(CNN)It’s been a very rough last two months for President Joe Biden, plagued by a disastrous end to the war in Afghanistan and the Delta variant of the coronavirus rampaging through the unvaccinated.
Those twin developments have badly eroded Americans’ view of the President, according to new Gallup numbers released this week. Biden’s job approval now sits at just 43% while a majority — 53% — disapprove of how he has handled his duties.It’s been a rapid descent for Biden. As late as June, 56% approved of how he was doing while only 40% disapproved. The decline began in July (50% approve/46% disapprove) and in August roughly the same number approved (49%) as disapproved (48%). The decline in Biden’s numbers is almost entirely attributable to independents souring on him. In June, 55% of those not affiliated with either party approved of how Biden was handling the presidency. Today that number sits at just 37%. As Gallup’s Megan Brenen notes: “Two-thirds of Biden’s slide among independents since he took office has occurred in the past three months.” (Partisans have been remarkably consistent; Roughly 9 in 10 Democrats approved of Biden’s presidency while single-digit percentages of Republicans feel the same.)Read MoreBiden’s struggles of late put him in company he would prefer not to keep: Only Donald Trump — at 37% — among recent presidents had a lower approval rating at this point of their presidency. Both Barack Obama (52%) and George W. Bush (51%) had the approval of a majority of the country in September of their first year in the White House.
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Biden’s polling ebb could not come at a worse time for his presidency. Right now, Congress is embroiled in a series of critical fights — most notably over a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and a $3.5 trillion budget bill, which, taken together, form the crux of Biden’s entire first-term agenda. There’s also consternation — and confusion — over raising the debt limit and funding the government.All of these crises would be more manageable for Biden if he was in a stronger position with the American public. If, say, he was at 55% or even 60% approval, Biden’s ability to cajole warring moderate and liberal forces in the House would be significantly higher. All politicians are aware of the leverage I(or lack thereof) that a president has over them — and act accordingly.The other purely political problem that Biden’s declining numbers creates is that Democrats in swing districts and states start to get very jumpy when they see the incumbent president of their party struggling in the polls. History tells us that the first midterm election for a president’s party is usually tough for his party in Congress. And that goes double when the president’s approval rating is below 50% — as Biden’s is now.What that likely leads to is individual Democratic members looking for ways to break with Biden in hopes of convincing their voters that there is some significant distance between themselves and Biden. (Side note: This attempted distancing almost never works.)All of it is bad for Biden and his party in Congress. The confluence of his faltering poll numbers with the single most critical week, legislatively speaking, of his presidency creates a vicious cycle that makes a positive outcome for Democrats less and less likely.