls — even though trusted advisers often counsel against poll-watching.
Here are my top 7 takeaways from just-released polls by Politico-Morning Consult:
7) Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party continues to tighten. Republicans and independents were asked: If the 2024 Republican presidential primary were being held today, for whom would you vote?
Trump came in first, with 47 percent, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (top Trump acolyte) and ex-Vice President Mike Pence, tied at 12 percent. Donald Trump Jr. was chosen by 6 percent, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley and Mitt Romney all tallied with 3 percent, with Liz Cheney at 2 percent. Seven others listed by the pollsters scored 1 percent or 0.
6) Right track or wrong track? Most polls usually find a majority viewing the nation as derailed. Currently, 62 percent of the 2,000 registered voters sampled by Politico/Morning Consult feel that way, while 38 percent see smooth railroading.
5) How do national political figures rate with the public? Those polled could choose more than one whom they view favorably. The results, in percentages: Joe Biden, 47; Kamala Harris, 45; Donald Trump, 41: Pence, 39; Nancy Pelosi, 36; Chuck Schumer, 28; Mitch McConnell, 22; Kevin McCarthy, 22.
4) Whom do you trust more in Congress to handle the economy? Republicans, 45; Democrats, 38; don’t know/no opinion, 17.
3) Democrats remain badly split between their progressive and moderate wings. A CNN poll finds that 75 percent favor the major bill in Congress (the original $3.5 trillion) that expands the social safety net and vigorously attacks climate change, while 20 percent support a scaled-down proposal costing about $2 trillion.
2) Biden’s approval is still treading water: 51 percent disapprove of his job performance; 46 percent approve. Two other polls, from CNN and CBS, show a 50-50 split.
1) Which issues matter most to prospective voters? Note that the economy has emerged as the top concern, by far. The tally, in percentages, choose one: Economy, 36; security (terrorism, foreign policy, immigration/border), 19; seniors’ issues, 13; health care, 12; women’s issues, 6; energy, 4; education, 3; (other, 7).
Bad-for-Biden polls are disparaged by veteran Democratic strategists like Bob Shrum, who tweeted that journalists focus on those results for two reasons: “They want eyeballs and to prove they’re not liberal.” Not surprisingly, White House chief of staff Ron Klain heartily retweeted Shrum’s partisan take.
Be that as it may, or may not, Biden & Co. face a minefield as the costs of gas, groceries, housing, travel, vehicles, natural gas, heating oil, electricity and nearly everything else lift off into parts unknown, and stay there through next year.
Combined with ongoing shortages and supply snafus, which Americans hate, those Republican caricatures of Biden as the Grinch Who Stole Christmas will play well with independents and even some Democrats.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated this week that Americans’ short- and medium-term inflation expectations are at their highest levels since 2013. The International Monetary Fund noted “great uncertainty” and warned that the uncontrolled inflation risk could be worse than anticipated.
“I’m pretty worried,” former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said at a conference. “I think we’re looking at a very difficult situation on inflation.”
Republicans are banking on economic turmoil: “This will be a winter of high gas prices, shortages and inflation because far left lunatics control our government,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
For the White House and Capitol Hill Democrats, the reality is that the direction of the economy, especially inflation, is out of their control.
A recent Republican cartoon depicted Biden as Jimmy Carter II. And we all know, or should remember, how that turned out.
Come to think of it, I should have taken that friendly advice to ignore the polls and the pessimism. Better to be an ostrich? Maybe, especially since National Geographic reports it’s a myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand when they’re scared or threatened. If they did, they would suffocate.
Best to be an eagle, soaring above it all.