Democrats and Biden nearly suffered a much-desired ‘red wave’ by Republicans, but not enough people turned out to vote. Democrats and Biden were about to have a really bad two years if the ‘red wave’ too full effect, but looks like that fizzled out a bit so far. During a recent fundraiser, President Joe Biden offered a bluntly dire assessment, as if Democrats needed any more convincing that the midterm elections carry enormous stakes.

Here is what Biden told the small crowd gathered inside a hotel ballroom, where cameras weren’t allowed: “If we lose the House and Senate, it’s going to be a horrible two years.” “The good news is I’ll have a veto pen,” he added. A change in leadership in the House or Senate – or both – would thrust Biden’s presidency into an entirely new phase, after two years of Democratic control of Congress, said CNN.

In the final days of the campaign, Biden himself has been projecting optimism, but the reality is setting in for Democrats their majority rule in Congress could soon end, while Biden’s ability to get his top priorities passed could go with it.

White House officials say the fact Democrats have a fighting chance at all is a positive sign for Biden. They have also begun pointing out that their losses aren’t likely to be nearly as bad as previous midterm wipeouts, including in 2010. Though the president and his senior team are starting the day with the view that the prospect of Democrats holding on to their Senate majority is real – even if it’s one that may take days, or longer, to be fully realized – his advisers privately acknowledge that they don’t see a viable path for Democrats to hold onto their House majority.

The White House moved recently to separate Biden’s agenda – and the president himself – from the list of targets, with the intraparty blame game set to boil over in the weeks ahead. Ranging from Biden’s cornerstone legislative achievements to his actions on student loans, marijuana, and his administration’s response to the pandemic, the White House circulated an Election Day memo to allies more than two dozen individual poll results they say underscores the popularity of the key individual elements of Biden’s agenda.

Who's a better president?*
This poll gives you free access to our premium politics newsletter. Unsubscribe at any time.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The memo says this in its introduction: “Before all the votes have even been cast, pundits are declaring that these midterms have been a referendum on the president’s agenda – nothing could be further from the truth.”

Yet his agenda, no matter how it polls in isolation, hasn’t translated to an American public that has taken a largely negative view on the direction of the country, even Biden has acknowledged that.

At a recent fundraising event, Biden said: “We’ve passed so many good things. They’ve been so good people haven’t realized how good they are yet.”

This effort to get in front of expected losses is coming after months of frontline Democratic candidates actively seeking to separate themselves from Biden. They relegated the party’s leader mostly to Democratic states and districts as the party scrambled to save its majorities.

But Biden doesn’t take that reality personally, advisers say. Biden’s view has long been, after 36 years in the Senate, that the candidates know what’s best for their state or district. But White House officials have bristled at the view that he was a singular drag on Democrats, as Biden’s approval ratings started to inch up in the last few months.

A message is echoed from the defensive tone in the memo that Biden has repeatedly sought to emphasize in the closing days of the campaign. This message centers on the idea that the election represents a choice between two parties, not a referendum on Biden or his presidency.

Republicans only needed to pick up five seats to take control of the House, so a loss of a few seats would mean dramatic changes for the president. If the Republicans on Capitol Hill take control of Congress, they have made it abundantly clear that Biden should get ready, as Investigations are coming his way.

Also, the era of big, progressive bills will likely end if Republicans gain control of one or both chambers. Biden will be on the defense instead, as Republicans work to undo much of what he accomplished in the first two years of his term. Another area that is at stake for Biden and his administration is 2024 because as soon as the 2022 midterm election results are in, national attention will immediately turn to 2024 – including on the question of whether Biden will seek a second term.

Staff changes are also possible both to the president’s Cabinet and his senior White House staff later this year, though no moves are guaranteed, officials have said. Several of the members of his core team are considered likely to shift over to the political operation if Biden announces his decision to run in 2024.