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From One July Fourth to the Next, a Steep Slide for Biden

FILE - President Joe Biden listens during a virtual meeting with Democratic governors on the issue of abortion rights, in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, July 1, 2022, in Washington. Biden is marking his second Fourth of July since taking office with a far different political atmosphere than the first. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Last Fourth of July, President Joe Biden gathered hundreds of people outside the White House for an event that would have been unthinkable for many Americans the previous year. With the coronavirus in retreat, they ate hamburgers and watched fireworks over the National Mall.

Although the pandemic wasn’t over yet, Biden said, “we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” Across the country, indoor masking requirements were falling as the number of infections and deaths plummeted.

Within weeks, even some of the president’s allies privately admitted that the speech had been premature. Soon the administration would learn that the delta variant could be transmitted by people who had already been vaccinated. Masks went back on, then came polarizing vaccination mandates. The even-more-contagious omicron variant would arrive months later, infecting millions and causing chaos during the holiday season.

That sunny speech one year ago marked a crossroads for Biden’s presidency. The pandemic appeared to be waning, the economy was booming, inflation wasn’t rising as quickly as today and public approval of his job performance was solid.

As Biden approaches his second Fourth of July in the White House, his standing couldn’t be more different. A series of miscalculations and unforeseen challenges have Biden struggling for footing as he faces a potentially damaging verdict from voters in the upcoming midterm elections. Even problems that weren’t Biden’s fault have been fuel for Republican efforts to retake control of Congress.

The pandemic’s resurgence was swiftly followed last summer by the debacle of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, when the Taliban seized control of the country faster than the administration expected as the U.S.-backed regime collapsed. Then, negotiations over Biden’s broader domestic agenda stalled, only to collapse altogether in December.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February caused a worldwide spike in gas prices, exacerbating inflation that reached a 40-year high. Another blow came last month, when the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion under Roe v. Wade and curtailed the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

“People are grouchy,” said Lindsay Chervinsky, a presidential historian.

The latest poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that his approval rating remains at 39%, the lowest since taking office and a steep slide from 59% one year ago. Only 14% of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction, down from 44%.

Douglas Brinkley, another historian,

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