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Opinion No wonder Biden had a bounce in his step

President Biden delivers remarks outside the White House on Tuesday. (Evan Vucci/AP)
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President Biden had plenty to crow about during his speech to Congress on Wednesday night, thanks to a rebounding economy and considerable progress in defeating the coronavirus. His spirits were certainly boosted by a recognition that, despite hyperpolarization, a solid majority approve of his job performance and, in many cases, his policy choices draw even higher approval ratings.

The CBS/YouGov poll released before Wednesday’s address showed Biden’s approval at 58 percent with 42 percent disapproval, roughly the same as Morning Consult’s most recent poll (57 approval and 39 percent disapproval). Morning Consult also reports that 67 percent say Biden’s handling the pandemic is going very well or somewhat well, while CBS/YouGov reports that he drew 58 percent approval for his infrastructure plan, 57 percent for his handling of the economy and 55 percent for race relations. By a stunning 77 percent to 23 percent, Americans approve of his withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a further warning sign to Republicans, who have flailed away trying to diminish Biden’s standing, Americans by a 40 percentage-point margin (70 percent to 30 percent) want Republicans to find common ground with him. Sixty-one percent say they are not doing so. Meanwhile, 58 percent think Biden is at least trying to work with congressional Republicans.

The public’s view of him personally remains a solid asset. Some 62 percent consider him presidential and 56 percent see him as knowledgeable, competent and effective. This is in stark contrast to his predecessor, who botched handling of the pandemic. Perhaps the most insightful polling question asked what Americans wanted from politics. The most popular responses were normalcy (41 percent) and steadiness (44 percent).

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Biden’s fundamental decisions have paid off, including going big on plans, acting cordially toward Republicans (even if not reciprocated), bolstering alliances but curtailing military action and coming across as a reasonable, decent human being. But voters’ support is conditional: Biden will be under pressure to pass his two big economic plans, keep out of foreign conflicts, maintain his congenial outlook and guide the economy to recovery.

There is plenty that can go wrong. Fortunately for Biden, Republicans seem to be stumbling in the dark. They are perceived as obstructionists. They oppose very popular policies. They talk about nonsense that does not interest voters (e.g., a mythical ban on red meat) and lack anyone remotely resembling a “happy warrior.” And they are still tethered to the overwhelmingly unpopular and permanently disgraced former president.

There have been plenty of rankings and ratings for Biden’s first hundred days. As Politico reported: “Eighty-five percent of Democrats polled gave Biden an ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade for his first 100 days in office, while 44 percent of independents surveyed gave Biden the same marks. That’s more independent and intraparty support for Biden than former President Donald Trump got in his first 100 days, when just 32 percent of independents surveyed and 72 percent of Republicans polled gave Trump either an ‘A’ or a ‘B.’ ” But when it comes to Republicans, it is hard to deliver anything but failing marks. At some point, they will need a message, an agenda and a respected party leader.

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