But that Joe Biden has faded.
On Thursday night, he used newly honed rhetoric in a way White House and Biden political advisers say will be part of a no-limits strategy for the midterm elections. The president accused the GOP of “semi-fascism” and said he does not respect and cannot cooperate with “MAGA Republicans” who he says “embrace political violence”. He hardened his claim that democracy is under threat, saying the country could face the kind of test that comes every few generations, “one of those moments that changes everything.”
From a high school auditorium in Rockville, Maryland, Biden also mocked Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) for promoting a local project he voted against. White House officials spent the late afternoon using the official Twitter account — normally reserved for policy graphics, press releases and fact sheets — to go on the offensive. They went viral by mentioning Republicans such as: Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, who had criticized student loan forgiveness while taking advantage of the forgiveness of their own business loan. The tweets had more engagements and retweets than almost any other from the Biden White House, or earlier.
It all came down to a clear sign that Biden and the Democrats will not only rely on touting his legislation and other achievements, as some Democrats feared he would, but will directly accuse Republicans of fascism and violence in an effort to the commitment of the midterms to the survival of democracy itself.
“It’s no exaggeration,” Biden said. “Now you have to vote to literally save democracy again.”
For a constellation of Democrats who have urged Biden to use the full powers of the presidential bully’s pulpit, it’s been a welcome shift, and one that Biden advisers said voters would see more of.
“There are two Joe Bidens: There is Joe Biden in power and there is a campaign for Joe Biden,” said Celinda Lake, a longtime Democratic pollster who worked for his 2020 presidential campaign. , in order to govern effectively, must show some of the power and make the choice for voters.”
She said even those who voted for Biden had questioned in numerous focus groups whether he had the power to prioritize what they cared about. “They thought they didn’t see the strong fighter, the person they chose, and they attributed it to age and weakness,” she said. “I hope we can anticipate this more. People are excited about it.”
The shift also comes at a time when former President Donald Trump is coming under increasing scrutiny in ways that often create a strange split screen of American politics. As the ex-president faced investigations into his companies, an FBI search of his home, and congressional hearings about his actions, Biden has focused elsewhere. He has often received much less attention, but his allies hope it shows that he is trying to implement policies that affect large parts of the country, even as Trump draws the attention of the cable news.
When an affidavit was released Friday showing that 184 classified files were found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, in January, for example, the White House of Biden Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, to the press room to explain the details of the student debt forgiveness plan.
But it was also clear that Biden’s more combative approach was not an aberration.
As he boarded Marine One outside the White House, reporters questioned claims that Trump had a standing order that any documents he removed from the White House be automatically released.
Biden took on a sarcastic voice as he impersonated Trump. “’I released everything in the world. I am chairman. I can do it all!’ he said. “Come on!”
Biden was previously willing to criticize Republicans, and his 2020 presidential campaign was largely about beating Trump, who he said posed a unique threat to American values. But as president, he has often avoided addressing his GOP opponents directly or personally.
That changed Thursday, when Biden differentiated between Republicans he considered reasonable and those he did not. “I respect conservative Republicans,” he said. “I have no respect for these MAGA Republicans.”
Republicans criticized Biden for some of his rhetoric, with the Republican National Committee calling it “despicable” and others saying it was inconsistent. Referring to the sheer number of Americans who voted for Trump, some suggested Biden’s rejection of Republican philosophy as “as semi-fascism” was similar to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 aside that half of Trump’s supporters were a “basket of regrets.” .
But it was clear that Biden’s comments — some of which were made during a fundraiser where reporters attended but the TV cameras weren’t on — were delivered as intended. The White House defended the comments Friday, including the line that much of the GOP has descended into “semi-fascism.”
“You look at the definition of fascism and you think about what they’re doing to attack our democracy, what they’re doing and take away our freedoms, want to take our rights, take our voting rights — I mean, that’s what that means,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary. “It is very clear.”
Biden himself, who asked Friday what he meant by “semi-fascism,” smiled broadly. “You know what I mean,” he said.
Biden advisers saw Thursday night’s events — including a fundraiser that raised $1 million and a rally that drew 4,000 people, roughly double what they had planned — as kicking off the mid-term campaign season. The president plans to visit Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania next Tuesday to discuss gun crime, and advisers say he plans to travel a few times a week.
But while his approval ratings have risen recently, many candidates in the nation’s most competitive races have avoided Biden coming to their states and districts. Still, they hope he can raise money and help shape the national debate.
That means more condemnation from Republicans, as well as proclaiming his own achievements. “You’re just going to see a lot more of the same because it’s about what he’s done, his vision and what he’s fighting for,” said a Biden adviser, speaking on a condition of anonymity to review the strategy.
Biden has long had a reputation as a two-pronged dealmaker, boasting that he worked with staunch Republicans of yesteryear, even those anathema to other Democrats, from Jesse Helms to Strom Thurmond. Many Democrats who fought him in 2020 questioned his ability to directly address a newer, more scorched earth version of the Republican Party.
But throughout his career, Biden has enjoyed the partisan war that happens every two years. It was one of the reasons President Barack Obama chose him as his running mate.
“Policy debates on the Senate floor are one thing, but policy debates become political debates every two years in November, and that’s his time to shine,” said Scott Mulhauser, a longtime Democratic adviser who served as Biden’s deputy chief of staff during the session. 2012 Obama-Biden campaign. “There is no one who loves to throw and land a haymaker more than for a cause he believes in.”
And if Biden sometimes courts Republicans, there are other times when he goes on the offensive.
“We’ve flipped,” Mulhauser said, “from the season of legislation to the season of politics and elections.”
Biden still praises his bipartisan legislation — including infrastructure spending, a bill to help veterans exposed to toxic fire pits, and an effort to boost domestic semiconductor production — but his efforts to deal with Republicans in current Congress have largely faded.
The president once predicted that there would be a “revelation” and an “altar call” among Republicans when Trump left the scene, once again opening them to duality. But on Thursday, he stated, “This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different deal.”
And Trump hasn’t gone anywhere. “There has been a major civil war in the Republican Party that has taken place, and it seems clear that Trump won that civil war,” said Ben LaBolt, a strategist who worked in the Obama administration and advised Biden’s team.
He added: “We are approaching Election Day, that contrast is coming into view and the White House is saying, ‘We’re not going to pretend this is on the level anymore.’ ”
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.