Baby formula crisis punctuates steep decline in support for Biden, Dems, with suburban women voters


President Biden and his Democrats were already in trouble with suburban women voters due to inflation, high gas prices and an agenda these voters say does not align with their priorities.

Then baby formula disappeared from store shelves. 

Images of empty store shelves and stories of frantic parents searching for food to feed their infants, coupled with reports that the Biden administration is shipping pallets of scarce formula to the southern border to feed illegal immigrant children, now threaten to crater the party’s already weakened support among suburban women.

“Democrats have seen a double-digit decline among their strongest groups, especially women who are already struggling to stretch a dollar,” Republican strategist Ryan Girdusky told the Washington Times.  “But now they’re trying to find food for their children.” 

Women were a pivotal voting bloc for President Biden and Democrats in 2020. Exit polls show they backed Mr. Biden over Donald Trump 57% to 47%.

But over the past few months, polls show women have soured on Mr. Biden. While he won’t be on the November ballot, Democrats have been sinking along with him in the eyes of female voters dealing with skyrocketing inflation, gas prices and now a formula shortage.
“That hits home,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “You can’t get any closer to a suburban woman than making her run all over the place to find baby food. There is nothing that hits that demographic more directly, than not having what your infant needs every day.”

A February poll conducted by Marist and published in collaboration with NPR and PBS Newshour found that 45% of suburban women surveyed said they approved of President Biden’s job performance, a double-digit decline from a poll taken two months earlier.

A Marist poll taken in late April showed suburban women favored Republicans over Democrats on the economy and slowing inflation, two top voter concerns. Among parents with children under 18, registered voters said they would pick a Republican over a Democrat in November’s congressional election by a nearly 30-point margin, 60% to 32%.

The baby formula shortage may escalate the flight to the GOP among suburban voters and particularly women.

“Inflation and supply chain problems have badly damaged Biden’s public standing and Democratic midterm prospects,” said Ron Faucheux, a pollster and nonpartisan political analyst. “This is particularly true among independents and suburban women, and could get worse if the problems get worse.”

The scarcity of formula is impacting entire families, who are scrambling to help find cans for hungry infants.

In Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, Ghada, 52, searched in vain to find a specialty brand of formula for her one-year-old nephew, who has allergies.

“It’s a big problem,” she said. “We couldn’t find formula anywhere.”

Democrats, who control Congress and the White House, are grappling with empty store shelves amid a new report that the FBI was using counterterrorism resources to track parents tagged on a special tip line the Justice Department set up to monitor threats against school officials. Their investigation targeted dozens of parents, including a mother of three who complained to her school board about extended COVID-19 closures. 

The Biden administration is also facing criticism over the revelation that it is using taxpayer funding to provide crack pipes to drug addicts as part of a government drug safety program.

Republicans say the Democratic Party’s priorities are misaligned. 

“Parents can’t buy baby formula, but taxpayer-funded crack pipes are in the mail,” Republican Wesley Hunt, who is running for Congress in Texas, tweeted.

Democrats say they will be able to mobilize women voters, particularly suburban women, following a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion overturning the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion. Marist survey data shows on the issue of abortion, suburban women vastly prefer Democrats over Republicans. 

But for voters in November, the issue of abortion may not be as critical as high grocery and gas prices, struggling to find and purchase infant formula.

Democrats appear to have awakened to the severity of the crisis after using up several days of a dwindling legislative calendar in a failed attempt to legalize abortion up until birth. 

Mr. Biden announced he would ease restrictions on formula imports, cut red tape to speed up domestic production and take steps to prevent price gouging.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said addressing the formula shortage is at the top of the congressional agenda. In a memo to fellow Democrats, she announced the House would be voting on emergency legislation that will help fill the empty shelves by easing some regulations to speed up formula production. 

She said the House would also begin consideration of an emergency spending bill “to immediately address the infant formula shortage.” 

It may not be a quick fix. 

The shortage was caused by supply chain problems amplified by the FDA’s extended shuttering of a Sturgis, Michigan, formula plant after several infants were sickened.

The company, Abbott, said it found no evidence linking its formulas to infant illnesses. A company spokeswoman told the Washington Times that subject to FDA approval, the plant could restart production within two weeks.

“From the time we restart the site, it will take six to eight weeks before the product is available on shelves,” she said.

The FDA said on May 10th that it continues to investigate the infant illnesses but, in light of the shortages, it is “not objecting to Abbott Nutrition releasing product to individuals needing urgent, life-sustaining supplies of certain specialty and metabolic formulas on a case-by-case basis that have been on hold at its Sturgis facility.”

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