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Wake Up To Politics - April 6, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Biden seeks to recapture Obama glow
Wake Up To Politics - April 6, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, April 6, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 216 days away. Election Day 2024 is 944 days away.

Biden seeks to recapture Obama glow

Former President Barack Obama took a break from narrating Netflix nature documentaries on Tuesday to make his first visit to the White House since stepping down on the morning of Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.

“Welcome back to the White House, man,” President Biden exclaimed with a smile, looking at his former boss. “It feels like the good old days.”

Obama was there to join Biden for a celebration of the Affordable Care Act, one of the signature accomplishments of their eight-year administration, as the sitting president announced an update to the original law.

“When President Biden said he was not going to just celebrate the ACA, but also announce actions that would make it even better, I had to show up,” Obama explained.

But Obama’s reappearance also came at a pivotal time. Because 46 could use some backup from 44 right about now.

Biden is simultaneously battling a land war in Europe, historic inflation, an ongoing pandemic, and a surge of migrants streaming across the southern border — all while attempting to stave off expected losses in the midterm elections seven months away.

Former President Obama standing behind President Biden as the latter signed an executive order on Tuesday, the inverse of a familiar image from their time serving together. (White House)

Obama knows a thing or two about bruising midterm cycles: during the 2010 campaign, the first elections after he was sworn in, Democrats lost 63 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate. At the time, he famously called it a “shellacking.”

And that was with a significantly higher approval rating than Biden boasts now: at this point in his presidency, per FiveThirtyEight, Obama had an 48.4% average approval rating. Biden’s stands at 41.4%.

Obama remains much more popular than his former VP.

In fact, according to the polling outfit YouGov, Obama is the most popular Democratic political figure in the country. The former president’s favorability rating stands at 51.5% in YouGov’s tracking polls. Meanwhile, YouGov has Biden’s favorability lingering at 45.3%.

(This could be seen in miniature after the White House event on Tuesday, when a viral video showed Obama mobbed by a throng of well-wishers while Biden was left standing alone.)

But the contrast becomes even more defined when looking at some of the key demographic groups that made up the much-vaunted “Obama coalition.”

Among voters under 30, Obama’s favorability rating is 57.7%; Biden’s is 47.7%. Among women voters, Obama’s favorability is 55.9; Biden’s is 46.8%. Among Black voters, Obama’s favorability is 82.6%; Biden’s is 68.2%.

Obama’s approval rating compared to Biden’s at this point in their presidencies. (FiveThirtyEight)

If Democrats have any hopes of keeping the House and Senate in November, Biden’s numbers would have to look a bit more like Obama’s in those key groups. So, is Tuesday’s event a sign that Obama is dipping his toes back in the political arena?

Maybe. There certainly would be precedent for an ex-president becoming surrogate-in-chief after leaving office: Obama himself dubbed former President Bill Clinton his “Secretary of Explaining Stuff” during the 2012 cycle.

“I’m a private citizen now, but I still take more than a passing interest in the course of our democracy,” Obama said Tuesday.

But there’s also a reason Obama hasn’t returned to the White House until now: Biden has labored to step out of Obama’s shadows since his 2020 bid.

And beneath the friendship bracelet tweets, there is some well-documented tension between the two men — which resurfaced ever so slightly on Tuesday as Biden aides privately groused about Obama jokingly calling him “Vice President Biden.”

Still, according to CNN, Obama does plan to hit the campaign trail for Democratic candidates soon. Along with his wife, he will likely be the party’s most in-demand surrogate — at a time when some Democrats are shying away from appearing with Biden.

As he was leaving the White House on Tuesday, Obama seemed to acknowledge Democrats’ messaging problems, just as fellow party eminence Hillary Clinton did over the weekend.

“We’ve got a story to tell,” Obama said in response to a reporter’s question about the midterms. “We’ve just got to tell it.”

Catch up

What you need to know to start your day.

UKRAINE: The U.S. will announce new sanctions on Russia today along with allies from around the world. The new measures, imposed in response to the atrocities in Bucha, will include a ban on all new investments in Russia and increased sanctions on Russian banks. CBS News

MIDTERMS: Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) announced he would retire on Tuesday after 35 years in office. Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump last year, Upton is the fourth to say they won’t seek re-election. Washington Post

  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), another pro-impeachment Republican who’s stepping down this year, told Wake Up To Politics on Tuesday that the decision for him and Upton was between “not taking on an unwinnable fight, or taking it on and getting crushed.”
  • “It’s the reality of where we are [in the Republican Party],” Kinzinger said, answering a question from WUTP after speaking at Georgetown. “We’re in a moment where if you vote to impeach the president for an insurrection, it’s tough to survive.”

STUDENT LOANS: The Biden administration is planning to extend a pandemic-era pause on federal student loan payments through August 31, officials are set to announce today. CNN

Michigan Rep. Fred Upton (seated, facing the camera) is stepping down from Congress. (Heather Reed / Office of John Boehner)

CONGRESS: Senate Republicans blocked a compromise $10 billion Covid-19 aid package on Tuesday, insisting that Democrats agree to a vote on an amendment reversing the Biden administration’s immigration policy. Associated Press

JANUARY 6: Ivanka Trump answered questions from the House January 6th committee for almost eight hours on Tuesday behind closed doors, just a week after her husband Jared Kushner sat down with the panel for about six hours. NBC News

  • As the January 6th committee debates whether to recommend the Justice Department bring criminal charges against Trump, Kinzinger — a member of the panel — said at Georgetown that he was more focused on ensuring “historic accountability” in the eyes of future generations than necessarily calling for indictments.

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (4:15 pm), delivering remarks at the North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) annual Legislative Conference (12:45 pm), and signing the Postal Service Reform Act into law (4:15 pm).

  • The new law would rescue the U.S. Postal Service from the brink of financial insolvency, by removing the requirement for the agency to pre-fund health care costs for its employees years in advance and having retired postal workers enroll in Medicare instead. The bill passed 79-17 in the Senate and 342-92 in the House.Harris’ day: Swearing in Randi Charno Levine as U.S. ambassador to Portugal (1:50 pm).

    Also at the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (2:30 pm).

    On the Senate agenda: Continuing debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson, voting to confirm James O’Brien as the State Department’s Coordinator for Sanctions Policy.
The House will vote to hold former Trump social media director Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress today. (Gage Skidmore)

On the House agenda: Voting on a resolution to hold former Trump aides Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the House January 6th committee.

  • It will be up to the Justice Department to decide whether or not to bring criminal charges against Navarro and Scavino. The DOJ has yet to bring charges against former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows after the House voted to hold him in contempt, creating tension between the January 6th panel and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
  • The House will also vote on the Ukraine Invasion War Crimes Deterrence and Accountability Act, which would require the State Department to collect evidence of war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
  • Plus, the chamber will vote on the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability (BURMA) Act, which would impose sanctions against military leaders in Burma for their 2021 coup and send humanitarian assistance to the country.

Also on the Hill: The CEOs of some of the largest U.S. oil companies — including ExxonMobil, BP America, Chevron, and Shell USA — will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee (10:30 am).

  • Democrats are expected to hammer the oil CEOs on rising gas prices, accusing them of price gouging. Republicans, meanwhile, have called Trump-era national security adviser H.R. McMaster to testify at the hearing; he will likely pin the blame for the prices increases on President Biden and his energy policies.

At the Supreme Court: No action today.

Links to watch for yourself: Biden speech Biden bill signingWH briefingSenate session House sessionGas prices hearing

Before I go...

Here’s a wild story: A wild fox was spotted running around the Capitol grounds on Tuesday.

It was all good fun — jokes abounded, and a Twitter account was even created for it — until the fox started biting people headed into the Capitol, including Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA).

“I didn’t see it and all of a sudden I felt something lunge at the back of my leg,” Bera told Punchbowl News, describing the attack as “unprovoked.”

The fox was eventually captured by the Capitol Police, which tweeted out this photo:

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe