Keisha Lance Bottoms can salvage Biden’s sagging approval ratings

Keisha Lance Bottoms’s addition to President Joe Biden’s circle of senior White House advisers will help shore up the president’s falling approval ratings among black voters, allies believe.

Bottoms, the former mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, is replacing Cedric Richmond as director of the White House’s Office of Public Engagement and is viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party. She was included on Biden’s short list of vice presidential contenders and was a critical Biden surrogate in pushing Georgia blue in the 2020 race, but she chose not to run for a second term as mayor in the spring of 2021 despite a 68% approval rating in some polls.


“Mayor Bottoms understands that democracy is about making government work for working families, for the people who are the backbone of this country. She led the city of Atlanta with strength through the pandemic, through a summer of protests and pain, and through the mass shooting that left Atlanta’s Asian American community in fear,” Biden said in a statement announcing Bottoms’s addition to his team. “Keisha is bright, honorable, tough and has the integrity required to represent our Administration to the American public. Jill and I have known Keisha for a long time and look forward to working with her more closely.”

“As we continue to navigate historic global challenges, it remains important to have a diversity of thought and experiences within the White House,” Bottoms added in her own statement. “I am looking forward to helping continue the impactful work that is being done on behalf of the American people.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s own approval ratings, especially among black voters, have cratered amid nationwide inflation and other economic concerns. Morning Consult clocked Biden’s approval in early June at just 39%, his lowest mark as president, putting him neck and neck with former President Donald Trump’s ratings during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Black voters still approve of Biden at a higher rate than the general population, but the Washington Post and Ipsos found that just 70% of black voters gave Biden positive marks in June 2022, down 8% since April 2021. Just 23% of black respondents said they “strongly approved” of the job Biden has done as president, and 32% said they did not think Biden cared about areas that matter to black voters, up 9 points compared to the 2020 campaign.

Furthermore, Biden has expressed frustration at his inability to connect with voters and explain his successes in recent months.

Senior Democratic officials view Bottoms as a bridge for the White House and the party to reconnect with voters on voting rights and other areas the administration has not made progress on since entering office in 2021.

The Office of Public Engagement is responsible for coordinating support for Biden’s agenda among the wider Democratic coalition, both inside and outside of government. One senior party official specifically cited Bottoms’s mayoral background as evidence she will be able to communicate effectively on how the president’s policies will help “real Americans.”

Fred Hicks, a veteran Georgia Democratic strategist, similarly conceded the “administration has really struggled with communication” and that Bottoms will “be very helpful with messaging.”

“Black voters and Black women are the most loyal voting block of the Democratic Party,” he said in a statement. “Putting someone who has a very high and very positive national profile in this kind of a position is very, very important.”

The White House has frequently claimed that local officials might serve as better messengers for explaining policy to voters compared to high-ranking federal officials in a number of areas, specifically Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

In addition to Bottoms, the senior Biden ranks already featured a number of former mayors, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, and infrastructure law coordinator Mitch Landrieu.

Still, Republicans are already using Bottoms’s presence as a means of attacking Biden and Democrats on crime, which consistently polls as a top midterm election concern next to the economy.


Bottoms was a major supporter of the “defund the police” movement in the summer of 2020 and will “absolutely” be a blow to Biden’s “transparent attempts to seem tough on crime,” one senior Republican official told the Washington Examiner.

“Biden has refused to call out pro-criminal Democrat district attorneys. The anti-police Left has a direct line of communication to senior administration officials and are frequent visitors to Biden’s White House. Police morale is plummeting across the country. But what’s Biden doing? He is hiring another defund the police Democrat,” Republican National Committee spokesman Tommy Pigott spokesman added. “All of Biden’s lip service means nothing. The fact of the matter is that the Democrats’ calls to defund the police are coming from inside the White House.”

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