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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about his racial equity agenda at the White House in Washington on Jan. 26, 2021.KEVIN LAMARQUE/Reuters

As U.S. President Joe Biden ends his first year in office, it’s pile-on time. Everyone’s having a go at poor old Joe.

Last week gave them added fodder. It was a three-striker. Mr. Biden was shot down on major legislative initiatives for Build Back Better, voting rights and a vaccine mandate.

Comparisons to one-term President Jimmy Carter abound. Even by that measure, he’s not looking good. Mr. Carter was a youngster by comparison to Mr. Biden, who is so enfeebled, one wag cracked, he has to rest between strokes while brushing his teeth.

With his policy agenda torpedoed, the pandemic still raging, and inflation on the march, is Mr. Biden moribund already? He’ll be pulverized in the midterm elections, so goes the speculation, after which he’ll be a dead man walking.

One thing you’d think he has going for him is his Republican alternative, the former president who was impeached twice in four years. On his handling of the pandemic, Mr. Biden doesn’t look too bad compared to Donald Trump, whose proposed remedies – have you considered drinking bleach? – fell a tad short of qualifying as medical or scientific breakthroughs.

With Russian armies perched on the Ukrainian border, would Americans want Mr. Trump, who made a habit of kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, at the helm?

But the American people don’t seem inclined to draw such comparisons. Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden in head-to-head polls. On party standings, Democrats started 2021 with a nine-point polling advantage but, according to Gallup surveys, now trail Republicans by five.

Joe Biden is catching blame for everything. The pandemic was supposed to fade. Was it his fault that the voracious Omicron variant suddenly appeared?

The Supreme Court threw out his vaccine mandate and limited abortion rights. Is he to blame for inheriting a court more dominated by conservatives than in previous decades?

Inflation was starting to ramp up just as Mr. Biden took office. Was that his doing? Did he cause the disruption in supply chains, the main source of rising prices?

On several major issues, though not Afghanistan, Mr. Biden has been a victim of circumstances beyond his control. He tried for months to reason with Joe Manchin, the obstinate senator from West Virginia who sabotaged his Build Back Better plan. Compromise proved impossible. The same thing happened in the case of Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who undercut him on democratic reform. No president can corral the support of every member of his party all the time.

Where Mr. Biden went wrong was in overplaying his hand. Americans didn’t vote for a strong left-side agenda. They voted for him because they wanted relief from Donald Trump.

Given his wobbly one-seat majority in the Senate, Mr. Biden should have lowered expectations – not raised them. As for thinking he could work across the aisle and forge new bipartisanship, who was he trying to kid? The chasm between the two parties was and is canyonesque.

He was still able to get some good things done – the US$1.9-trillion COVID-19 relief package, the US$1.2-trillion infrastructure bill, a sizable economic recovery, a record number of judicial appointments for a first-year president, and the return of decency and civility to the Oval Office.

If Omicron fades away, the public mood will improve, as it will if inflation tapers off. If he can pass some of his Build Back Better proposals individually, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, that would win some support as well. But that’s a lot of ifs.

He now faces the threat of an invasion into Ukraine and with it – speaking of being a victim of circumstance – an awful quandary. Let the invasion proceed and look like a coward. Or go to war to try and stop it, an option Americans strongly oppose.

All said, the doom scenario for Joe Biden, whose vice-president Kamala Harris is a flop so far as well, looks possible. Politics is a cruel sport. People aren’t going to say, well, gee, he’s had some tough breaks so let’s give him a pass. A brutal loss in the midterms in combination with the handicap of his age – he turns 80 this year – will ramp up pressure enormously for him to plan his exit.

In little over a year from now, we’re likely to see other candidates announcing campaigns for the Democratic nomination. For the 2024 election campaign, don’t go to the wicket putting money on a Biden-Harris ticket.

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