Grim GDP report undercuts Democrats’ midterm messaging

The latest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers out Thursday are poised to hamper Democrats‘ key argument heading into the midterm elections, that the U.S. economy has rebounded from the dark days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rising gas prices and overall inflation had already been overshadowing positive economic statistics the White House touts of low unemployment and the record creation of 7.9 million jobs in the first 14 months of any presidency. 

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 27: President Joe Biden and the White House COVID-19 Response Team participate in a virtual call with the National Governors Association from the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the Whit (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

But the economic picture got gloomier on Thursday when the Commerce Department announced that the U.S. economy shrank 1.4% at the beginning of 2022 — marking the worst quarter in two years. 


Refinitiv economists expected the report to show the economy had expanded by 1.1%. It marked the worst performance since the spring of 2020, when the U.S. economy was still deep in the throes of the COVID-induced recession.

Republicans were quick to blame Biden and said it’s time for Democrats to realize that voters have been dissatisfied with the state of the economy for some time. 

“Democrats have been having an internal debate over whether to try to sell the economy is stronger than voters feel that it is,” said Jack Pandol, communications director for the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.  “I think this effectively ends that argument because there is no strong economy for Democrats to sell.”


Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., arrives at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, as a showdown looms with Democrats over raising the debt limit. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Associated Press)

Biden and his economic team batted down concerns of any immediate economic recession. 

Ron Klain, White House Chief of Staff, tweeted that despite the “sour GDP number” the recovery remained resilient because of strong consumer spending and continued business investment, he said, citing a New York Times report.

Brian Deese, the White House Director of the National Economic Council, also said despite the “noise” about the GDP report, the economy is still good.

“The most salient takeaway from the Q1 GDP report — when you strip away the noise –is the continuing resilience of the American economic recovery,” Deese tweeted.

And Jason Furman, the past Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), said “don’t freak out about the GDP report” because other economic components are “strong.”

Much like how Republicans have sought to link Biden to historically high gas prices – plastering stickers of Biden at the pump saying “I did that!”  – the GOP also is seeking to tie Biden’s domestic spending agenda to the negative GDP.

Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s response to the economy shrinking was: “Thanks, Joe Biden.”

Biden Thursday said he’s “not concerned” about any immediate recession and sought to pivot to more positive headlines. 

“Consumer spending and business investment and residential investment increased at significant rates … Unemployment is the lowest rate since 1970. A record 4.5 million businesses were created last year,” Biden said at the White House.


He added: “What you’re seeing is enormous growth in the country that was affected by everything from COVID and the COVID blockages that occurred along the way.”

Democrats are facing an extremely tough midterm landscape as they cling to narrow majorities in the House and Senate with a president whose approval ratings are underwater

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer hold a press conference on gas prices, April 28, 2022 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images / Getty Images)

Acknowledging the pain high gas prices are causing everyday Americans, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday said they are “laser focused” on lowering costs at the pump and across the economy. Their solution is to go after oil companies for price gouging and market manipulation. 

“House Democrats recognize that the American people continue to feel the pinch of an uneven recovery and inflation, and we are working hard to address inflation and lower costs for working families,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

Beyond the topline number, Hoyer said Thursday’s GDP report “shows the U.S. economy continues to be resilient in the face of historic challenge, with strong growth in consumer spending and both business and residential investment.”


But Pandol, from the pro-McConnell PAC, told Fox News Digital that the GDP numbers should be clarifying for Democrats. 

“This report further solidifies those feelings with voters that things are not going well,” Pandol said. “They’re feeling rising costs and inflation. And now, the economy is literally contracting.”

FOX Business’ Megan Henney contributed to this report. 

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