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Joe Biden was in a celebratory mood as he walked the White House South Lawn this month sporting his trademark aviator sunglasses.

That morning, the latest monthly inflation data showed that price increases were slowing faster than expected across the broader US economy. And hours later, before a performance of singer Cindy Lauper’s “True Colors” and surrounded by applause from members of Congress from both parties, he signed bipartisan legislation to protect same-sex marriage across the country.

“It’s been a long road, but we made it. And we will continue the work ahead, I promise you that,” Biden said.

The outdoor ceremony at the White House on Dec. 13 capped off what has been a remarkably upbeat end to the year for Biden, including a better-than-expected performance for Democrats in the midterm elections, the release of Brittney Griner , the American basketball star detained in Russia. , and the announcement of a new multi-billion dollar investment in semiconductor manufacturing in the hub state of Arizona.

What could have been a devastating year for Biden’s presidency – including grappling with Russia’s war in Ukraine, persistently high inflation, infighting among Democrats over key legislation and what many feared was being a beating in the midterm elections – ends on a rather high note for the White House.

That put Biden, who turned 80 last month, in a better position to decide whether to seek re-election in 2024. An announcement from the president on his political future is expected early next year, but his recent successes have drowned out some of the Democratic voices calling for him to step down, given his age.

“His administration’s productivity in partnership with Congress is simply undeniable against the backdrop of a national narrative that is a version of ‘all goes wrong in a hand basket,’” said Tina Smith, the Democratic senator from Minnesota. . She added that she would expect any president who had Biden’s “achievement record” to seek another term and that she would support him if he did.

“He led the party and fought for issues that are much more aligned with middle voters than with the Republican Party,” adds Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster who worked for Barack Obama.

Biden’s approval ratings have improved in recent months although they remain underwater. According to the poll average, 52% of Americans disapprove of his performance as president, while 43% approve of the job he does. That nine-percentage-point gap is far narrower than it was at the low point of Biden’s popularity in July of this year, but will remain a concern for the White House and Democrats.

“There is not a huge claim within the American public for this particular leader, there is [just] a claim to normalcy that he brought, to some extent,” says Jeffrey Engel, founding director of the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University in Texas.

Some of the most encouraging news for Biden in recent months has come on the economic front. In addition to the deceleration in the consumer price index, job growth in the United States remained solid, easing fears that a recession triggered by aggressive monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve was imminent. In their latest economic projections released this month, Fed officials predicted higher unemployment, higher inflation and higher interest rates in 2023. But they still expect the he US economy continues to grow, albeit at a slow 0.5% pace, and is accelerating again. in 2024.

“The positive economic news shows us that we have been on the right track and that the policy decisions have been the right decisions,” said Smith, the senator from Minnesota.

On the foreign policy front, Biden wrapped up the year by hosting a state visit from French President Emmanuel Macron – an emblem of Western unity he helped forge against Vladimir Putin after the attack on the Russia versus Ukraine. While it had little domestic political impact, it helped cement trust in his national security team after the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan in his first year in office.

“Joe Biden grew up during the Cold War, in the shadow of Harry Truman and some of the accomplishments that helped keep the peace for years – he got through it and stood his ground even though there had some hesitation at first,” said Alvin Felzenberg, a historian and former official of the U.S. government’s commission to investigate the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “He worked very hard to rebuild trust with the allies,” Felzenberg added.

As he looks to the 2024 decision, Biden will want to avoid two worrying precedents. The first is an internal primary challenge that would spark divisions among Democrats and jeopardize his general election chances, like those that helped convict Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980, and George HW Bush in 1992. But if Biden decides to step down he will want to do so soon enough to allow potential Democratic successors to mount successful campaigns, unlike Lyndon Johnson’s late announcement in 1968 that paved the way for Richard Nixon to win the White House.

But after a year in which Biden has disarmed and confounded critics inside and outside his party, the belief in the White House is that the president holds the best political cards he has had in months.

Joe Biden baffles critics by ending tough year on a high

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