Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) (C) are joined by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) at a news conference outlining their legislative efforts to lower fuel prices, at the Capitol Visitors Center on Thursday, April 28, 2022, in Washington.
CNN  — 

For months now, one thing has been pretty clear: Democrats are headed for an absolutely brutal midterm election unless something BIG changes and QUICKLY.

But this week felt like the moment when Democrats – from President Joe Biden on down – realized just how bad things look out there.

Consider these two headlines, which ran on CNN on Thursday and Friday, respectively:

1. “After Build Back Better’s collapse, Democrats still struggling with how to message the midterms

2. “A frustrated Joe Biden will go on the attack against Republicans in the midterms – and into 2024

The tale told by those two stories is of a Democratic Party that lacks the votes to revive its signature piece of legislation (Build Back Better) and lacks the initiative or will – at least at present – to coalesce around an agreed-upon message that they can sell to the American public.

That lack of direction couldn’t come at a worse time for Democrats.

The news this week that the gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 1.4% between January and March – a stark reversal from the 6.9% GDP growth that the US recorded in the final quarter of 2021 – was an absolute gut punch to a party and an administration desperately trying to convince the public that the economy is strengthening.

And on Friday came word that the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index, a measure the the Federal Reserve looks at to gauge inflation, had increased by 6.6% for the year ending in March. That was the biggest increase in 40 years.

All of this lands as Biden remains mired in the low 40s in polling. According to Gallup, an average of 41% of Americans approved of Biden’s job performance in the first quarter of 2022.

There is, of course, still time for the political environment to shift. (The election is less than 200 days away.)

But major shifts – particularly in how people perceive the relative strength or weakness of the economy – take time. And there’s no sign of a turnaround right now.

The Point: 2022 was always going to be a tough election for Democrats given the narrowness of their House and Senate majorities. But the way the year has played out – and the seeming lack of any clear message from Democrats – could well foretell an absolute washout for their side.