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Joe Biden is facing a string of US political showdowns after his Asia trip

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US President Joe Biden is counting his wins from a gruelling trip to Asia, but at home he faces a string of political showdowns to keep his re-election bid on sure footing.

The 80-year-old had 2024 in his sights when he said on his return from India and Vietnam on Monday that his travels had “strengthened America’s leadership on the global stage”.

With his Democratic Party reportedly alarmed by his poll ratings, Biden used his time at the G20 in Delhi and in Hanoi to talk up his credentials as US commander-in-chief and international statesman.

But the situation on his return to Washington looks increasingly like an uphill battle.

US President Joe Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

Despite positive economic signs, America’s oldest-ever president is polling neck-and-neck in a likely rematch with Donald Trump, his 77-year-old Republican predecessor.

A possible US government shutdown looms at the end of the month; a potentially disruptive strike of US carmakers is also in the cards. And hardline Republicans are even pushing for an impeachment inquiry over Biden’s embattled son Hunter.

Biden urges ‘national unity’ 22 years after September 11 attacks

But the really bad news after an exhausting journey through all 24 time zones on Air Force One? Foreign policy is not top of mind for most US voters.

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“I don’t think going to other countries for summit meetings is going to make a big difference to him in terms of poll numbers,” David Karol, who teaches government and politics at the University of Maryland, said.

The issue in particular won’t win over the small number of swing voters he needs to convince next year.

“Most voters are not focused on foreign affairs unless there’s a war with American troops in it.”

Biden the statesman was on display even at home this weekend, in television campaign ads hailing his support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion.

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At the G20 summit in Delhi, Biden “stepped into the void left by Xi (Jinping of China) and secured new infrastructure deals aimed at connecting India, the Middle East and Europe,” said Josh Lipsky of the Atlantic Council, a think tank.

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Joe Biden says US and Vietnam ‘deepening cooperation’

Joe Biden says US and Vietnam ‘deepening cooperation’

In Vietnam he won a major upgrade in ties to rein in rival Beijing.

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In Hanoi Biden riffed – at considerable length – on a favourite story about a supposed quote from a movie starring legendary US actor John Wayne, describing climate change sceptics as “lying, dog-faced pony soldiers”.

But that, and a tired-seeming Biden’s parting words that he was “going to bed” risked playing into the hands of his biggest electoral liability at home – his age.

Democrats are starting to panic about his low polling, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board said on Monday, especially over what it called his “age and decline”.

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Back in Washington, a divided Congress is struggling to agree on a budget extension to avoid the first government shutdown since 2018-19, when Trump was in office.

China’s rise an opportunity for US, not challenge, Premier Li told Biden at G20

The White House has asked Congress to swiftly vote on a budget extension to avoid such a situation.

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Backed by Trump, far-right Republicans are also pushing heavily for an impeachment inquiry, saying they won’t vote to avoid a shutdown unless it goes ahead.

They want to launch the probe over Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and unproven allegations about whether the president benefited from them.

While it would be doomed to failure as Biden’s Democrats control the Senate, Republicans are keen to do whatever they can to capitalise on Hunter Biden’s problems.

Adding to his woes, Biden’s treasured credentials as a pro-union president could be hurt if workers at the “Big Three” carmakers Ford, General Motors and Stellantis go on strike later this week.

Worse for Biden, the political noise is drowning out his pitch on the issue that voters do care about – that the US has the “strongest economy in the world today”.

“Messaging is a challenge because persuadable voters are not paying much attention,” said Karol.

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