Thursday, May 12, 2022

BTRTN: Roe v. Wade, and Collins v. Kavanaugh

Among the countless indignities along the road to the now seemingly inevitable undoing of Roe v. Wade is the curious saga of Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who claimed that she voted for Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court based on his supposed assurances that he would not overturn the landmark precedent. Last week, Collins reiterated that Kavanaugh made such assertions. If Kavanaugh deceived Collins in order to secure her vote, shouldn't there be consequences?

Senator Susan Collins of Maine has become a punchline.

Nowadays, if someone falls for a dumb prank or proves to be exceptionally gullible, they’d be accused of “pulling a Collins.” Here’s an example in context: “I told my teacher that I completed my homework, but that my printer cartridge was empty. She told me I could turn it in on Monday. Man, she is such a Susan Collins!”

Yes, when Susan Collins finally retires after decades of worthy service, she will be remembered for two things, and two things only.

She was the gullible apologist who did not find Donald Trump guilty in his first impeachment trial because she thought he had “learned a pretty big lesson.” Yes, Senator Collins, the “pretty big lesson” he learned is that the best way to avoid future impeachment is to instigate a violent insurrection to overthrow the government of the United States.

While still wiping the egg off her face from her naïve misreading of Donald Trump, the Senator is now being excoriated for her misplaced trust that Brett Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade, which was supposedly the basis for her decision to vote for his confirmation to the Supreme Court. 

In September, 2018, the Senate confirmation hearings on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh were extraordinary drama, as Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused the nominee of having sexually violated her in high school. All eyes were on the three "undecided" Republicans  -- Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Jeff Flake. With 48 Democrats lined up against Kavanaugh, he needed at least one of these three votes to at least achieve a tie that could be broken in his favor by VP Mike Pence.  Susan Collins’ support was crucial -- you might even say that when it came to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, this particular woman had the right to choose.

Even as questions about Brett Kavanaugh’s honesty swirled under the credible allegations of sexual misconduct, Collins voted to confirm, largely based on a personal interview she conducted with Kavanaugh.  A supporter of a woman’s right to choose, Collins claimed to have grilled Kavanaugh before emerging assured that he had no intention of reversing Roe. So strong was the interest in Collins' vote that she took the unusual step of making a speech on the floor of the Senate to explain the full reasoning behind her decision to support Kavanaugh, which essentially ensured his confirmation.

It was an interesting political move. With her 2020 re-election in a swing state bid looming, Collins may have simply been pursuing a strategy to placate both sides in her highly polarized state: she would please the hard right in her state by voting to confirm Kavanaugh, but she would mollify moderates by claiming that she had secured Kavanaugh's agreement that Roe was not to be overturned.

Now, with the leak of the Alito draft, it is clear that Collins' faith in Kavanaugh was every bit as misguided as her faith that Trump had "learned a pretty big lesson." She has once again been made the fool.

But is that fair?

To this day, Collins believes that Kavanaugh -- and Gorsuch before him -- misled her in order to secure her confirmation votes. Read the statement her office issued on May 3, 2022, after the leak of the Alito draft:

If this leaked draft opinion is the final decision and this reporting is accurate, it would be completely inconsistent with what Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh said in their hearings and in our meetings in my office. Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”

Wow. We can infer that "completely inconsistent" is merely an uber-discreet way of saying "those dudes lied to me." If Kavanaugh lied to Collins about Roe v. Wade in order to secure her vote... well, shouldn't there be consequences for that? 

Or -- did Collins ever really get a rock-solid assurance from Kavanaugh? Did she make a completely incorrect inference from what he said? Or did she simply say she did in order to navigate a tricky political issue with re-election looming? In short, did Collins mislead her own state voters in order to please both factions? 

 And if she did that, well, shouldn't there be consequences for that?

It's instructive to go back to Brett Kavanaugh's Senate hearings and read exactly what Susan Collins said in her public remarks about her decision at the time she voted to confirm. Let's examine the verbatim transcription of the portion of Collins’ remarks that pertained to Roe:

“There has also been considerable focus on the future of abortion rights based on the concern that Judge Kavanaugh would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Protecting this right is important to me. To my knowledge, Judge Kavanaugh is the first Supreme Court nominee to express the view that precedent is not merely a practice and tradition, but rooted in Article III of our Constitution itself.  He believes that precedent ‘is not just a judicial policy … it is constitutionally dictated to pay attention and pay heed to rules of precedent.’  In other words, precedent isn’t a goal or an aspiration; it is a constitutional tenet that has to be followed except in the most extraordinary circumstances.

The judge further explained that precedent provides stability, predictability, reliance, and fairness.  There are, of course, rare and extraordinary times where the Supreme Court would rightly overturn a precedent.  The most famous example was when the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education overruled Plessy v. Ferguson, correcting a ‘grievously wrong’ decision--to use the judge’s term--allowing racial inequality.  But, someone who believes that the importance of precedent has been rooted in the Constitution would follow long-established precedent except in those rare circumstances where a decision is ‘grievously wrong’ or ‘deeply inconsistent with the law.’  Those are Judge Kavanaugh’s phrases.

As Judge Kavanaugh asserted to me, a long-established precedent is not something to be trimmed, narrowed, discarded, or overlooked.  Its roots in the Constitution give the concept of stare decisis greater weight such that precedent can’t be trimmed or narrowed simply because a judge might want to on a whim.  In short, his views on honoring precedent would preclude attempts to do by stealth that which one has committed not to do overtly.

Noting that Roe v. Wade was decided 45 years ago, and reaffirmed 19 years later in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, I asked Judge Kavanaugh whether the passage of time is relevant to following precedent.  He said decisions become part of our legal framework with the passage of time and that honoring precedent is essential to maintaining public confidence.”

Finally, in his testimony, he noted repeatedly that Roe had been upheld by Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, describing it as a precedent. When I asked him would it be sufficient to overturn a long-established precedent if five current justices believed that it was wrongly decided, he emphatically said “no.”

Woah!  Read what Susan Collins wrote at the time, and you realize that she was no lightweight making a cursory review of Kavanaugh's beliefs. She went to considerable lengths to pin Kavanaugh down on his opinions about Roe, "settled law," and the role of precedent.

It certainly seems clear, as one reads Collins' official statement, that Kavanaugh created the impression both in the private meeting and in public testimony that he had no intention of overturning Roe. 

But hold the phone...

Someone determined to defend Brett Kavanaugh would point to one phrase -- "except in the cases where a decision is grievously wrong." That, the logic goes, is all the wiggle room Kavanaugh needed. He apparently told Collins that the only time a Supreme Court precedent should be overturned is if the prior decision was "grievously wrong," but never bothered to mention that he thought Roe v. Wade itself was "grievously wrong." 

The language here is all the more amazing, in that Alito's draft uses the similar phrase "egregiously wrong" as the basis for his majority opinion that Roe be overturned.

So now we ask the obvious question: Is it possible that in a private meeting with Collins, Kavanaugh said that the only reason to overturn an established precedent is if it is "grievously wrong," and Susan Collins failed to ask Kavanaugh whether he thought Roe was "grievously wrong?" 

Perhaps she did ask, and Kavanaugh stiff-armed her with the standard "I can't react to a hypothetical," as he effectively did during Senator Diane Feinstein's aggressive interrogation about Roe v. Wade during the public confirmation hearings. There, too, Kavanaugh seemed to wax poetic at the sanctity of precedent, "settled law," and the fact that Planned Parenthood v. Casey confirmed Roe. But when Feinstein tried to coax the nominee into an opinion specific to Roe, Kavanaugh went full rope-a-dope, floating like a butterfly while invoking a time-honored strategy to refuse to comment on "hypothetical cases."

Of course, in just about any reading of this, it is cynical that Kavanaugh heard what Collins said on the Senate Floor and made absolutely no effort to correct her inference that the nominee had told her that he would not overturn Roe. He allowed her to stand up and tell the world that she had been assured that he would not overturn Roe, and he let her interpretation stand, unchallenged. 

The worst in all of this? In her press release last week, Susan Collins was not in any hurry to confront Brett Kavanaugh on this incredibly important "misunderstanding." Again, from that May 3 press release: "Obviously, we won’t know each Justice’s decision and reasoning until the Supreme Court officially announces its opinion in this case.”  

Obviously what? Does Susan Collins think she doesn't have the right to demand that Kavanaugh square his private comments to her with his endorsement of the Alito brief now, before the vote is taken? Or is her patience simply a convenient way for Susan Collins to avoid the issue of her --or Kavanaugh's -- deceit until the decision is out and it is all a moot point?

Good people of the State of Maine: don't you think you are owed an explanation for this hugely consequential "misunderstanding?" 

If Susan Collins had concluded that Kavanaugh did plan to overturn Roe, isn't it entirely possible that would have influenced the votes of Jeff Flake, who voted to confirm, and Lisa Murkowski, who voted "present?" 

That is to say: Trump would then have had to nominate a different judge to the court... one whose position on Roe actually might have actually satisfied Collins' requirement.

And if you take that to its logical conclusion, that would mean that the leaked Alito draft was the minority, not majority, opinion -- and Roe would have survived another challenge, reinforcing its standing as "settled law" yet again.

Only two people know what happened in the private meeting between Susan Collins and Brett Kavanaugh. The irony is hard to measure: once again -- as with Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford -- we are left to try to figure out the truth in a case that the men will all insist is just another example of "he said, she said."

Senator Collins, if only to avoid drifting into history as a punchline, you'd be wise to take the time now to tell us exactly what Brett Kavanaugh said to you behind closed doors to convince you that he would not overturn Roe v. Wade.

Because if Brett Kavanaugh actually lied to you in order to get confirmed to the Supreme Court, you should not be standing by and waiting for Roe to be overturned to act.

If Kavanugh and Gorsuch lied to you about Roe to win their place on the bench, shouldn't you lead a charge demanding that they recuse themselves from ruling on Roe?

But let us be fair to Kavanaugh: what if it is true that he never gave Collins any assurance that he would preserve Roe? What if Collins took her public stand simply to navigate a tricky political issue in anticipation of a tough re-election campaign?  Well, in that case, Senator Collins, you should resign, because you deceived the voters of your state on one of the most important societal issues of our time.

In the end, there is some poetic justice in the fact that you if put two Republicans in a room and shut the door, and the only thing you know for certain is that one of them will lie to the other -- and it is entirely possible that they both lied to all of us. 

The carnage of how it came to pass that Roe was overturned will be one for the historians. And if the only gripe we had with the overturning of Roe v. Wade was one judge’s representations to one Senator in a private conversation, perhaps that could be dismissed. But the path to the destruction of Roe v. Wade required an appalling combination of Republican deception, deceit, and malevolent violation of honored norms in our democracy. Kavanaugh’s behavior was symbolic of a system repeatedly undermined and perverted for the purpose of overturning this landmark decision.

Kavanaugh was not alone in deceiving America – and Collins -- about his true feelings about Roe during the confirmation process. Both Amy Coney Barrett and Neil Gorsuch feigned deep respect Roe as “precedent of the Supreme Court,” while parsing their answers with enough legal caveats, cautious equivocation, and double-speak to allow for the wiggle room they’d need down the road when they would inevitably dump Roe.

There’s the fact that an overwhelming majority of American citizens believe that their government should preserve the right for a woman to get an abortion and do not want to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Do not forget that this decision could only have come about because Mitch McConnell defied two centuries of tradition by blocking Barack Obama’s right to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, putting the very legitimacy of the current Court in serious doubt. Were that pick to have been filled by a left-leaning Obama-appointed Justice, and with John Roberts very likely advocating for honoring Roe as “settled law,” the current challenge to Roe would have likely resulted in a complicated, divided, messy decision – but it is very unlikely that Roe would have been overturned.

Then there are the millions of Republicans who “held their nose and voted for Trump” for the sole reason that Trump promised to deliver judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. Above and beyond seeing Roe undone, we realize that Republicans willingly embraced the shame, incompetence, illegality, corruption, unnecessary Covid deaths, and the big and bigger lies of the Trump administration just so they could get rid of Roe. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of Americans died needlessly of Covid because of the failures of the Trump administration. Talk about the right to life. 

We will all have to live with the fact that this decision will pour gasoline on the ever-widening chasm that separates Red State from Blue State. A procedure that is supported with tax dollars in one state will be considered homicide in another. And you call these states "United?"

For all the deceit, deception, and duplicity that got us here, there are two questions at hand today. One is whether there is any possibility of stopping Alito’s draft from becoming the law of the land… and the second is whether there is any accountability for Justices -- or Senators -- who misled America for personal ambition and political gain. 

Chief Justice John Roberts professes grave concern about the fact that the Supreme Court is now perceived as excessively politicized. 

Yet he has done absolutely nothing to use his bully pulpit to attempt to mitigate this politicization. He has stood on the sidelines tolerating the racist behavior of Republican Senators during the confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

Now, a sitting U.S. Senator is claiming that two recent nominees lied to her during their confirmation hearings to secure her confirmation vote. You would think a Chief Justice who was concerned about the reputation of the Supreme Court would want to investigate such a consequential allegation.

Instead, the milquetoast John Roberts only wants to investigate how the Alito document was leaked.  

Senator Collins, you cannot and should not wait until the official vote on the Alito vote is taken. You must fight now.

If I were a betting man, I'd wager that you are the aggrieved party here. After reviewing  materials from the Kavanaugh hearings, it seems you had reason to believe that Kavanaugh was vowing to leave Roe intact. But if heard even more in private  -- a statement from Kavanaugh that was direct, comprehensive, and unequivocal -- speak now. 

It's up to you, Senator Collins. You can choose to raise your voice about this injustice, and you can choose to defend yourself against being made a laughingstock by some of the most senior misogynists in American government.

You are a United States Senator with a powerful bully pulpit, and you have every reason to be furious at being disrespected, lied to, and made into a punchline for your trust.

You are a woman with the right to choose

On behalf of all those women who soon will not have the right to choose, shouldn't you choose to do something about this?


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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

BTRTN: Biden’s Very, Very Modest Comeback Stalls

Tom with the BTRTN April 2022 Month in Review.

A few months ago we posited that Biden, though in the darkest hours of his relatively young presidency, was reasonably well-positioned for a 2022 comeback that just might save the midterms.  The keys were to manage well what was in his control, and to get a little bit of luck on the rest.

There have been nascent signs of such a comeback over the past few months, a few crocuses scattered here and there, largely driven by the massive decline in new COVID cases from the Omicron surge, and the surprisingly positive developments in the Russia/Ukraine war.  But as of the end of April, those crocuses have withered and the Biden comeback – as measured by his approval rating and other key data -- is in full stall mode, with few potential catalysts on the near-term horizon. 

Before we review the specifics, let’s make clear the political implications of the stall.  Without a comeback of some kind, the Democrats will certainly lose the House.  The key metric here – nearly infallible as a prediction tool -- is the generic ballot.  Right now the GOP is up +2 points (44% to 42%) in that hypothetical race, which does not sound like much.  But the Democrats have to get to +3, or better yet +5, to have a real chance to keep the House. That GOP +2 advantage has been as unmovable as Biden’s own approval rating, which has remained stubbornly at 43%.

And the more unlikely a Democratic hold on the House looks, the more money and resources will be shifted, on the margin, to holding the Senate, which at this juncture is just about a 50/50 proposition.  Senate races are far more driven than House races by the candidates themselves, rather than the macro political environment, and the Democrats have a solid shot at keeping the Senate despite the lack of positive momentum in the Biden comeback.

Below, in italics, was the BTRTN articulation, back in early February, of the presumed Biden Comeback Plan.  Each point is followed by a review of the current status -- through the month of April -- of each point.

COVID on the decline.  The Omicron surge will likely be over in a month; the mask wars will be over; life, with prudent precautions, will come roaring back in a summer of fun.  All Biden needs here is good luck:  no new deadly variants. 

The Omicron surge did end, and new cases dropped sharply, but alas, the new variant did arrive.  The Omicron BA.2 variant is more transmissible as the original Omicron, though not as deadly as Alpha or Delta, has resulted in an uptick of new cases in the last month, and the potential for a larger surge.  The Biden Administration has matched this mixed scenario, which is neither a “crisis” nor “the end,” with (more) mixed messages.  For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci announced, a few days ago, that “we are certainly, right now, in this country, out of the pandemic phase  -- and then, almost immediately after, said that he would not attend the White House Correspondents Association Dinner due to COVID concerns.  

The Gridiron dinner was another fiasco, as any number of Democratic luminaries who attended sans mask got infected, and this was followed by the couldn’t-be-worse optic of Kamala Harris getting COVID not long after she received her second booster shot.  All in all, the decline of COVID, such as it is, has helped Biden – but the pandemic  simply is not over, and that creates a messaging muddle, and COVID messaging was already (and remains) a Biden Administration weakness.

Continued robust economic growth.  With the infrastructure bill beginning to find its way to local projects, the Biden Administration can take credit for the 4% GDP growth expected in 2022, well above that of the pre-pandemic Trump years, and the Obama years as well. 

Despite last week’s announcement that the economy contracted by 1.4% in the first quarter, Biden has done well here.  The GDP blip was caused by inventory issues by and large, with the good news being:  1) that underlying consumer demand remains strong, and 2) unemployment has dropped further to 3.6%, the lowest in 53 years.  But all of that evidence of economic vitality has been overwhelmed by continued bad news on inflation.

Taming of inflation.  With a new report showing inflation up to 7.5%, and gas prices at a peak, this may be the toughest at all, a classic “kitchen table” issue difficult for presidents to influence.  But the Fed is expected to use fiscal instruments, in the form of interest rate hikes, to begin to put the brakes on the boom…that and the easing of the supply chain issues could at least show progress on managing inflation by November. 

Inflation continues to roar, and is now up to 8.5%, and while Biden is pulling out all the stops to influence it, including tapping the national reserve and allowing more oil leases, there is no short-term escape from a misery that he did not cause.  Gas prices did fall in the last month, but by and large, controlling inflation without triggering a full-blown recess is up to the Fed now. 

Breyer and Roe:  Biden will benefit greatly from being able to deliver on his promise to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, and there will be a huge spotlight on the announcement and confirmation hearings.  On top of what is clearly going to be some kind of adverse ruling by the Roberts Court on Roe v. Wade, and Biden’s strong federal judge appointment track record, these issues will energize Democrats to a voting frenzy in the midterms. 

Biden’s appointment of DC Federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the bench was a clear win, and it passed the Senate with three GOP votes to boot.  But the “huge spotlight” on this clearly this historic announcement never happened, as the events in Ukraine overshadowed it and every other political development in that time frame.  The abortion wars will dominate the news in June when SCOTUS renders its decision, but with Ukraine, COVID, inflation, immigration and even the January 6 Commission hearings all in the mix, who knows whether the abortion wars will land the punch the Democrats really need. [Note: This was written before the stunning May 2 publication by Politico of Judge Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that strikes down Roe.]

Russia/Ukraine.  Biden has been lauded – on a bipartisan basis by politicians, and, in surveys, by Americans of both parties as well – for his management of the Ukraine crisis thus far.  He seems to have positioned himself into an unlikely “win/win” position.  If the Russians invade Ukraine, he will be seen as leading a unified NATO in exacting demanding economic sanctions while supplying the Ukrainians with sophisticated weaponry and aid.  And if Putin blinks, all the better.  Either way, U.S. leadership has already been acknowledged, prestige restored, and Biden is benefitting greatly. 

With the onset of the actual invasion, Biden’s response in Ukraine continues to be largely flawless.  The Russian abandoned their Kyiv siege, the Ukrainians sank a Russian battleship, and the new Donbas offensive is running into the same stiff Ukrainian opposition that stymied them in Kyiv.  Putin’s ruthless genocide has been condemned worldwide.  Weapons are flowing in from the West, and Biden just asked Congress for a mammoth $33 billion aid package – half the size of Russia’s defense budget -- underlining his commitment.  Europe is now considering a ban on Russian oil and gas imports, following the US move, demonstrating yet again the unity and depth of western support.  A nuclear disaster has thus far been avoided.  Overall, what more could anyone ask of Biden?  And yet, while Biden’s ratings on foreign policy have edged up a bit, even some Democrats believe he is not doing enough.

ISIS.  Knocking off the ISIS leader did not hurt on that front, either. 

A minor win that certainly did not hurt, but nor did it really help, and now is long forgotten.

Trump, January 6 and “reasonable political discourse.”  The self-inflicted wound the RNC just dealt the GOP can hardly be underestimated, putting January 6 right smack back on the table, deflecting attention from Biden just when he was at this lowest.  And that term – “reasonable political discourse” – when repeated over and over by Dem candidates atop insurrection footage, will be the gift that keeps on giving, defining today’s GOP much the way Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” defined the Trump White House.  The January 6 Commission’s hearings and findings, plus the Trump court cases in Georgia and New York, will continue to keep Trump front and center for the GOP, and effectively once again “on the ballot” in November

The Commission hearings, now scheduled for June, will be “must see TV,” and the nuggets being leaked out, including the McCarthy Tapes, are explosive.  But one has to be extremely skeptical that they will change anyone’s mind at this point.  Despite the tapes, McCarthy marches on, as Trump chose to view McCarthy’s hypocrisy as a sign of Trump’s own power, his deathgrip hold on the GOP, rather than exposing McCarthy as a traitor. 

Bonus #1: Inoculate the vulnerabilities:  All that would go a long way toward setting the tables for success in the midterms, but it would sure help if Biden and the Democrats could find a way to talk about three issues that the GOP will try to force into all campaign conversations:  crime, immigration and education (that is, Critical Race Theory).  Biden has already disavowed “Defund the Police” and embraced new New York City Mayor (and former cop) Eric Adams, so he is making progress on crime.  He needs reassuring talking points on the others as well. 

Immigration has become an albatross for Biden and coming to grips with it is no longer a “bonus,” it is a “must.”  His decision to end the public health authority, a.k.a. Title 42 in late May (put on hold by a federal judge), while laudable, is causing a great deal of pain for moderate, battleground state Democrats in an election year.  The end of Title 42 is expected to greatly increase the flow of immigrants fleeing to America across the southern border, an issue on which Biden already has vulnerability.

Bonus #2:  Soft Infrastructure Bill.   The soft bill may be too toxic, at this point, to take on in the middle of an election year.  But if a scaled down bill – say $750 million – could be cobbled together with the most popular elements of the old bill that Manchin could support – say, the climate change provisions and the Childcare Tax Credit with some needs-based test (assuming they could be passed within reconciliation rules) – the passage of such a bill would be a winner. 

Manchin has indeed expressed some openness to a scaled-back BBB, but at this point it seems unlikely to be resurrected.  If there is to be a mini-BBB, Schumer needs to make it happen soon before the crowded Senate calendar and the campaign trail render it impossible.

Down below you will see the net effect of all of this over the past three months as measured in key polling data, and the answer is:  not much.  While Biden has shown modest improvement since January on some key issues – notably foreign policy and COVD management – it has not been enough to move the overall needle, as his approval rating remains stuck at 43%.

There is still an opportunity – perhaps -- for Biden to make some headway between now and Election Day.  Fed actions could slow inflation; the Ukraine story could continue to provide positive fodder on his foreign policy chops; the SCOTUS abortion decision [See note above] and January 6th Commission output could each both outrage and inspire the Democrats, and maybe a mini-BBB bill gets done.  But the window to truly upend the current narrative in time to rescue the midterms is closing, and fast.


Sarah Palin is running for Congress, for the House seat now vacant with the death of long-term Alaska representative Don Young. 

Need we say more?



Joe Biden’s approval rating for the month of March remained stagnant at 43% for the third consecutive month, with a net negative of -8 percentage points. 



Biden’s ratings had shown material improvement since January on both COVID management and foreign policy, but with no further uptick this month, that momentum has stalled. 


In April polling, on average the GOP continues to lead the Democrats on the generic ballot by a 44/42 margin.  Using BTRTN’s proprietary models (which have been extremely accurate in midterm elections), if this lead was still in place on Election Day in 2022, the GOP would pick up about 20 seats and take over the House with some room to spare, though hardly in the magnitude of the losses experienced by Bill Clinton in his first midterms (-54 seats) or Barack Obama (-63), or even Donald Trump (-40).



The “Bidenometer” took a tumble from March to April, from 59 to 12, driven mostly by the contraction of the economy in Q1 of this year, and a 5% drop in the Dow.  Gas prices actually decreased this month, a positive sign, as did unemployment, while consumer confidence remained the same (and still surprisingly high given all the adverse economic headlines.)

As a reminder, this measure is designed to provide an objective answer to the legendary economically-driven question at the heart of the 1980 Reagan campaign:  “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”  We reset the Bidenometer at this Inaugural to zero, so that we better demonstrate whether the economy performs better (a positive number) or worse (a negative number) under Biden than what he inherited from the Trump Administration.

This exclusive BTRTN measure is comprised of five indicative data points:  the unemployment rate, Consumer Confidence, the price of gasoline, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average and the U.S. GDP.  The measure is calculated by averaging the percentage change in each measure from the inaugural to the present time.

The +12 means that, on average, the five measures are 12% higher than they were when Biden was inaugurated (see the chart below).  With a Bidenometer of +12, the economy is performing better under Biden compared to its condition when Trump left office.  Unemployment is much lower, the Dow is much higher, as is consumer confidence.  Only gas prices have moved in the wrong direction under Biden.  Even the recent GDP blip is better than the -3.5% that marked Trump’s last quarter.

Using January 20, 2021 as a baseline measure of zero, you can see from the chart below that under Clinton the measure ended at +55.  It declined from +55 to only +8 under Bush, who presided over the Great Recession at the end of his term, then rose from +8 to +33 under Obama’s recovery.  Under Trump, it fell again, from +33 to 0, driven by the shock of COVID-19 and Trump’s mismanagement of it.  Now we have seen it move upward to +12 under Biden.

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Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Bidenometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Biden Inaugural on January 20, 2021, on an average percentage change basis. The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump left office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline and the GDP.