It’s the rare poll that makes an entire party sit up and take notice. The new Iowa poll is one of those polls.
Just 31% of Iowans approved of how Joe Biden is handling his duties as president while a whopping 62% disapprove. Biden’s disapproval number is below the lowest ever measured by ace pollster J. Ann Selzer for former presidents Donald Trump (35%) and Barack Obama (36%).
“This is a bad poll for Joe Biden, and it’s playing out in everything that he touches right now,” Selzer told the Des Moines Register.
Biden’s approval on pulling American troops out of Afghanistan stands at a meager 22%. Approval for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic is now just 36% among Iowans.
This poll is rightly understood as a blaring red alarm for not just Biden but especially down-ballot Democrats – in Iowa and elsewhere – who will be running in the 2022 midterms.
While Iowa is not the pure swing state that it was in, say, 2000, it remains a place where Democrats can and do win – both in statewide elections and in congressional districts. Democrats, as recently as 2020, controlled three of the state’s four House seats although Republicans won both the first and second districts back last November. And both are considered Democratic re-takeover targets in 2022 – depending, of course, on what the congressional map winds up looking like.
If Biden’s numbers are anywhere close to this bad in other swing states – and districts — Democrats’ hopes of holding onto their very narrow three-seat House majority are somewhere close to nonexistent.
While first term, midterm elections are, historically, very difficult for the president’s party in the House, that trend is made far, far worse if the president’s approval rating is below 50%. As Gallup wrote in 2018:
“In Gallup’s polling history, presidents with job approval ratings below 50% have seen their party lose 37 House seats, on average, in midterm elections. That compares with an average loss of 14 seats when presidents had approval ratings above 50%.”
That average is even higher in the wake of the 2018 midterms, where Republicans lost 40 House seats thanks in large part to Donald Trump’s approval ratings being stuck in the low 40s.
The best news out of this poll for Biden and Democrats is that it is September 2021, not September 2022. Which means that Biden – and the Democratic-controlled Congress – have time to turn his numbers around, likely by finding a way to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill and some sort of major budget proposal (although both of those bills have an uncertain path forward at the moment).
But if the President’s numbers in Iowa are anything close to where they are today, it is an absolute disaster for Democrats – and would presage the near-certain loss of a large number of House seats (and their majority) come next November.