More than 19 million people tuned in to watch in prime time, and President Joe Biden claimed Friday that the proceedings, led by Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Liz Cheney (R-WY), will be “important” for helping the public process what led to the Capitol riot.
“It’s important the American people understand what truly happened and to understand that the same forces that led January 6 remain at work today,” he said in Los Angeles before conceding that he did not catch the opening hearing himself. “We can unite and defend this nation, Democrat and Republican, [to] allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of our democracy.”
Multiple Democratic officials have told the Washington Examiner that the president and the party will seek to reframe both the 2022 midterm elections and the 2024 general elections as a choice between Biden’s plan to “build back better” in efforts to reunite the “soul” of the nation and the “ultra-MAGA” agenda put forth by former President Donald Trump and his allies.
One such official pointed to the Jan. 6 hearings as an opportunity for Democrats to yet again starkly contrast Biden with “the former guy.”
On the other hand, Republicans are already messaging around Biden’s decision not to watch the hearing.
“Maybe he just wasn’t interested in a rigged hearing choreographed by a T.V. executive with House Democrats reading from a teleprompter. Especially now that it’s clear that the hearing’s primary purpose was to drive Democrat fundraising,” Republican National Committee spokesman Tommy Pigott said in a statement. “Democrats next primetime hearing should be on the baby formula shortage, or gas prices, or the border crisis, or the opioid crisis, or inflation. We won’t hold our breath. It’s clear Democrats just don’t care about those problems or the Americans suffering from them.”
Biden’s approval ratings have plummeted over the past year. The latest Morning Consult poll showed just 39% of respondents positively rating Biden’s job performance. Those marks put Biden dead even with Trump’s approval numbers during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Worse, polling in recent months indicates that voters are primarily concerned with the economy and security-related issues, two areas that, by and large, have nothing to do with Trump or the Jan. 6 riot.
Biden’s best efforts to address those areas have been largely unsuccessful since entering office. The economy has seen record dips in unemployment through Biden’s first 18 months in office, yet rampant inflation has rapidly outpaced real wage growth.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday morning that consumer prices jumped 8.6% in May compared to the year prior. The administration has sought to pin this inflation on the war in Ukraine, dubbing the skyrocketing costs of energy products and food “Putin’s price hike.” Yet rent and other housing costs also jumped 5.2% last month, the largest single-year increase since 1987.
However, Republicans, and a growing number of Democrats, frequently point to Biden’s immigration policies as the driving factor behind unseasonably high illegal migration. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris planned to make northern migration a key component of the ninth Summit of the Americas, yet Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, and Honduras, four of the five countries accounting for the most migrants encountered by the Department of Homeland Security at nonports of entry, all did not attend the summit.
Furthermore, Biden is heading into the midterm elections facing down a clear enthusiasm gap among the Democratic base, which follows repeated failed attempts to enact progressive wish list policies on voting rights, tax reform, climate justice, and more.
Democrats, led by Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, could land a huge win by securing a bipartisan agreement on “commonsense” gun reform, yet according to lead minority negotiator Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, that legislation is expected to include very little of the president’s own proposals.
Meanwhile, Biden has recently expressed frustration about his inability to “communicate” his own successes to voters.
Asked during a Wednesday interview with Jimmy Kimmel about his current polling, Biden said Democrats “just got to make sure we don’t give up.”
The president claimed that “there’s a lot of major things we’ve done, but what we haven’t done is we have not been able to communicate it in a way that is,” at which point Kimmel added, “That’s perfect.”
“One of the things that is very difficult now is to have, even with notable exceptions, even with really good reporters, they have to get some quick clicks on [the] nightly news. So instead of asking the question — anyway, it just — everything gets sensationalized,” Biden concluded.