It doesn't sound like much, but President Joe Biden is doing better on Main Street. His overall approval ratings have been slowly improving since August, when gas prices finally settled down and Biden won congressional approval for the Inflation Reduction Act.
According to the fourth quarter poll conducted by CNBC and Survey Monkey, Biden's approval rating is going up for the first time in the eight quarters of his presidency — up to, OK this doesn't sound great, but 34% among small business owners. He stopped a streak of six straight quarterly declines.
In the CNBC/SurveyMonkey poll, Biden's approval rating rose just slightly among Democrats and independents to 83% of Democrats and 31% of independents telling pollsters they approve of Biden this quarter, compared with 81% of Democrats and 29% of independents last quarter.
The shifts are incremental, but they add up to a positive move in Biden's direction. Among the general public, the CNBC/SurveyMonkey poll found Biden's approval rating up from 41% to 45%.
"I will ensure Joe Biden does not receive four more years," former President Donald Trump said in his announcement speech. "In two years, the Biden administration has destroyed the U.S. economy. Destroyed," he claimed.
Not so fast. Small business owners, at least, are more confident now than they were last summer that they can survive an economic downturn. Falling gas prices help. Good employment numbers help, so long as they last. And so does something else.
People like Joe Biden. That's what my friend John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio says about the president, and I think he's right.
When I was doing politics, and Biden was running against my candidate, we called him "Uncle Joe." It was a nice nickname, a reflection of the fact that he was considered to be a decent and honorable man, a man whose life had been touched by tragedy that gave him a sort of gravitas.
As it happened, my colleagues were the ones who knocked him out of that race by circulating a tape of him giving the same speech as the British Labor candidate, a silly stunt that blew up in the pre-viral way. It didn't stop me from liking and respecting Joe Biden. I still think of him as Uncle Joe.
So, it seems, do a lot of people. He is inching his way back up in the polls. People expect inflation to continue, and it will; and worse job numbers may help inflation but cost in popularity, so the future is unclear. But even so, the trend is in his favor. The midterm was an unexpected boost.
And here's my prediction. Of course Joe Biden is running again. He has had a remarkably successful presidency, particularly when you consider narrow margins in the House and none in the Senate. He has earned the right to run again.
Because frankly, can anyone point to the Democrat who would do better in a general election than he would?
We remain very much a politically divided country. But it is not Biden who is dividing us. He doesn't get out there every day and see how he can carve out his piece of the pie. That's what Trump does, sometimes desperately so.
Biden is still trying to play to the broader electorate, not just to his base. He is not a polarizing personality. He wants to be liked by everybody, and unlike the former president, he has upside potential.
He is the grown-up in the room, as the House struggles to organize and the Senate sits divided. There is no other real power center, so there is room for support for Uncle Joe to grow. At least as long as gas prices stay in line.
Susan Estrich is a politician, professor, lawyer and writer. Whether on the pages of newspapers such as The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post or as a television commentator on countless news programs on CNN, Fox News, NBC, ABC, CBS and NBC, she has tackled legal matters, women's concerns, national politics and social issues. Read Susan Estrich's Reports — More Here.