WASHINGTON (AP) — Aiming to turn months of legislative accomplishments into political action, President Joe Biden will hold a kickoff rally Thursday to bolster Democratic fortunes 75 days before the midterm elections.
The event, in the safe Democratic Washington suburb of Rockville, Maryland, is intended to ease Biden into what White House aides say will be an aggressive season of defending his political victories and helping his party’s candidates. It comes as Democrats have seen their political hopes rebound in recent months amid a flurry of legacy-defining action from Biden and Congress.
From bipartisan action on gun control, infrastructure and domestic technology manufacturing to Democratic-only efforts to tackle climate change and health care costs, Biden is expected to highlight the achievements of the party’s unified but elusive control over Washington. And he will try to sharpen opposition to Republicans, who once looked poised for major victories in November.
Just months ago, as inflation soared, Biden’s poll numbers soared and his agenda stalled, Democrats were bracing for major losses. But a strong voter response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and a productive summer on issues of concern to Democrats has the party feeling like it is finally on the offensive heading into the Nov. 8 vote, even as the president remains not popular.
Democrats, said Biden pollster John Anzalone, “are in a better position to compete because Joe Biden put us there.”
“It doesn’t mean the wind is at our back,” he added. “But we have more of a breeze than a stormy hurricane in our face.”
Biden’s event Thursday comes a day after the president moved to fulfill a delayed campaign promise to forgive federal student loans for lower- and middle-income borrowers — a move Democrats believe will energize younger and black and Latino voters.
Republicans, however, saw their own political advantage in the move, calling it an unfair gift to would-be Democratic voters.
“President Biden’s inflation is crushing working families, and his response is to hand out even more government money to higher-wage elites,” said Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell. “Democrats are literally using the money of working Americans to try to buy some enthusiasm from their political base.”
Biden’s aides said he would continue to cast Republicans as the “super-MAGA” party — a reference to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan — that opposes his agenda and embraces conservative ideological propositions on abortion and Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election.
Meanwhile, Democrats have benefited from Republican candidates winning primaries but struggling in the general campaign. Trump-backed Senate candidates have complicated the GOP’s chances in battleground states like Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, while several Trump-aligned candidates in House races have not always been the party’s first choice.
Trump’s grip on the GOP remains strong and may have gotten even tighter after the FBI’s search of his Mar-a-Lago home.
JB Poersch, president of the Senate Majority Project, an outside group that works to elect Senate Democrats, said the Republican candidates are “getting caught up in the Trump whirlwind once again — which is exactly what voters of both parties want. “
Biden’s political event, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, comes as the president and members of his cabinet are set to launch what the White House has billed as “Building a Better America” to promote “the benefits of the President’s accomplishments and the De-Inflation Act to the American people and underscores the contrast with the vision of Congressional Republicans.”
It comes as the White House has benefited from a steady decline in gasoline prices, which, while still elevated, have declined daily since mid-June.
Months ago, Democratic lawmakers facing tough re-election battles tried to thin out when Biden came to town, though White House aides said Biden remains an asset to them, highlighting issues that resonate with voters and sharpening the distinction with the Republicans.
Now allies are seeing the fortunes begin to turn and the president is more of an immediate asset to the campaigns.
In Maryland, Biden was to be joined by gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and a number of other officials on the ballot. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for re-election, missed it, a spokesman said, because of an extended trip for his wedding anniversary with his wife, but he recorded a video welcoming Biden to his state that he would play at the rally .
Cedric Richmond, the former Louisiana congressman and senior Biden adviser who now advises the Democratic National Committee, said that if he were to run, he would rush to have Biden on his side.
“I would get in front of the truck and be the drum major and talk about all the accomplishments that have been made under Biden’s leadership,” Richmond said Wednesday. “You have a president who just keeps his head down and gets the job done, and I think voters, as we go into this election season, will see that and appreciate that.”
He acknowledged that some Democrats may choose not to “bring Washington to their district.”
“There are probably some cases where that might make sense where you don’t even want to be associated with Washington,” Richmond said. “This has nothing to do with the president. This is typical Washington dysfunction.”
He added, “The important point to make is that you don’t have this dysfunction right now because of President Biden.”
AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.