President Biden is harnessing the full powers of the presidency to help Democrats avoid a Republican landslide this November. He is hoping a series of executive actions can boost turnout for Democrats and blunt GOP attacks on issues like inflation, Democratic strategists acknowledged to Fox News Digital.
“There is no question Biden and Democrats are integrating what they can do in the government with their political midterm message,” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster and strategist.
“Biden in particular has such low approval ratings that he had to get out there and do something.”
Strategists say Biden’s recent executive actions appear focused on giving young voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat, a reason to turn out at the polls. They cite as proof the president’s recent decisions to cancel upward of $20,000 in student debt for borrowers and his pardoning of people convicted of marijuana possession at the federal level.
Polls show both policies are fairly popular with a cross-section of young voters. Younger Americans are also more likely to benefit financially than older ones from Biden’s student debt handout, which will cost an estimated $500 billion over the next decade.
“It is good policy, but it could also encourage base voters as the midterms are looking more and more to be a turnout election,” said Kevin Walling, a Democratic strategist and former Biden campaign surrogate.
Younger voters helped propel Biden to a narrow White House victory over former President Trump in 2020. Since then, however, the group has shown ambivalence toward Biden and Democrats.
That seems to have changed in recent weeks, coinciding with Biden’s executive actions. A Fox News poll conducted last week found the president’s approval rating rose three points over the past month to 46%. The rise was largely driven by an eight-point jump in Biden’s approval rating among voters under 45.
“The base is behind him in a way they weren’t just a few months ago,” said Chris Anderson, a Democratic pollster who helped conduct the survey.
Biden’s use of executive authority to benefit Democrats is also apparent when it comes to gas prices, according to strategists.
Since last year, the White House has released millions of barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in an effort to lower gas prices. The tactic has had mixed results as prices fell over the summer but remain significantly higher than when Biden first took office.
Republicans say the president has depleted the reserve, a stockpile of oil kept by the government in case of a natural disaster or emergency, for political gain.
“We don’t have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to float Joe Biden’s terrible poll numbers and try to help the Democrats limp into a midterm election,” said Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
GOP lawmakers say the White House’s political maneuvering was underscored this month when it was accused by Saudi Arabia and other oil states of pressuring them to delay production cuts until after the midterms.
Democratic strategists take a more nuanced view, saying Republicans are only angry because Biden’s move to tap the strategic reserve has undercut their general election message.
“Voters are still troubled by the high cost of gas, but they’re also seeing prices come down from their peak this summer,” said one Democratic consultant, who requested anonymity to discuss the Biden White House. “Republicans still probably benefit a bit, but there is a big difference between paying almost $5 a gallon in July and just under $4 in October.”
Outside of broad policy directives, Biden has taken a series of smaller executive orders in recent weeks that could boost incumbent Democrats running for re-election.
Biden announced during a West Coast trip last week that he will designate Camp Hale, a World War II U.S. Army training center in Colorado, as a national monument. The project had long been pushed by Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who is facing a tougher-than-expected re-election challenge this year.
“He came to the White House, and he said ‘I told you what I need,'” Biden said during an event with Bennet in Vail, Colorado. “And I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ You know why? I was worried he’d never leave the damn White House.”
Penn, who worked in the Clinton White House, said such displays were tactically designed to make candidates look like they had the ear of the president for hometown audiences.
“When I worked with President Clinton, we did the same thing,” said Penn. “We would put out all the tools ahead of election season and hope to encourage our voters to come out as much as possible.”