With the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed by the House on Wednesday and headed to President Biden’s desk, the legislative battle over the massive measure is ending — but the PR and political fights are only beginning.
And the package, the first major legislation success in Biden’s short tenure so far in the White House, will likely be a defining factor in next year’s midterm elections, which will be a referendum on Biden’s first two years in office.
Biden’s planning a media blitz to sell the measure to the American public, with his rollout starting Thursday night when the president gives his first speech in prime time, where he’ll mark the year since the coronavirus pandemic swept the country and spotlight the lifeline his COVID relief will provide to the nation.
Democrats, who hope to hold onto their control of the House and increase their razor-thin majority in the Senate in the 2022 midterms, plan to showcase the bill in the months ahead.
“We are going to be campaigning on this legislation,” Sen. Gary Peters told reporters on Monday. The chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the re-election arm of Senate Democrats, emphasized that “we are going to show meaningful results for people in need.”
Republicans are taking aim at the package as a liberal wish list and a “blue state bailout” that is chocked full of unnecessary spending that’s not directly related to the pandemic. Their messaging is already underway.
As Fox News first reported on Sunday, the independent non-profit conservative advocacy group, American Action Network, has already placed ads in 11 congressional districts now held by House Democrats targeting the COVID package. The spots slam the legislation as House Speaker “Nancy Pelosi’s liberal stimulus.”
Veteran Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio tells Fox News that when it comes to the political impact of the COVID package, “the devil’s in the details.”
“When the fine print finally catches up with them, the American people are going to realize it wasn’t such a great deal,” emphasized Fabrizio, who was Donald Trump’s pollster on both his 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns.
Fabrizio argued that “only 10, 11% of the money actually goes to fighting COVID. The rest of the money goes to a whole bunch of other things, like bailing out states and bailing out cities and pension funds, money that has nothing to do with direct COVID relief.”
The veteran strategist, who also worked on Sen. Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign added that while “people like the idea of the direct check and they love the idea of COVID relief, this actually does less in terms of relief than the previous measures, which helped with businesses and individuals.”
Fabrizio noted that this bill “is more of a bailout for big cities and bloated government than it is anything else.”
Longtime Democratic pollster John Anzalone, a veteran of numerous presidential campaigns including Biden’s successful 2020 White House bid, says most voters appreciate the passage of the COVID relief package.
“Voters are incredibly transactional. They’ve been through a crisis for an entire year and they acknowledge that there are needs out there,” Anzalone told Fox News, “They like that there’s a president with a national plan.”
Pointing to Biden’s approval rating on handling the coronavirus – which stands around 60% in the latest public opinion polling — Anzalone said that voters “are acknowledging that there is a president who’s in control of the situation and who’s job number one is fixing this problem.”
Pushing back against Republican messaging that the COVID measure is a liberal wish list, Anzalone said “that’s political rhetoric and contrived arguments against reality. And the fact is that if you’re a family out there that’s struggling economically because you’re into a full year of a pandemic and an uncertain work environment, this money means real things.”
Anzalone argued that Republican attacks are “missing the big picture of what’s happening with real people… this is going to give tens of tens of millions of families some breathing room until we get to May or June when everyone is vaccinated. And so I don’t think the American public is going to buy that this is some Christmas tree for liberals when there’s money in there to help get schools open.”
As for the controversial state and municipal aid, Anazlone said, “Tell me what Republican governor or mayor doesn’t want the state and local aid, given how decimated those treasuries have been, and the real things that they have to do. The Republican argument right now just doesn’t pass the smell test and I don’t think real people are going to buy it.”
The staunch GOP party-line opposition to the measure will backfire on Republicans next year when they try to win back the House and Senate majorities, the seasoned strategist believes.
“Aid to states and schools to expedite vaccine distribution to get schools open, these are all things that not only popular but wanted and needed,” Anzalone said. “So I think that Republicans are going to some explaining to do on why they voted against this bill.”
But Republican pollster Fabrizio disagreed.
Asked about the Democrats’ argument, he responded that “they’re talking about what may be a short term situation today. But fast forward how-ever many months from now to November of next year…and there’s going to be a whole new set of issues that Americans are worried about.”
“And one of them may be the mounting debt. And one of them may be tax increases. And one of them may be Biden’s immigration plan,” Fabrizio highlighted. “There’s so many other things that are going to happen between now and then that to put all your chips in this basket and say that this is going to cost the Republicans the next election is extremely shortsighted.”