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President Biden is set to hold his first formal press conference in months Wednesday afternoon — a day before the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.
The press conference will be the president’s 10th since taking office. Biden has held fewer press conferences than his five predecessors at the same point in their presidencies, having done six news conferences on his own and three jointly with foreign leaders.
He does, however, often take a handful of questions from reporters during his public appearances. And White House press secretary Jen Psaki takes the podium daily for regular press briefings, often with special appearances from administration officials.
In announcing the press conference, Psaki said the president “looks forward to speaking directly to the American people.”
As the president marks 12 months in office, his standing with Americans remains underwater.
Averages of the most recent national polls compiled by both Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight put Biden’s approval at 42% and disapproval at 52%.
Biden’s approval rating hovered in the low to mid 50s during his first six months in the White House. But the president’s numbers started sagging in August in the wake of Biden’s much-criticized handling of the turbulent U.S. exit from Afghanistan and following a surge in COVID-19 cases this summer among mainly unvaccinated people.
The plunge in the president’s approval was also fueled by the surge since the summer in consumer prices and to a lesser degree the surge this year of migrants trying to cross into the U.S. along the southern border with Mexico.
Biden’s approval ratings average has hovered in the low 40s and his disapproval ratings average in the low 50s since mid-October.
But a Quinnipiac University national poll grabbed headlines last week when it measured the president’s approval at just 33%. A White House memo described the survey as an “outlier.”
There’s continued cause for concern once you get past the top lines in the recent surveys. Biden’s approval on most major issues is also underwater in recent polling, and he’s seen deterioration with key voting blocs.
Tony Fabrizio, the longtime Republican pollster who conducted surveys for Trump’s 2016 and 2020 campaigns, recently pointed to Biden’s “absolute collapse of support among independents, which were the backbone of his victory in ’20,” as well as “the collapse among Hispanic voters.”
The approval rating is a key indicator of a president’s political strength nationwide and clout to get things done in Washington. And Biden’s subpar numbers are no ally to the president as he continues to struggle to pass key elements of his agenda, such as his party’s sweeping human infrastructure and climate change spending package and the Democrats’ wide-ranging election reform bill.
The presidential approval rating has also long been a much-watched indicator ahead of the midterm elections, and Biden’s flagging numbers could spell major trouble for the Democrats as they try to hold onto their razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate in the 2022 elections.
Biden’s numbers lag behind recent predecessors at this point in their presidencies. Former President George W. Bush stood at 80%-15% in January 2002, with his numbers skyrocketing as the country rallied around the government in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Former Presidents Obama and Clinton stood at 50%-45% and 54%-38%, respectively, one year into their presidencies.
The only recent president whose poll numbers were worse than Biden’s at this point during a White House tenure was former President Trump, who stood at 40%-55% in the Real Clear Politics average one year into his presidency.
The Democrats suffered disastrous midterm elections in 1994 under Clinton and in 2010 under Obama, but both Democratic presidents rebounded and won reelection two years later. House Republicans were shellacked in the 2018 midterms during Trump’s presidency, losing their eight-year-long majority in the chamber. But Trump wasn’t able to rebound and lost reelection to Biden two years later.
John Anzalone, the veteran Democratic pollster who conducted surveys for Biden in the 2020 campaign, told Fox News that “we all know that voters are in a sour mood.”
But Anzalone, who along with Fabrizio conducts polling for the Wall Street Journal, added that “the reality is there’s no modern president who’s had the confluence of challenges like Joe Biden. People tend to reward leaders who’ve gone through challenges and handled them well and got out of it.”