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Biden's approval has declined across the board — from independents to the base

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 2022.
President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House on Jan. 19, 2022.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden talks infrastructure after his marathon press conference yesterday. ... NBC’s Benjy Sarlin breaks down Biden’s remarks about scaling back “Build Back Better.” ... Democrats’ voting-rights push gets blocked, as expected. ... The Supreme Court rules against Trump. ... Henry Cuellar says he’ll cooperate with any FBI investigation. ... And it’s exactly one year since Biden’s inauguration.

But first: We have new poll results on Biden’s first year in office, and they show the president’s job rating declining 10 points, from 53 percent at beginning of his presidency in April to 43 percent now.

Biden’s decline has been across the board, but what stands out are the drops from the middle of the electorate and among key parts of the Democratic base:

  • Approval among independents has fallen from 68 percent in April to 36 percent now.
  • Among Blacks, it’s gone from 83 percent to 64 percent.
  • Among those 18 to 34, the drop has been from 56 percent to 40 percent.
  • Among Latinos, it’s 59 percent to 48 percent.
  • And even among women, it’s 61 percent to 51 percent.

One way to view Biden’s press conference from yesterday was the president trying to regain his political identity — at least rhetorically.

“I’m not a socialist. I’m a mainstream Democrat,” he said. “What are Republicans for? What are they for?” he asked. “I’m confident we can get pieces — big chunks of the Build Back Better [bill] signed into law,” he declared.

Yesterday’s news conference gave us Good Biden (an authentic politician holding nothing back), Bad Biden (refusing to admit he compared opponents of the voting-rights bills to Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis) and Pragmatic Biden (“I predict to you they’ll get something done on the electoral reform side of this”).

It was all there.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 9th out of 10

That’s where Biden’s approval rating at the end of his first year ranks when compared to the previous nine American presidents, per NBC News and Gallup polls.

(It doesn’t include LBJ or Gerald Ford, who weren’t elected by voters in the first year as president.)

  • Bush 43: 82 percent
  • Bush 41: 80 percent (Gallup)
  • JFK: 79 percent (Gallup)
  • Nixon: 63 percent (Gallup)
  • Clinton: 60 percent
  • Carter: 52 percent (Gallup)
  • Obama: 48 percent
  • Reagan: 47 percent (Gallup)
  • Biden: 43 percent
  • Trump: 39 percent

Other numbers you need to know today:

158,606: The seven-day average of Covid hospitalizations in the U.S.

861,792: The number of Covid deaths in America, per an NBC News analysis.

1,968: The seven-day average of daily Covid deaths in America.

772,950: The seven-day average of new, daily Covid cases in America.

68,774,482: The number of confirmed cases of Covid in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials.

14: The number of days it took the U.S. Covid case count to grow from 58 million to surpassing 68 million.

Talking policy with Benjy: Build Back Biden

President Biden offered the most detailed look yet on how Democrats are approaching efforts to revive Build Back Better, which spun out in December when Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., stopped participating in talks.

At his press conference on Wednesday, Biden said he hoped to pass “big chunks” of Build Back Better, an acknowledgement that some programs in the House bill would have to be jettisoned if Manchin were to return to the fold.

As First Read reported yesterday, Senate Democrats have quietly been working on a smaller Build Back Better plan that they hope will bring Manchin back to the table after he complained the previous version used budget gimmicks to hide its cost. One potential iteration might include climate spending, universal pre-K, Affordable Care Act subsidies, and aid for home care, and a smaller Child tax Credit, but drop other priorities like housing and child care.

But Biden got more specific about how he sees things developing, saying he was “not sure” they could include an extension of the Child Tax Credit that passed in early 2021 as a one-year pandemic relief measure.

It would be a huge blow to Democrats, who have pointed to estimates that it could reduce childhood poverty by 40 percent if fully implemented. But it would also make the budget math far easier to manage given Manchin’s insistence that any new program be fully funded for 10 years.

If a deal gets done, the core of it is still likely to be climate, a critical Democratic priority where Manchin has expressed surprising optimism about finding a deal even after leaving Build Back Better talks. Biden specifically cited it as an area of party agreement in his remarks on Wednesday, along with universal pre-kindergarten.

Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. followed Biden’s presser with a statement calling on Democrats to revive BBB discussions using the $550 billion in climate measures, which Manchin reportedly offered in December, as a starting point and then tacking on whatever else he’d say yes to.

Manchin’s not exactly making it easy to guess where he stands, though. Asked on Wednesday whether that climate offer was still in play, he told reporters any new talks -- if they even occurred -- would be a “clean slate, a clean sheet.”

Midterm roundup

Biden made it clear yesterday that he plans to hit the campaign trail. “We’re going to be raising a lot of money. We’re going to be out there making sure that we’re helping all of those candidates. And scores of them have already asked me to come in and campaign with them,” Biden said.

Following reports that the FBI was investigating near his Laredo, Texas home yesterday, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar told NBC News he will “fully cooperate with any investigation.” The raid comes about six weeks before the Texas primary, where Cuellar faces a rematch against Jessica Cisneros.

The national Republican Party abandoned Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., in his 2016 race, but they’re “all in” for Johnson this year, NBC’s Natasha Korecki and Marc Caputo report.

Pennsylvania Senate Democratic hopeful Malcolm Kenyatta secured a major union endorsement yesterday from the SEIU, the service workers union. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also weighed in on the Democratic primary this week, endorsing Rep. Conor Lamb.

Former Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., is running for her old House seat, now open because Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown is running for Maryland attorney general (Edwards was previously an NBC and MSNBC analyst).

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, announced her bid for governor. She is the only statewide official running so far to replace retiring GOP Gov. Charlie Baker.

In Senate fundraising news, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, raised $1.4 in the last fundraising quarter of 2021, ending the year with $3.7 million on hand. Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a top candidate in the Democratic primary, raised $1.2 million in the fourth quarter. And Army veteran Sam Brown, who is running against former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in the GOP Senate primary, raised more than $1 million.

Money is pouring into Nevada's governor's race, with Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak raising $4.5 million in 2021, a record breaking haul per The Nevada Independent.

And Rep. Young Kim, R-Calif., announced raking in $1.2 million in the 4th quarter.

Two groups — the Congressional Black Caucus PAC and Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund — endorsed Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Ga.. McBath faces fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux in a primary in the newly drawn 7th District.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Senate failed last night to pass a rules change to the filibuster, effectively killing any hope of passing major voting rights legislation through the chamber.

NBC News is reporting that the CIA does not believe “Havana Syndrome” is the result of a sustained campaign by a hostile power.

The Supreme Court declined former President Donald Trump’s request to block the National Archives from turning over documents from his administration to the Jan. 6 committee.