The White House is developing a plan to refocus President Joe Biden’s economic message, so that in next month’s State of the Union address, he emphasizes more of the best political weapon and weapon against Americans' anxiety: empathy.
According to administration officials, the plan is to have Biden emphasize that he understands American's economic pain, especially due to inflation. This will help to offset his recent attempts to get credit for policies the White House considers to be successful.
Officials said that the shift is a result of Biden's recognition by his aides, that Americans don't want to be rewarded for his signature accomplishments, such as bipartisan infrastructure legislation, if they're not convinced he understands them day-to-day struggles.
A senior administration official stated that people won't hear about the accomplishments of the president if they don’t believe he understands that inflation is a problem and that rising gas prices are a concern. "Covid" was the reason for the anxiety and uncertainty.
According to the official, "for people hear the argument about accomplishments," Biden must "make clear that he understands and is working to bring down prices."
Officials said that White House aides are considering different formats for Biden’s events to better showcase his ability to connect with people.
As Democrats try to figure out how to present themselves in November's midterm elections in which rising consumer prices as well as the ongoing pandemic are the main anchors of their political fortunes, they are creating a new economic message. The White House views the March 1 State of the Union address as an opportunity to show Biden's empathy and set the tone for his party as the midterm elections begin.
Biden's Thursday trip to Ohio is an opportunity for him to road-test some themes from the early drafts of his prime-time address. Officials said that Biden will continue to travel outside Washington after his speech next month. This will include Vice President Kamala Harris, and a variety of Cabinet officials. Officials said that some of the headlines for Biden will be different from those he has done so far.
The senior administration official stated that they are always considering what the events could look like so that he can talk to people directly.
Biden's search to find a Supreme Court nominee, and the crisis within Ukraine have taken up most of his attention over the past few weeks. However, preparations for his first State of the Union address are "heavily underway", according to one official. Mike Donilon was Biden's top strategist and spent last weekend at Camp David in Maryland working on the latest draft.
Officials said that while Biden will still be proud of his policies, the victory lap will be dampened by his growing recognition that not everyone is seeing the results. It's a continuation of a political axiom Biden often repeated from his father: Americans do not expect government to solve all of their problems but they do want their leaders understand them.
Biden's allies outside the White House are intensifying their efforts to spread his economic message. Building Back Together, a pro-Biden advocacy group has spent more that $25 million on paid advertisement -- primarily on the economy.
Executive Director Danielle Melfi stated that while there is still much to be done to maintain wages and drive down prices, the president has been laser-focused to deliver for working-class and middle-class families.
Biden's advisers know that empathy is one of his greatest political talents. Biden and his team quickly downplayed inflation's impact when it first became a major problem last year. They called it "transitory" while attributing its short-term effects to supply chain problems and pandemic-related disruptions.
According to a poll by Quinnipiac University, Americans say that inflation is their number one concern. When asked to name the most pressing problem facing the country, 27% of respondents chose inflation. Then came immigration at 12% and the coronavirus epidemic at 10%.
Recently, the White House acknowledged that higher prices will continue to be a problem through 2022. Biden is now adding a personal touch to his discussions of the topic.
Biden spoke last week in Virginia's swing district in front of banners that read "Lowering costs for Families" and proposed legislation to lower prescription drug prices, but also acknowledged other financial stressors.
He said, "I know that food prices have risen and we are working to bring them down." "I grew up in a family that saw the pump prices rise, and you could feel it. And I understand."
Officials hesitated to reveal what new initiatives Biden would present on March 1. However, they said that the policymaking process remains active. The challenge will be to discuss the Build Back Better legislation that most Democrats admit is dead.
Covid-19 is another important variable. Officials are awaiting a review of masking and any other guidance from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prior to the end of the month. Biden has not addressed the coronavirus directly since his first year of office. He had made weekly comments about the pandemic throughout that time. Officials cited recent comments from his Covid team to point out a shift.
"We share the same goal: To get to a place where Covid-19 doesn't disrupt our daily lives, and a time when we can prevent, treat, and protect against it," Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator said Wednesday.