Omicron May Be Dud, But It Still Made Things Worse for Biden

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Joe Biden’s approval ratings have been in the toilet for three months now. The mainstream media was hoping that the signing of the infrastructure bill would change his fortunes, but it hasn’t worked out that way. Last week, the media was gushing over a slight bump in his approval ratings in certain polls. For sure, Biden’s approval ratings had improved, albeit slightly, since mid-November, when his RealClearPolitics average approval was -12.2, whereas now it’s -9.9.

That by no means indicates that Biden was bouncing back, but given how bad things have been going for him, it was at least a sign that the bleeding had stopped.

But the omicron variant may have changed that.

Despite concerns that omicron might be more transmissible, it appears from early data that it is a much less severe strain of COVID. The World Health Organization reported Friday that no deaths from the variant have been recorded yet.

Now, the White House is considering lifting the travel ban on eight African countries it implemented a week ago. Dr. Fauci, Biden’s chief medical officer, concedes that the omicron variant doesn’t appear to be as severe as previously feared.

“Thus far—though it’s too early to really make any definitive statements about it—it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” he said. “But, we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or really doesn’t cause any severe illness comparable to delta.”

“But thus far, the signals are a bit encouraging regarding the severity. But again, we’ve got to hold judgment until we get more experienced,” he added.

But the damage may already have been done. According to a recent YouGov poll, 33 percent of Americans are somewhat concerned about the omicron variant, and 21 percent are very concerned. Another poll from The Hill/HarrisX was even worse, with 41 percent of voters saying they are somewhat concerned and 27 percent saying they are very concerned.

Considering the delta variant’s impact on Biden’s approval ratings, Americans being concerned about another variant won’t help him any, and I doubt the Biden administration’s about-face on the travel ban will inspire confidence in Biden’s leadership.

“Pandemic-related economic discontent is one of the driving forces behind Biden’s low approval ratings,” notes longtime Democratic political consultant Douglas Schoen. “And the introduction of omicron variant will only complicate the administration’s efforts to turn the economy around.”

The omicron variant may prove to be a dud, but whether it was a good idea or not, Biden’s travel ban fed into the panic. Thankfully, he didn’t entertain more lockdowns, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be implemented at the state level. In some places, they’re already starting. In Oregon, a permanent indoor mask mandate is in the works.

“To be sure, there is a high degree of uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant and its impact,” Schoen concedes. “However, we can say with near-certainty that the variant will prolong the pandemic and will put the president and his party in an increasingly perilous political position.”

Related: Fauci Says Administration Feels ‘Very Badly’ About Africa Travel Ban, Will ‘Reevaluate’ the Policy


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