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Democrats face a broken branding problem for Biden agenda

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.
Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks from the East Room of the White House, on Dec. 6, 2021.Susan Walsh / AP

WASHINGTON — Democrats, we have a branding problem.

That was one of the main takeaways that Democratic pollsters made after conducting focus groups of Virginians who voted for President Biden in 2020, but who broke for Republican Glenn Youngkin in last month’s gubernatorial race or strongly considered it. (By the way, these pollsters work at the firm that does President Biden’s polling.)

“Voters couldn’t name anything that Democrats had done, except a few who said we passed the infrastructure bill. That bill didn’t overcome their opinions that we have spent the last year infighting and careening from crisis to crisis,” the memo said.

In a follow-up interview with the New York Times, one of the Democratic pollsters added, “People think we’re more focused on social issues than the economy — and the economy is the No. 1 issue right now.”

That last sentence should stop Democrats in their tracks: After they passed a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill (which included direct $1,400 checks), after they cleared a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill (though only after losing in Virginia) and after spending the last several months crafting a climate/universal pre-K/child care/prescription drug/health care bill, these voters thought Democrats were more focused on social issues than the economy.

One explanation for this disconnect has been the legislative process (cramming 10 years of legislative priorities into the “Build Back Better” bill). Another was the Democratic infighting over whether the infrastructure and BBB bills should be tied together (they eventually were separated). And another has been the check-the-box messaging from the White House (they focused on infrastructure last week; prescription drugs yesterday).

But maybe most important of all has been the Democratic branding of the climate/pre-K/child care bill as being “transformational” — when so many Americans have struggled with the challenges of an ongoing two-year pandemic.

The Democratic message over the last few months has been: These are the progressive priorities we’ve wanted for years.

Instead of: We know what you’re feeling right now, and here’s how to fix it.

Democrats seem like they finally have gotten the memo, at least rhetorically.

In his remarks on prescription drugs yesterday, Biden dumped the “transformational” talk and discussed how lower drug prices would benefit Americans.

“I think it’s safe to say that all of us — all of us — whatever our background, our age, where we live — we can agree that prescription drugs are outrageously expensive in this country,” the president said.

Previewing today’s Biden-Putin call

“President Joe Biden will make it clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there would be ‘very real costs’ should Russia take military action against Ukraine when the two leaders meet on a video call Tuesday, a senior administration official said,” per NBC’s Shannon Pettypiece.

“During the call, which comes as Russia has deployed more than 90,000 combat troops along Ukraine's border, Biden will lay out a range of actions the U.S. and its European allies would take, including additional sanctions, should Russia invade Ukraine.”

Biden’s video call with Putin takes place at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

33: The number of Pearl Harbor victims on the U.S.S. Oklahoma whose remains could not be identified by the military after a six-year project to match remains to identities.

$400 million: The amount that USAID is investing into an international vaccination program, in which it’s already invested more than $1 billion.

49,294,126: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 193,087 more since yesterday morning.)

792,574: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 1,437 since yesterday morning.)

471,700,443: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 1,402,597 since yesterday morning.)

47,039,759: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 739,890 since yesterday morning.)

60 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

71.5 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

Trump endorses Perdue in Georgia governor's race

Just hours after former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., announced his primary challenge against GOP Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday, Donald Trump gave Perdue his endorsement.

Per the Cook Political Report’s Jessica Taylor, this is the third endorsement Trump has given to someone challenging a current GOP governor, although one of them (Charlie Baker of Massachusetts) decided not to run for re-election.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Justice Department is suing Texas over its redistricting map, which it claims discriminates against minority voters.

Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, is cooperating with the Jan. 6 committee.

The New York Times reports on more excerpts from former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows’ book, which includes details about his bout with Covid, including that his blood oxygen level dropped to 86 percent.