Biden Stumbles With Suburban Women and Mothers Before Midterm Elections

From parental rights regarding school curricula to COVID-19 vaccine authorization delays for children younger than 5, President Joe Biden and Democrats are frustrating suburban mothers.

But while the influence of the famed “soccer” and “security moms” was tested in previous election cycles, suburban women are still a crucial demographic if Biden and his party hope to cling to any congressional power after the 2022 midterm contests.

Siding with mothers is widely considered to be a winning campaign strategy, according to political analyst Bertram Johnson.

“There’s a reason that ‘motherhood and apple pie’ is a cliche, and that’s because Americans find both to be wholesome and appealing,” he said. “It could be risky for a candidate to be framed as not supportive enough of this group.”

It is not necessarily mothers per se, Marist poll director Barbara Carvalho clarified. A mother’s self-identification as a Democrat or Republican is powerful, Carvalho told the Washington Examiner.

“But there is a group of women we see in polling, suburban women with some college or college degrees, who are also more likely to be moms that are a group more up for grabs,” she said.

Biden resonated with suburban women and mothers in 2020, according to Carvalho. And issues concerning social tolerance and abortion access, with some restrictions, move them closer to the Democrats, she said.

“But other issues, such as public school choice, parent involvement in schools, and, even more importantly, inflation and the economy, have them leaning Republican,” she added.

For Johnson, a Middlebury College politics professor, men and women typically split on issues related to the use of force and violence, including gun control, and protecting vulnerable populations, such as childcare.

“These differences are not huge, but they are significant, so if a candidate wanted to appeal more to women, that candidate might want to emphasize a more liberal position on these kinds of issues,” he said.

But Carvalho’s own Marist poll, published in February with NPR and PBS Newshour, found that only 38% of suburban respondents approved of Biden’s job performance as president, down 11 percentage points from December. Biden’s popularity among suburban women specifically dropped by double digits in the same two-month period, plummeting from 57% to 45%.

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Nicole Morales cited Virginia’s 2021 elections, particularly GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s marquee race, as evidence of the party’s advantage with suburban women and mothers before November.

“Masked children, children out of school, inflation, crime — Democrats are noticeably losing ground,” she said. “The people Democrats claim to advocate for are the most hurt by their destructive policies.”

But a Fox News exit poll distills a more nuanced Virginia contest because Youngkin’s opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, won suburban women, 54%, and mothers, 51%, to Youngkin’s 46% and 48%, respectively.

Yet the poll found the economy and jobs were Virginia voters’ top priority (35%), followed by the pandemic (17%), education (15%), climate change and healthcare (7%), abortion, immigration, and racism (5%), and law enforcement (4%). In the context of education, the debate over teaching critical race theory in schools was an important factor in the decision-making process for 73% and the handling of COVID-19 in schools for 85%.

As the parental rights fight pivots from race to sex and gender, Biden responded to Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Ron DeSantis, stripping Walt Disney World of its self-governing status for criticizing the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law.

“I respect conservatives,” Biden told donors in Seattle this week. “There’s nothing conservative about deciding you’re going to throw Disney out of its present posture because — Mickey Mouse? In fact, do you think we should not be able to say, you know, ‘gay’?”

The RNC has defended Florida’s parental rights law, contending that White House press secretary Jen Psaki has spread misinformation about its contents.

“The matter up for debate is whether kindergarteners should be explicitly instructed on sex education and woke gender theory and whether parents should be informed,” spokesman Tommy Pigott told reporters. “It’s becoming clearer every day: Democrat politicians want to kick parents out of the classroom entirely.”

Tensions with respect to schools have been exacerbated by the pandemic, with parents of children younger than 5 still waiting for federal public health officials to authorize a vaccine. Emergency approval for Pfizer-BioNTech’s shot was delayed in February over inconclusive data.

The White House has tried to empathize with impatient parents. Dr. Anthony Fauci, for example, implored parents to be patient during a COVID-19 task force briefing.

“When a decision is made, you can be sure that it’s a decision based on the good science that’s being collected and analyzed by the agencies involved,” he said.

But even if Biden and Democrats can woo suburban women and mothers, they face a mammoth task of maintaining their Capitol Hill majorities. Biden’s average approval is 41%, or net negative 13 points, and Republicans have an average 3.5-point edge over Democrats on generic congressional ballot polling, according to RealClearPolitics.

Reporting from The Washington Examiner.