A pro-Biden super PAC has issued a dire warning to Democrats: Voters are largely clueless about the big policy measures they’ve passed and on which their 2022 electoral hopes rest.
The message, delivered in a late June strategy memo by Unite the Country, advised Democrats that they could face midterm losses unless they took a more aggressive approach in touting the president’s $2 trillion Covid-relief bill and defining his infrastructure proposal.
“Unfortunately, the [American Rescue Plan] and these other proposals remain worryingly undefined in the public consciousness and voters are primed with misinformation that helps Republican justify their opposition,” the memo reads. “Democrats must communicate much more aggressively to define success for the ARP and to explain why it is important to pass the American Jobs Act and the American Families Plan.”
The memo, obtained by POLITICO, was based off of a series of focus groups conducted in battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And its findings about the state of the current political landscape are among the more sober issued by the president’s allies to date.
They not only sow doubt in President Joe Biden’s ability to avoid the typical losses the party in the White House faces during a president’s first midterm election, but serve as a reminder of the difficulties that come in translating policy initiatives into political successes. Having pledged to avoid the missteps of the Obama years — in which officials acknowledged that they failed to sell their stimulus bill to the public — the Unite the Country memo suggests that Biden may be succumbing to the same fate. Though the president and Cabinet members have visited specific states touting their plans, and ad campaigns have been launched to supplement those efforts, the message isn’t reaching middle America.
“Even among voters who have a favorable view of Joe Biden, there is a real lack of information about the specifics of the Biden Agenda. Their information about Biden often falls in line with internet disinformation, and Fox-News driven spin — specifically, both groups pointed to the small percentage of foreign assistance in the American Rescue Plan as reasons to oppose it,” the memo reads. “Many were concerned that the good things in the Biden infrastructure/families [plans] that had wide-scale support would get screwed up in the lawmaking progress.”
“The mood in the country is still overwhelmingly anxious,” the memo went on. “More voters are expressing cautious optimism about the way things are going in the country these days, especially compared to this point a year ago, but the majority of voters remain overwhelmingly concerned.”
Unite the Country spent nearly $50 million on pro-Biden presidential efforts in 2020. In the lead up to the 2022 midterms, it has laid out specific voting groups whom it thinks should be targeted. They include suburban college-educated voters who supported Biden in 2020, Black voters who support Biden but are less likely to turn out in midterm elections, and white working-class voters, particularly women.
“We’re putting together a plan for the fall leading into next year, which obviously will be a big year for most,” Amanda Loveday, a Unite the Country senior adviser, said of the PAC’s efforts to spend in battleground states. The PAC does not yet know its spending plan but has already sunk cash into battleground state ads promoting Biden’s Covid relief agenda, including a seven-figure media buy in March.
Unite the Country also recently started a 501(c)(4) arm, which will advocate for Biden’s agenda. That’s on top of efforts from other groups, like Building Back Together, a separate pro-Biden group which recently launched an ad campaign in swing states promoting the president’s agenda.
Loveday said the particular challenge this year is helping voters “reset” and adjust to a new political atmosphere after the Trump era.
“You’re not only having to talk to people about those successes, you also have to clean up the mess from the last four years,” she said.
The United the Country memo had some welcome findings for Biden in addition to the warnings. Their focus groups found strong support for cutting taxes by expanding the child tax credit, with the PAC describing the policy as “a home run even among the most hard-core” Trump supporters. Those queried also supported corporate tax hikes and were concerned that corporations didn’t pay their fair share — a point that Biden has made time and again and a proposal he is likely to incorporate in a Democrat-only spending plan to come alongside the bipartisan infrastructure proposal.
Biden received the highest marks for his handling of the Covid pandemic, including those who said the president had effectively rolled out the vaccine and helped drive down the infection rate.
“He hasn't told anyone to inject bleach yet,” one focus group member, identified only as “white non-college union man” from Pennsylvania said. “He’s doing pretty well … [getting] vaccines to everyone.”
The focus groups included white, college-educated women from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who voted for Biden, and white college-educated men from the Rust Belt that included 25 percent Trump supporters. They also took in the opinions of Black women from Georgia — outside of the Atlanta area — who voted for Biden; Black men from the Rust Belt who voted for Biden and white non-college-educated women from the Rust Belt.
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