Do you feel better off than four years ago? Dems think so, GOP disagrees

Republicans say they have a good argument to make when it comes to this classic election question: Are you better off than you were four years ago? 

Inflation is high, crime is up, stocks are flat or falling and immigration is out of control, GOP operatives say. 

But Democrats — and even some Republicans — argue emphatically that Americans in 2024 will feel they are much better off than they were four years ago, when the country was suffering through the pandemic in the final year of Donald Trump’s presidency.

They say many Americans will remember the Trump presidency as among the darkest times in U.S. history and point out his four years in office included two impeachments — the second over a riot at the Capitol.

“Good luck with that argument,” said Democratic strategist Christy Setzer. “Personally, I'd think voters remember the Trump years as a time of constant anxiety, chaos and cruelty — hence voting him out.”

To be sure, the are you better off argument has some pluses for the GOP. But it may also be a double-edged sword, inviting call-backs to Trump even as he is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination next year.  

“It's an invitation to run with Trump, whether or not he’s on the ticket,” said Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, who opposes the former president. 

“It’s not a winning strategy for the Republican Party,” Del Percio added. “It’s looking backwards.”

Biden’s poll numbers have been underwater for months and a Gallup poll out this week showed that voters disapprove of his handling of foreign affairs, energy policy and the environment. When it comes to the key issue of the economy, only 32 percent of those surveyed approve of Biden’s performance.

A Real Clear Politics average of national polls this week showed just 28 percent believe the country is headed in the right direction. 

Republicans see Biden’s weaknesses as an opportunity to draw a contrast. They say they have a good argument to make that the country was on more solid footing before Biden took office.

“In just over two years, Biden has tanked the economy, opened up our borders, embarrassed America on the world stage, worsened a supply chain crisis, and stoked the coals of division in our country,” said Republican National Committee spokesperson Emma Vaughn. “Americans are less safe, and their paychecks are worth less as a result of Biden’s reckless policies.

“Come 2024 voters will send him packing home to Delaware for good,” she said. 

Even Republicans who are desperate to see Biden lose next year are hesitant to talk about the Trump era and urged party operatives not to make the comparison. 

“I don’t think people really want to go back to the Trump years because they were so tumultuous,” said Republican strategist John Feehery.

He and other Republicans say there is a case to be made in pointing to Biden’s flaws — from inflation to the border — as a way to make the case that the country needs to move in a different direction. 

“He’s out of touch, barely cognizant and that’s why his poll numbers are so low,” Feehery said. “Not only is he from the past but his ideas are from the past. They need to make that connection to his view of the world.” 

One Republican strategist said the comparison between Biden and Trump is a good one to make “because at the end of the day, the biggest issue will be the rising cost of groceries and the inability to pay soaring bills.” 

“Even if things seemed not so great under Trump with all his shenanigans and bullshit, this election is going to be about the economy, period,” the strategist said. 

GOP candidates are taking issue with some of Trump’s positions.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to announce a bid for the presidency in the coming months, has sought to undermine Trump’s handling of COVID-19 and lockdowns during 2020. 

“You take a crisis situation like Covid, the good thing about it is that when you’re an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you’ve got to steer that ship,” DeSantis said in January. “And the good thing is that people are able to render a judgment on that: whether they re-elect you or not.” 

But Democrats say they will win any argument that compares Biden’s tenure to Trump’s. Biden, they say, helped bring the nation back from a deadly pandemic and an economy that was quickly tanking as a result. 

They also tout the record job growth under Biden and highlight his legislative wins.

“If Republicans overall election strategy is to compare the Trump presidency to Biden, then who am I to stop them from handing Democrats the White House for another four years?” said Democratic strategist Rodell Mollineau.

Biden’s strategy on Trump indictment? Get out of the way 

If former President Trump is indicted this week, the White House is expected to employ a simple strategy: Get out of the way.  

As a Trump indictment over the alleged Stormy Daniels hush-money scheme looms from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the White House has publicly been mum.  

Privately, aides and allies said that was an intentional strategy to let the news speak for itself while pointing to the importance of accountability and rule of law.  

“The White House doesn’t have to do much here,” said one Biden ally who is close to the president’s team. “They need to acknowledge that it’s a serious legal matter and then leave it up to the courts.”  

Allies to President Biden say they are aware that Trump’s team will inevitably turn the indictment into a political issue, suggesting that Bragg, a Democrat with connections to the president, is conducting another "witch hunt.”  

Indeed, Trump and his supporters have already been doing so, and their effort went into hyperdrive on Saturday when the former president claimed to his followers on Truth Social that he expected to be arrested on Tuesday.  

On Sunday, Trump took to the social media platform again and accused Biden of having “stuffed” the district attorney’s office that is probing the case with officials from Department of Justice. 

“Biden wants to pretend he has nothing to do with the Manhattan D.A.’s Assault on Democracy when, in fact, he has ‘stuffed’ the D.A.’s Office with Department of Injustice people, including one top DOJ operative from D.C,” Trump wrote on the site without mentioning to whom he was referring.   

He also took aim at Bragg, who he said is “taking his orders from D.C.”  

Democrats say Biden should not feel compelled to “get in the mud,” as one major Democratic donor put it. 

The president can create a contrast with Trump by keeping his head down as the news around the indictment ensues.  

“It’s the right thing to do, the opposite of what Trump would have done, and presents the split screen of Trump’s crimes with Biden delivering for the American people,” said Democratic strategist Josh Schwerin. “There is nothing Trump wants more than to have more reason to falsely claim that his legal troubles are a political attack rather than the rule of law.”  

At the White House briefing on Monday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre refrained from speaking about Trump’s case, citing “an ongoing investigation.  

“We do not comment on any ongoing investigations from here,” Jean-Pierre said. “We’ve been very consistent on that.”  

Ultimately, Democrats and Biden’s team hope the get-out-of-way strategy will accomplish another goal: It will divide Republicans ahead of a pivotal GOP primary race, in which Trump faces competition from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to run for the White House, and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who is already in the race. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence and others are also expected to join the GOP primary.   

“Republicans are going to be split — some will defend Trump, others will seek his base without embracing him,” said Basil Smikle, the former executive director of the New York State Democratic Party who serves as the director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College. “Both present a good foil for Democrats and Biden.”  

So far, Republicans have walked a fine line on the possible impeachment.  

On Monday, DeSantis held a press conference where he attacked Bragg, calling him a “Soros-funded prosecutor” while accusing him of “weaponizing” the Manhattan district attorney’s office.  

But at the same time, the governor, who did not mention Trump by name, slapped the former president when he said he doesn’t “know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair.” 

“I can’t speak to that,” DeSantis added pointedly.  

Democrats expect that tone to continue from the Florida governor — and other Republican rivals — as the presidential race heats up.  

In that scenario, they say, Biden comes out on top.  

“It makes the GOP nomination battle more contentious, which is good for Biden,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.  

In addition, Bannon argued Trump’s potential indictment and trial could galvanize Republicans behind Trump, “who is a lesser threat to Biden than a candidate like DeSantis.”  

While allies expect Biden to largely take a do-nothing approach on the potential indictment, allies cautioned that the strategy could change if protests turn violent, as they did during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. 

“They’re not going to talk about it unless they have to talk about it,” the ally said.  

GOP senators huddle with Trump's team

GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) huddled briefly with Trump's legal team Friday.The two GOP senators were spotted heading into a workspace being used by the former president's lawyers during a brief break in the impeachment trial...
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