Applause in Congress and a slight improvement in opinion polls: US President Joe Biden has regained some political capital with his handling of the war in Ukraine, but experts say he will struggle to consolidate and sustain this momentum.
Last week, the 79-year-old Democratic leader got lawmakers from his party and the Republican opposition to show – in a united way – their support for Ukraine, as they gave a standing ovation to his State of the Union address.
That image has been rare in a country with strong political divisions, which is just months away from the midterm legislative elections, which take place in November.
Is the unpopular Biden, who carries the failure of his main reform projects in Congress on his back, benefiting from the “unity around the flag” effect, through strong declarations and the imposition of historic sanctions against Russia?
This concept, described in the 1970s by political scientist John Mueller, suggests that, in the event of an international crisis, Americans close ranks in support of their “commander-in-chief”.
“Support for your measures [sanções contra a Rússia] is quite strong, even among Republicans. This has a small effect on your overall confidence rating,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta.
– Image of ‘boss’ –
Biden now has a 42.7% approval rating in polls, according to website Fivethirtyeight. It’s a score that remains low, but better than the one recorded on February 27, when it was around 40%.
The Democratic president has “an opportunity to change his image as a leader” and thus be able to “recover some of the ground lost with the exit from Afghanistan, […] perceived as disastrous”, added the analyst.
In addition, Republicans are now somewhat embarrassed by the praise made by former President Donald Trump, who remains very influential in the party, of the “smart” Vladimir Putin and his criticism of Western leaders, whom he called “fools”.
For Capri Cafaro, a former Ohio Democratic lawmaker and professor at American University in Washington, the president tried to “reset” his term during his State of the Union address, placing an emphasis on Ukraine, and leaving big plans behind. transformation to take steps in concrete projects: lowering drug prices, rebuilding bridges, opening factories.
“[Biden] tried to change his image by presenting himself as pragmatic and moderate, after being considered […] a puppet of the progressives”, said Cafaro.
However, she considers that “there is no winning position” for Biden. “When you try to please everyone, you run the risk of sounding like someone who has no convictions,” she opined.
We also have to wait and see how the White House manages the impacts of sanctions against Russia on American homes, which are already suffering from the highest inflation in recent years.
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