Biden hones Trump attacks in election year
President Joe Biden's renewed focus on former President Donald Trump ushers in the midterm election season and may also preview a rematch in 2024.
And Biden and White House aides ditching their strategy of largely ignoring Trump and his hold on the Republican Party underlines the incumbent's political weakness as Democrats brace for a shellacking in November.
Biden, the White House, and their congressional colleagues continue to vilify Trump, even when he is not on the ballot, to agitate Democrats into voting, according to presidential historian and commentator Brian Rosenwald.
"The dirty little secret in politics is that both sides really need their bases to have something to be angry and anxious over to get them to turn out in maximum numbers," he told the Washington Examiner . "It’s one reason the out-party usually does well in midterm elections — they’re the angry ones."
Democrats did not experience success with the tactic in last year's Virginia governor's race. However, gubernatorial contests are harder to nationalize than their House and Senate counterparts, Rosenwald contended. That is particularly so when "relatively mild-mannered" Republican Glenn Youngkin ran on a positive agenda and former Democrat Gov. Terry McAuliffe did not, the University of Pennsylvania scholar said.
At the same time, Rosenwald downplayed the connection between Biden's tone and 2024 as Trump stokes speculation of a comeback and conjecture of a Biden ticket with Trump critic Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney this week set social media alight. Instead, the historian argued 2024 was too far off for Biden and the White House to make that "sort of calculation."
"Too much can change in the interim," he said. "I think it reflects Biden trying to signal to his base that he understands their frustrations and anxiety over the danger posed by the Trump movement, and he understands the fear that Jan. 6 is being whitewashed or minimized."
Biden used his Jan. 6 anniversary address to debut a sharper message regarding Trump, building on that foundation this week with remarks in Georgia about voting. In essence, the two speeches represent a rhetoric reset before November when pundits, buttressed by historical trends, predict Democrats will lose their congressional majorities.
Yet the move underscores shortcomings in a potential 2024 campaign as Biden's poll numbers spiral and his legislative priorities stall thanks to centrist Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
Failing to keep his 2020 promises, such as passing sweeping trillion-dollar social welfare and climate policy reform or getting a grip on the pandemic and 40-year-high inflation, Biden appears to be relying again on contrasting himself and Democrats with his predecessor as opposed to presenting a positive case for the party.
Simultaneously, Biden's popularity has plummeted. Quinnipiac University pollsters this week found only one-third of respondents approve of Biden's job as president, citing COVID-19 and the economy. And his average 42%-53% favorable-unfavorable rating puts him on par with Trump's 42%-52% favorability-unfavorability, according to RealClearPolitics .
"Lower wages, rising prices, empty shelves: the Biden 'plan' is not working," Republican National Committee spokesman Tommy Pigott wrote in an email to reporters. "Biden is doubling down on failure. He’s either out-of-touch, doesn’t care, or, most likely, both."
Many Republicans, including "Never Trump" Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, have complained about the offensive nature of Biden's addresses. But White House press secretary Jen Psaki has shrugged off their concerns, describing the gripes as "hilarious" after "people sat silently over the last four years for the former president."
"What is far more offensive is the effort to suppress people's basic right to exercise who they want to support and who they want to elect," she said. "That's not a partisan thing."
Psaki, her deputy Karine Jean-Pierre, and the rest of the White House communications squad have bristled at suggestions that Biden delayed attacking Trump, hoping he would fade into obscurity on his own. Rather, they insist Biden has consistently portrayed Trump as "a unique threat to the soul of our country."
However, Psaki did concede that Biden and her co-workers underestimated Trump's power over Republicans when asked about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's acerbic response to Biden's remarks this week.
"I think that's disappointing for everybody, not just people who work here," she said.
Washington Examiner Videos