But Biden now has to do a balancing act.
He cannot ignore the rise in political violence and disinformation as his campaign travel finally ramps up. That’s true even if advisors plan to focus him on purse problems, to underscore how his administration has and will fight inflation, and to draw sharp contrasts with Republican economic plans.
“The value of the president now is that he has to be very targeted: What headline do you want the president to produce everywhere he goes?” asked Jennifer Palmieri, White House communications director under former President Barack Obama. “The most helpful thing is that they have one [headline] to improve inflation. The Democrats’ economic argument will not be heard unless the President brings it up.”
The dichotomy was on full display in Florida on Tuesday. Biden hammered home how GOP policies can accelerate inflation and threaten Medicare and Social Security. But he also warned that democracy was “on the ballot” and accused Republicans of being “broken” over their rhetoric and response to the attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosis’ husband, Paul.
“Look at the Republican reaction and joke about it,” said Biden, who criticized the lack of condemnation within the GOP. “These guys are extremely extreme.”
Historical trends suggest that the party that controls the White House suffers during the midterms. But while Democrats’ hopes were boosted this summer after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal protections on abortion, the final phase of the campaign was dominated by fears about crime and the economy, issues that tend to favor Republicans.
Most Democrats secretly believe that the House of Representatives will be lost and that maintaining control of the Senate is a defeat. Biden has largely stayed on the sidelines of the campaign but will jump into the push this week with stops in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and California.
Economic arguments will be at the heart of Biden’s final campaign argument, White House advisers say, touting the bipartisan infrastructure deal and Democrats’ achievements on prescription drugs and healthcare.
But the White House and allied Democrats know Biden must also address how the campaign’s extended run has revealed a confluence of dark conspiracies that have further tested the nation’s stability.
“In my view, you don’t twist into a pretzel, you talk about both,” said former White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “Biden will continue to create the contrast to what the Democrats are bringing up, but he also has to deal with those kinds of threats and those kinds of silences and what it’s doing to allow for conspiracy theories — and I expect he’ll do that.” will move forward and give people permission to act on it.”
Since the Jan. 6 riots in the U.S. Capitol, government and law enforcement officials have warned of a rise in political violence, fears alongside inflammatory rhetoric from Donald Trump and his allies following the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago in August.
Those concerns were born of the brutal assault by Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Friday at the couple’s San Francisco home. The suspect, 42-year-old David DePape, who trolled online far-right conspiracy theories, attacked Paul Pelosi with a hammer, fracturing his skull. Authorities said he told police he intended to hold the spokeswoman hostage and break her knees in the process.
Elon Musk, the controversial new owner of Twitter, boosted conspiracy theories from the darkest corners of the internet about the attack, posting a fake account to his nearly 113 million followers that suggested the attacker and victim knew each other.
The attack also came amid renewed concerns about anti-Jewish violence and discrimination after celebrities Ye, better known as Kanye West, and Kyrie Irving each advocated and disseminated anti-Semitic views.
According to polls, however, voters seem much more focused on other issues. And Republicans, in particular, feel that every time Democrats talk about abstract issues like threats to democracy, they are ceding the more important economic terrain for elections to them.
“The number one thing to do now with any closing argument is to focus on the fundamentals, and that’s the economy,” said Kevin Madden, senior adviser to Republican Mitt Romney on the 2012 presidential campaign. “I don’t want to trivialize it, but ‘threats to democracy’ are much harder to grasp for the average swing voter right now. People don’t vote on it.”
Biden has previously grappled with extremism and the resulting violence.
His decision to run for president came after a clash between white supremacists and anti-racist counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. And he has repeatedly called out radical elements of the Republican Party — he has called them “extreme MAGA” — notably during a fiery speech in Philadelphia in September.
White House officials have advised the President not to talk about Musk. The men have had feuds before over auto unions, electric vehicles and taxes. But Biden hasn’t weighed in on Musk’s takeover of Twitter, and advisers believe it would do little good. The President has condemned the recent rise in anti-Semitism and called on Republicans to breathe life into conspiracy theories by slandering Pelosi and denying the results of the 2020 election.
“You can’t condemn the violence unless you condemn the people who keep arguing that the election wasn’t real, that it’s being stolen, that all of the — all of the malarkey that’s out there promoting democracy undermine,” Biden said Saturday.
But broad condemnation doesn’t always lead to voting problems. And as Biden travels across the country, aides are keeping an eye on local media coverage pulling his stops. For now, the focus remains on emphasizing economic issues as Democrats seek to hold on to at least one congressional body and several key state houses.
White House spokesman Andrew Bates said Biden would continue to warn “that the congressional Republican agenda would exacerbate inflation and raise costs for middle-class families to provide tax benefits for wealthy special interests, which has made headlines nationwide.” .