Joe Biden enters the Always Be Closing phase of his first term


President Joe Biden waves as he leaves after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 27, 2022. Biden ended his COVID-19 isolation after testing negative for the virus on Tuesday night and again on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Somehow, someway, Joe Biden is back in the game.

After enduring a brutal year dominated by economic angst, legislative setbacks, and sinking approval ratings, the president is suddenly on the verge of a turnaround that, the White House believes, could salvage his summer — and alter the trajectory of his presidency.

“There’s just so much at stake here,” said one adviser to senior party leaders, describing how, overnight, a sense of enormity was added to the immediate calendar.

Over the next few weeks, the president will have to land the centerpieces of his domestic agenda aimed at boosting the nation’s global competitiveness and revamping whole swaths of its economy. Major decisions on student loans and expanding abortion rights hang in the balance. There’s also the matter of containing twin outbreaks of monkeypox and the coronavirus, the last of which Biden just spent five days personally fending off.

If that weren’t enough, he’s juggling a slate of foreign affairs challenges as well — headlined by longer-term efforts to reset with Iran on a nuclear deal and negotiate the release of a basketball star and another American jailed in Russia.

It’s a massive political to-do list set against the backdrop of a midterm election likely to cost Democrats full control of Washington. And within a White House, that’s often felt under siege, there’s broad recognition that how Biden executes it will determine the difference between a historic first term and a tragic lost opportunity.

White House officials are approaching the moment with cautious optimism, energized by the fresh jolt of momentum for Biden’s top priorities in Congress, itself underscored by the passage Thursday of a bill designed to boost semiconductor production and better compete with China.

Yet they are also aware that many elements remain well outside their control.

The prospect of an eleventh-hour breakthrough on Democrats’ climate, tax and health care package after more than a year of stumbles has particularly captured the White House’s imagination. In the wake of Wednesday’s deal with holdout Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), one senior aide contended the legislation could turn the tide for Democrats trying to persuade voters to keep them in power, allowing Biden and his party to draw an even sharper contrast with Republicans who they argue aren’t offering an alternative agenda.

“It very much changes how Democrats are going to look at the first half of this first term” if the bill passes, said Tobin Marcus, a former Biden adviser and current senior policy and politics strategist at investment bank Evercore ISI. “Democratic voters are going to feel a lot better about what this has all added up to.”

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