By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — States and municipalities around the country on Tuesday will host their first general elections since President Donald Trump left office, testing the new political landscape after Mr. Trump’s exit and possibly setting up a referendum on the Democratic White House and Congress.
Democrats have been steadily declining in the polls this year. The beginning of November saw President Joe Biden hit his lowest approval rating since taking office, an ill-timed marker for Democrats hoping to win new voters.
FiveThirtyEight, a well-respected national pollster, conducts an ongoing analysis of a collection of national polls. The group reported that President Biden’s approval has remained just above 43% for more than a week.
Mr. Biden fell below 50% approval in August, and his current disapproval rating is at about 51%.
The Real Clear Politics polling average has President Biden at 42.6% approval and 51.9% disapproval.
Congress fares even worse, at least in part due to Democrats disappointed about the delay in passing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. A Gallup poll released last week reported that Congress’ approval also hit a new low for 2021, down to 21% in October.
“While still better than the 15% approval rating at the end of the divided 116th Congress in December, today’s reading is well below this year’s high point of 36%,” Gallup said. “That was measured after Congress passed the latest COVID-19 economic relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.”
An NBC News poll released Monday grabbed headlines nationwide. The poll reports that 71% of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, with 54% disapproving of Biden, an increase from 39% disapproval in April.
“Our third-quarter survey for CNBC finds the American public in dark days: President Biden’s approval ratings are down, worries about the economy are rising, and inflation is making life difficult,” said Hart Research Associates, one group that helped conduct the poll.
Those numbers can trickle down to local races, motivating Republicans and Independents to rebuff Democratic control and depressing enthusiasm among Democratic voters who spent the last four years determined to stop Mr. Trump.
Democrat-led Virginia may be foremost among those state elections. Democratic candidate and former governor Terry McAuliffe is in a statistical tie and is even behind in some polls against Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin.
New Jersey also has a gubernatorial election, though it is expected to remain blue. However, flipping states like Virginia and closing the gap in reliably blue areas could embolden Republicans heading into the midterm elections next year.
Republican wins could also let the air out of Biden’s agenda as he struggles to pass an additional several trillion dollars in federal spending.
A key point Republicans have hammered and will likely continue to emphasize into the new year is inflation.
Recent federal inflation data show the fastest rising inflation in 30 years. Some goods, like used cars and gasoline, have seen their prices skyrocket.
Inflation, joblessness and worries over federal spending all raise concerns over the economy, an issue Republicans are eager to talk about.
In the same NBC News poll, the surveyed voters favored Republicans’ handling of the economy by 18 points and on inflation by 24 points.
Mr. Youngkin has emphasized inflation and the rising cost of goods and services that come along with it in campaign advertising.
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.