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‘Grocery store voters’ aren’t buying Bidenomics

Plus, how the Kevin McCarthy speakership fiasco could impact the presidential race

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President Joe Biden speaks about the economy on  Sept. 14, 2023, in Largo, Md.

President Joe Biden speaks about the economy at Prince George’s Community College on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, in Largo, Md.

Alex Brandon, Associated Press

This article was first published in the On the Trail 2024 newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox on Tuesday and Friday mornings here.

Good morning and welcome to On the Trail 2024, the Deseret News’ campaign newsletter. I’m Samuel Benson, Deseret’s national political correspondent.

In case you missed it: my profile of an evangelical power broker who’s training pastors — over 16,000 of them — to get their congregants to vote. His pastors have held private meetings with Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy and several other Republican presidential candidates. Read more here.

The latest from the Deseret News’ 2024 election coverage:

The Big Idea

‘Grocery store voters’ aren’t buying Bidenomics

On a radio hit Tuesday, William Ruger — president of the American Institute for Economic Research — used a term I’d never heard before: “grocery store voters.”

“I think that these folks are going to matter a lot in 2024, even if inflation is down from highs,” he said.

Ruger, who taught at BYU years ago, might be on to something. Food prices saw a bigger cumulative jump last year than at any time since the 1980s. Call it “sticker shock” or whatever you want, but Democrats are becoming increasingly wary of calling it “Bidenomics.”

President Joe Biden has built his reelection bid, at least partially, on an economic message. In many areas, he has the credentials: The inflation rate has dropped from over 9% in June 2022 to 3.7%. The unemployment rate has dropped to pre-pandemic levels. Low-wage workers have seen the biggest jump in wage gains. And on Friday, he announced 336,000 added jobs in September, more than double the anticipated growth.

“It’s no accident, it’s Bidenomics,” the president said at a press conference announcing the job numbers. “We’re growing the economy from the middle out, the bottom up and not the top down.”

But to the everyday voter, this isn’t all that obvious. Interest rates are at record highs. Gas and groceries are expensive. And Americans, overwhelmingly, view Biden’s record on the economy to be poor. Over and over, polling shows this. According to a poll last month, 70% of Americans think the economy is getting worse, not better. When those same voters were asked if they trust Biden or Trump to improve the economy, 47% said Trump and 36% said Biden.

In a Marquette University poll released this week, the difference is 52% for Trump and 28% for Biden. And even on the issues that Biden has declared victory on, his numbers are abysmal: Voters trust Trump over Biden to handle inflation (50% to 27%) and job creation (49% to 30%).

Perhaps the most discouraging for Biden? While he has pushed an economic message as his foray into 2024, voters aren’t paying much attention. When asked how much news they’ve heard about the unemployment rate, three-fourths of voters say “a little” or “nothing at all,” and half say the same about the inflation rate.

Winning an election on an issue that people seem to be ignoring is a hard sell. Some Democrats are picking up on this. A sample of recent Biden allies encouraging the president to back off the Bidenomics message:

  • Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev.: “We have to do a better job framing this not so much for one person — for the office of the presidency — but for the people.” (via Politico)
  • Michael LaRosa, a former spokesperson for first lady Jill Biden: “I’ve never understood why you would brand an economy in your name when the economy hasn’t fully recovered yet. People need to be able to see and feel an economy in their own personal bank accounts. And it doesn’t change no matter how loud you scream the economy is better.” (via Politico)
  • James Galbraith, a liberal economist: “Whatever stories Americans are told about the strength of the economy under President Joe Biden, they are not going to be persuaded to look past the issue of their own living standards.” (via Project Syndicate)

All this seems to echo a larger trend of working-class voters — once a Democratic stronghold — shifting to the right. A Deseret News/HarrisX poll this summer found that 40% of working-class voters say the Republican Party best represents their interests and views, compared to 36% who say the Democratic Party is a better fit.

The Bidenomics pitch should be kicked to the curb, liberal pundit Ruy Texeira wrote this week. “The Democrats would be wise to try a different approach — one that doesn’t rely on telling voters they should be happy when they are not.”

Ad of the week

Sen. Tim Scott’s new TV ad, “Caved,” knocks Biden for his relationship with China, saying he’s “caved” to Xi Jinping and “sold out” American workers. “It’s time for made in America, again,” Scott says.

Weekend reads

The Trump campaign has stooped to new lows, dropping off a birdcage at 1 a.m. at Nikki Haley’s hotel (connected to Trump’s nickname for Haley: “birdbrain”). Is the “weird, creepy and desperate” stunt, as Haley’s campaign staff put it, a sign that the former South Carolina governor is Trump’s biggest threat in the GOP primary? Maybe. Trump Targets Nikki Haley as She Climbs in the Polls (Jazmine Ulloa, The New York Times)

Arizona is one of a few swing states that could decide the 2024 election. But if the election there is close, new laws could make counting the votes there take several days. “The entirety of the American people will be waiting on the state of Arizona,” a county attorney said. Arizona recount law could delay certifying 2024 election, officials say (Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Washington Post)

In light of the chaos in the House, an interview with Theda Skocpol, who’s written extensively on the rise of the Tea Party within the American conservative movement. Biggest takeaway? We should’ve seen this coming. Kevin McCarthy’s Downfall Is the Culmination of the Tea Party (Ian Ward, Politico)

Friday mailbag

Have a question for next week’s mailbag? Send it my way — onthetrail@deseretnews.com. Happy to talk elections, presidential candidates, policy, New Hampshire sightseeing ... whatever you please.

Today’s question comes from reader Ashlan G.: What impact do you think removing Kevin McCarthy as speaker may or may not have on the Republican primary?

The biggest question mark here, without a doubt, is what role Trump will play in all of this. As McCarthy slipped toward the inevitable ouster, he never reached out to Trump for help, Politico reports. And Trump, as the House burned, didn’t reach out to Rep. Matt Gaetz, either — in fact, he publicly bemoaned the fight, wondering why Republicans “are always fighting among themselves” instead of “the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our country.”

This is where things get interesting: Trump is reportedly considering a trip to Washington, The Messenger first reported, where he’d address the GOP House caucus and presumably make the case for being speaker. By law, the speaker of the House doesn’t actually have to be a sitting member of the House — meaning, Trump (or you or me) could reasonably fill the position.

Would he ever? It’s unlikely. But the fact that he’s toying with the possibility, in the midst of his legal challenges and presidential campaign, makes for an interesting wrinkle.

Anything you’d like to see from our campaign coverage? Drop me a line: onthetrail@deseretnews.com.

See you on the trail.

Editor’s Note: The Deseret News is committed to covering issues of substance in the 2024 presidential race from its unique perspective and editorial values. Our team of political reporters will bring you in-depth coverage of the most relevant news and information to help you make an informed decision. Find our complete coverage of the election here.