- The Washington Times
Saturday, May 14, 2022

President Biden and congressional Democrats were already in trouble with suburban women because of inflation, high gas prices and an agenda that these voters say does not align with their priorities.

Then baby formula disappeared. 

Images of empty store shelves and stories of frantic parents searching for food for 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 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 Mr. Biden and other Democrats in 2020. Exit polls showed they backed Mr. Biden over President Trump by 57% to 42%.

Over the past few months, though, polls show women have soured on Mr. Biden. Although the president won’t be on November ballots, congressional 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 approved of Mr. Biden’s job performance. That was a double-digit decline from a poll two months earlier.

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

The baby formula shortage may escalate the suburban flight to the Republican Party, particularly among 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 with hungry infants.

In Arlington, Virginia, Ghada, 52, searched in vain to find a specialty brand of formula for her 1-year-old nephew with 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 and a report that the FBI has been using counterterrorism resources to track parents tagged on a special Justice Department tip line to monitor threats against school officials. The investigation has 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 after the revelation that it is using taxpayer funding to provide crack pipes to addicts as part of a 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, said in a Twitter post.

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

Still, the issue of abortion may not be as critical in November as high grocery and gas prices and difficulties finding infant formula.

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

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

House 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 that the House would be voting on emergency legislation to help fill 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.” 

The fix may not be quick. 

The formula shortage was caused by supply chain problems and amplified by the Food and Drug Administration’s extended shuttering of a Sturgis, Michigan, manufacturing 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 the plant could restart production within two weeks with FDA approval.

“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 Tuesday 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.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

• Mica Soellner can be reached at msoellner@washingtontimes.com.

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