Domestically embattled and with his poll ratings in decline, Joe Biden needs some wins. Deals on global minimum corporate tax rates, reducing methane emissions and halting deforestation will have provided the US president with some comfort.
The welcome, robust reassertion of the US commitment to multilateralism and global leadership has earned him kudos with fellow world leaders, though few brownie points back home.
These are difficult times for Biden. Advances in Glasgow on climate issues may still prove illusory if congressional approval for his massive climate and infrastructure packages continues to elude him.
It is on a knife edge, with Democratic liberals and rightwingers both ready to vote down his “Build Back Better” $1.85 trillion economic and environmental bill and a $1 trillion infrastructure package, already passed the Senate, if either side wins too many concessions.
Two conservative Democratic senators, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, are denying the president his Senate majority, forcing him to strip nearly $2 trillion from the first Bill in ambitious climate change programmes, provisions to provide federal paid leave, a broad expansion of Medicare, and two years of free community college.
In August America's messy retreat from Afghanistan started to drag down Biden's approval rating, now the lowest of his presidency at 42.8 per cent. And his political woes deepened on Tuesday when businessman and Donald Trump supporter Glenn Youngkin took the governorship of Virginia from Democrat Terry McAuliffe, while in New Jersey incumbent governor Philip Murphy was poised to lose narrowly to a relatively obscure Republican challenger.
The results could spell danger for Democrats in midterm congressionals next year. “The MAGA [Make America Great Again] movement is bigger and stronger than ever before,” Trump announced on Tuesday. There is a germ of truth in the claim, although the off-year Virginia gubernatorial election has a record in recent decades of serving as the first voter backlash against the party in power. Biden and the Democrats have a genuine battle on their hands against resurgent Republicans.
The day's elections also marked a noteworthy setback to Irish-American politics – McAuliffe's surprise defeat, handing Republicans the state for the first time in more than a decade, came as the city of Boston elected its first Asian-American and first woman mayor, Michelle Wu (36).
That brought to an end the Irish and then Italian domination of the city mayoralty that began in 1884 with the election of Hugh O'Brien from Cork. The office was held without interruption by men of Irish descent from 1930 to 1993. Outgoing Irish-American mayor Marty Walsh had resigned to serve as Biden's Labour Secretary.