Biden Wants to Sell His Economic Plan to Voters. He Faces One Big Problem

Joe Biden’s effort to sell his economic agenda has a problem: Its name.

(Bloomberg) — Joe Biden’s effort to sell his economic agenda has a problem: Its name.

The White House is embracing “Bidenomics” — originally coined by critics to deride the president’s policies — to instead promote his stewardship of the economy. Biden has co-opted the name, linking it to policies he says are creating jobs and lowering costs for Americans.

The strategy copies fellow Democrat Barack Obama, who used the Obamacare label intended to mock his health care law to herald its benefits.

Like Obamacare, which had popular provisions even if people didn’t like the whole package, the Bidenomics brand is less favored than its parts. And similar to how Obamacare faced disapproval before it became broadly popular, Democrats are optimistic Biden’s pitch can eventually reverse his low marks on the economy.

The challenge for Biden is doing that quickly — with a second term on the line.

“This feels a lot just like Obamacare,” said Jim Messina, a former Obama aide charged with selling the Affordable Care Act 13 years ago. “The moment you put the name Biden on it, half the country is going to love it and half the country will not.”

Republican pollster David Winston was on the other side of the Obamacare battle, engineering former House Speaker John Boehner’s messaging, which helped Republicans pick up 63 seats in the 2010 midterm elections. Winston said Biden’s message risks not connecting with what voters are experiencing on issues like inflation.

“Even if inflation comes down, people aren’t seeing it,” Winston said. “Prices aren’t going down. They’re just going up more slowly.”

Read More: What Is Bidenomics? It Depends on Your Point of View: QuickTake

The president is hopscotching the US to connect Bidenomics with its underlying policies on infrastructure spending, manufacturing jobs, lowering health-care costs, and ending “junk fees.” On Tuesday, he traveled to Wisconsin, a 2024 battleground.

“If you even gave a small summary of what is in the Biden legislative packages, all of those things are incredibly popular,” Biden pollster John Anzalone said. “It’s the awareness level that’s really low.”

Biden has acknowledged his message is sometimes muddled. He has said he wished the Inflation Reduction Act, a climate, health and tax package that’s a core pillar of Bidenomics, was named something else.

“I wish I hadn’t called it that, because it has less to do with reducing inflation than it does to do with dealing with providing for alternatives that generate economic growth,” he said.

Earlier: Biden Gets Little Credit on Economy Amid Bidenomics Push

Polls show Biden’s handling of the economy dragging down his approval rating, even as indicators suggest inflation is moderating and an election-year recession less likely.

A July CBS News poll found 59% of Americans said they had heard not much or nothing at all about Bidenomics. Half of those who had heard something associated it with higher inflation and higher taxes, even though individual tax rates are unchanged and the law expanded tax credits for health care, green energy and electric vehicles.

Celinda Lake, a pollster who worked on Biden’s 2020 campaign, said she’s surveyed voters on the biggest legislative accomplishments making up Bidenomics: The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act. “Only a third really know about it, and I think some of them are lying,” she said.

“It’s amazing how hard it is to penetrate,” Lake said. “You have to be on message every day.”

Even overwhelming majorities of Republicans favor provisions that lower health costs and invest in manufacturing, according to Democratic pollster Navigator Research. The problem is most people don’t believe the Inflation Reduction Act does any of those things, said Navigator pollster Bryan Bennett.

“There’s a credibility gap,” Bennett said. “If you were the Biden team you would probably look at that and say that we probably don’t have much of a choice but to engage on this issue.”

The Affordable Care Act had popular provisions, including requiring insurers to cover preexisting conditions and allowing college-aged adults to remain on parents’ plans. 

Obama played up those aspects, using Obamacare to rally supporters even as opponents employed the label to express criticism. Americans now hold a favorable opinion of the law, at 59%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but that didn’t happen until Obama left office, six years after signing it.

“It took a long time to get the politics to catch up,” Messina said.

With the economy central to Biden’s reelection, he has under 15 months to change perceptions.

Biden is gambling that his policies will spur wages to rise more quickly than costs. But the risk is voters won’t notice that, according to Benjamin Salisbury, director of research at Height Capital Markets.

“All the polling suggests that they don’t yet see the benefit, but they are worried about the costs,” he said.

But Kevin Munoz, a Biden campaign spokesman, said Americans “know that there’s a choice between an agenda that helps them, and one that only serves the ultra-rich.”   

–With assistance from Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

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