Ever since President Joe Biden took office in January, his administration has been quick to respond to the duo of crises thwarting the country’s recovery, as Congress moves swiftly to pass his coronavirus relief bill and as the average number of vaccinations each day have doubted. The speedy handling of the virus and fast vaccine rollout has brewed more optimism among public health experts that life will return back to “normal” within the next year, which would carve a smooth path toward economic recovery, putting Americans back to work and restoring drowned industries that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.
With a platter of leadership successes in squashing the virus and digging the country out of economic turmoil, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris could hold a strong edge if the two take a second crack at winning the White House.
“Given how much public opinion is in favor of a lot of the current Democratic proposals, if we have a strong health and economic recovery, and the coronavirus recovery package has the impact most health and economic experts think it will have, the Democrats should be in a strong position in 2022 and 2024,” Virginia Sapiro, a political science professor at Boston University, said.
Although a lot can happen before the 2024 presidential elections, if Biden and Harris pull off a remarkable recovery for the United States and no other major virus outbreak occurs, then it would be difficult for any form of competition to replace them.
“There is no doubt that if the vaccine rollout proceeds smoothly and the economy rebounds as expected, Biden is likely to benefit in his re-election,” Jacob Long, an assistant professor in journalism and mass communications at the University of South Carolina, said.
Currently, Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan is slowly making its way through Congress, as it’s being tweaked by the Senate and as lawmakers await guidance from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost of the bill and whether it complies with budget reconciliation, a legislative process that Democrats are using so they can jam through the relief without any Republican pushback.
If the big-spending bill passes, then it would help alleviate the financial burden that Americans have faced since the start of the pandemic. The plan includes another one-time direct payment of up to $1,400 for individuals who make up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income, heads of household who make up to $112,500 and married couples who file jointly and earn up to $150,000. The stimulus check gradually declines for individuals with larger incomes. That one-time direct payment is the single largest provision of the package.
Biden’s proposal also features an extension of unemployment benefits until the end of August, where he increases them from $300 per week to $400, as more than nineteen million Americans are still claiming unemployment benefits right now and as the unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent as of February 2021—a figure that’s nearly double what it was pre-pandemic.
The stimulus checks, along with the unemployment bonuses, matters because they enable people to continue pumping money into the economy with the extra government-funded money. This cycle of spending will help push the strain off the current economic state, bringing some normalcy to overall consumer spending, sales, employment and a slew of other economy-related issues.
“If the country is healthy and the economy is booming, that is what they need to win in 2024,” Robert Y. Shapiro, professor and former chair of Columbia University’s political science department, said, referring to Biden and Harris.
Other provisions of the bill include $350 billion for state and local governments; $130 billion for the reopening of K-12 schools; and billions for small businesses, such as the $25 billion set aside for bars and restaurants—an industry that took a major hit due to the pandemic.
Of course, it’s important to note that the federal government’s total debt is a significant looming issue, considering the CBO projected that the federal budget deficit will hit $2.3 trillion in 2021, and the country’s debt will reach 102 percent of the GDP, a small jump from last year. The projection doesn’t include Biden’s $1.9 trillion.
Not only could a potential Biden-Harris 2024 ticket use their efforts in restoring economic sanity to bolster their bid, but also they could champion their efficient coronavirus vaccine rollout.
Biden told reporters on Tuesday, “We’re now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” two months earlier than the July deadline that he said previously. And even public health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he anticipated it to be “open season” for vaccinations over the summer, more specifically in late May or early June. Overall optimism among lawmakers and health experts about adults quickly getting inoculated has grown.
The United States is now averaging 2.01 million shots administered a day as of March 3, more than double the daily average in mid-January and way above Biden’s initial goal to pump one million doses into the arms of Americans, a target that medical professionals were hesitant to stand behind amid a chaotic beginning rollout.
The larger test will be whether state and local hospitals can keep up with the daily average, as several logistical hurdles have sprouted during the initial days of the vaccine rollout that slowed down inoculation efforts.
“Many important questions remain: Will the vaccine manufacturers actually deliver on their promises? Will the federal government ship out the vaccine supply quickly, and support states and localities in actually administering those doses? Will states, counties, and cities be able to handle the rapid rise in distribution? Will new Covid-19 variants affect the efficacy of the vaccines?” Vox’s German Lopez wrote.
Another issue at hand is whether Americans even want to get vaccinated.
But while there remains a spate of challenges and uncertainties at all levels of government, overall, the current rollout ensures that the country is on track to achieve herd immunity soon.
The president also started his White House term with the approval of 61 percent of voters, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll Survey, which was first obtained by The Hill.
Biden’s also seen towering average approval ratings that hover above 50 percent, while former President Donald Trump’s average approval stood at 43.9 percent at this point during his term. Though, former President Barack Obama garnered average approval ratings that stood above 60 percent at the start of his first White House term.
Harris is also seen as a frontrunner for the Democratic presidential candidacy in 2024, if the president chooses not to seek a second term. If he does, however, she’d obviously stick by his side for re-election, an effort that would likely strengthen her bid for the 2028 presidential election.
“His current advantages are that his approval is relatively high, he is currently focused on policies that are popular with voters, and incumbents usually win,” Long said, referring to Biden.
Long noted, however, that he “would not say that [Biden’s] chances [at winning] would be anywhere near 100 percent.”
“The electoral college leaves Biden very little margin for error. The split between the popular vote and electoral college may very well expand further in 2024, meaning Biden may need a national popular vote win of 5 percentage points or more in order to squeak out an electoral college victory. Only once has the margin of popular vote victory been that large since Bill Clinton's re-election,” Long said.
Experts outlined several setbacks that could interfere with the Biden-Harris ticket, including voting laws that the Republican Party is trying to put in place, as well as Biden’s policy-specific vulnerabilities.
“The major hesitation is the large number of states in which Republican legislatures are passing legislation to reduce the ability of American citizens to cast their ballots. These acts tend to work against the voting rights of traditional Democratic voters especially,” Sapiro said.
Marjorie R. Hershey, a professor emerita of political science at Indiana University, also said, “The Republican intention is to compete with Biden-Harris by using Republican control of most state legislatures to pass laws restricting access to the vote, which they believe will drive down turnout of Democratic voters. But their understanding of the literature on voter turnout is limited; higher turnout elections don’t necessarily benefit Democrats. And we’ve seen many instances in which efforts to suppress voting rights end up motivating get-out-the-vote drives by the other party that increase turnout dramatically.”
Shapiro also added that Biden could be “vulnerable” due to his immigration agenda, but noted that the outcome of the midterm elections will be a strong indicator of future Democratic success.
“The Republicans are poised to take back the House and the Senate, given the addition to the GOP base that we saw in 2020 and that they picked up House seats and held very strong in state legislature races,” Shapiro said. “But even if the Democrats have a setback in 2022, the Democrats can still win because of a national recovery, in the same way Clinton and Obama and the Democrats rebounded in 1996 and 2012. If the coronavirus outcome and the economy do not turn out favorable, the Democrats will be hurt.”