September 13

By Susan Milligan

Just a few months ago, a down-in-the-dumps, way-down-in-the-polls President Joe Biden was struggling to pass major legislative items and appease Democratic Party voters who worried the unpopular leader would drag down vulnerable House and Senate candidates, perhaps enabling a massive red wave this fall.

Now, a newly buoyant and aggressive president is looking and sounding more confident on the stump and on the trail, touting his hard-won legislative wins and reveling in polls showing things looking up for his party.

That was evident Monday afternoon, when Biden went big on his policy goal-setting: curing cancer.

President John F. Kennedy, 60 years ago to the day, made his famous “moonshot” speech to launch American exploration of space, Biden said in remarks at the JFK Library in Boston. The sitting commander in chief said he had the same resolve to “end cancer as we know it” by expanding research, making cancer drugs more affordable and reinforcing the role of homegrown technology.

“I believe we can usher in the same unwillingness to postpone, the same national purpose that will serve to organize the best of our energies and skills,” Biden said. “To end cancer as we know it and even cure cancers once and for all.”

Biden reiterated his goal to reduce cancer cases by at least 50% in the next 25 years and noted that while Democrats and Republicans may not be on the same page, cancer does not discriminate politically.

“It doesn’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat. Beating cancer is something we can do together,” Biden said in a speech where he referenced former President Richard Nixon and “my friend, Mitch McConnell” as two Republicans who have worked to fight cancer.

Biden on Monday morning announced Dr. Renee Wegrzyn as the inaugural director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, an entity Biden created in March. He also Monday signed an executive order to launch a National Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Initiative to ensure that cancer-fighting technologies will be developed and manufactured in America.

The president also noted some progress made in the fight against cancer, including federally funded research into blood tests that, if successful, may be able to detect cancers early, allowing for earlier and more effective treatments. He also noted that the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act cuts prescription drug costs for seniors, saving an average of $6,000 annually for those on prostate cancer drugs and $7,000 a year for Medicare patients taking breast cancer drug therapies.

Biden’s mood and ambition matched his improving fortunes. A few months ago, the president and his party were suffering in the polls because of inflation, high gas prices and what pollsters and Biden himself described as a general malaise and exhaustion after two-plus years of the pandemic.

But more recently, the picture has looked brighter for Democrats. Polling shows that Americans now prefer that Democrats retain control of Congress, a shift from earlier this year, when the GOP was preferred.

While the so-called “generic ballot” does not reflect the reality of individual races, the trend suggests that Democrats might retain their razor-thin control of the Senate and may not suffer as many losses in the House, where Republicans are still widely favored to retake the majority.

Inflation, while still painfully high, is beginning to ease, and gas prices have come down substantially in the past two months. The average price of gas Monday was $3.71 a gallon, according to AAA, a price not seen since March.

With the midterms less than two months away, Biden is spending the rest of the week touting his legislative achievements and reinforcing his party’s message.

Earlier Monday, he spoke at Boston’s Logan Airport, pointing out the $62 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve the airport. He’ll be touting the infrastructure law later this week as well.

Thursday, Biden will speak at a United We Stand Summit directed at countering hate-fueled violence, a theme he said led him to run for office after the hate-based attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

The cancer moonshot, however, is personal to Biden, who lost his son Beau to cancer in 2015.

“I give you my word as a Biden, this cancer moonshot is one of the reasons I ran for president,” Biden said Monday.