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Biden advisers see thin, short path to first-year success as critics squeeze from both flanks

President Biden has a thin, short path to success in his first six to nine months, top advisers tell Axios. His success, or failure, will dictate whether he can hold off both Republican critics — and activist Democrats who want him to go bigger, faster.

The big picture: Biden has to get vaccinations moving and the stimulus bill pumping, so the economy will start rocking, advisers said. That’s why he loaded his White House with veteran loyalists focused almost exclusively on these two topics.


  • Success would put him in a maximalist position with the public — and Congress. Behind the scenes, top advisers worry that even with maximalist power, the reality of what awaits him will leave little room for celebration.

Cedric Richmond, White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement, told "Axios on HBO" that the White House feels "an extreme sense of urgency."

  • "We're not passing the buck," Richmond said. "It all falls on our doorstep. But President Biden ran for president knowing those things, and he's going to address them."
  • "It's going to be hard — very hard. But we're going to give it all of our attention, all of our might, and we're going to try to our damndest."

Richmond said the White House will continue to make overtures to Republicans, but made it clear Biden is prepared to push through his $1.9 trillion rescue plan with just a couple or even zero GOP votes.

  • "I can tell you on the American Rescue Plan," Richmond said, "if our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we're not gonna do that."

What's next: There's not a lot of joy in store for this presidency. Even in the best-case scenario — the virus abates; the economy roars — look at the known unknowns that Biden faces, and that could suddenly consume his presidency:

  • Another pandemic.
  • A rising China.
  • A cyberattack, like the one we just saw carried out by the Russians.
  • More countries getting nukes.

Go deeper: Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations.

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