What Biden hopes to accomplish in his primetime speech Thursday


WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will argue that democracy is at stake amid growing threats of political violence during a speech Thursday night, less than 70 days before the midterm elections.

Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks at 8 p.m. ET outside Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, in what will be the second of the president’s three trips to Pennsylvania — a crucial Senate battleground — over the course of a week.

A more combative Biden emerges

  • The political scene: While the speech is not considered a campaign event, it comes as Biden begins a travel blitz in early September in several battleground states, including Ohio and Wisconsin, in addition to Pennsylvania.

  • Biden continues the attack: A new Biden is emerging, one more willing to attack Republicans who deny the results of the 2020 election, remain aligned with former President Donald Trump and criticize the FBI amid its investigation into classified documents found at Trump’s home in Mar- a-Lago.

  • “Which side are you on?” Biden introduced new militant rhetoric at a Democratic fundraiser and rally in Maryland last week, accusing “MAGA Republicans” of “half-fascism.” He called Republican attacks on the FBI “disgusting” in a fiery speech Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and called out Republicans who refuse to condemn the Jan. 6 attack on Capitol Hill. “For God’s sake, whose side are you on?” he said.

  • High on voters’ minds: An NBC News poll last week found that 21 percent of voters said “threats to democracy” were the top issue facing the country, ahead of the economy, immigration and climate change.

  • Why Philadelphia? Philadelphia is known as the birthplace of American democracy and where Biden launched his 2020 presidential campaign. The president expected to restate the central argument of his 2020 term, framing the stakes as “the ongoing battle for the soul of the nation.” .

Stream it: How to watch President Joe Biden’s prime-time speech in Philadelphia on Thursday

President Joe Biden speaks at the Arnaud C. Marts Center on the campus of Wilkes University, Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS329

What’s next?

Biden is on the campaign trail with upcoming trips to states that could decide whether Democrats retain control of the Senate.

The president will travel to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee on Monday to attend Labor Day parades. He will visit Ohio to break ground on a new Intel semiconductor manufacturing facility on September 9.

Those visits will test Biden’s political influence as his approval ratings begin to rebound after a year of crises and setbacks.

“Soul of the Nation”: Biden to deliver prime-time address Thursday on ‘ongoing battle for nation’s soul’ in Philadelphia

GOP reaction?: Defunding the FBI? Why the Republican rallying cry could boost Democrats in the midterm elections

Packed food

Biden and Democrats want to brand Republicans as increasingly extreme. That’s why Biden has adopted a new name to define the opposition: “ultra-MAGA Republicans” — a reference to the political movement spawned by his predecessor.

But this is only one layer of the strategy.

The midterm elections are historic referendums on the current president. Republicans prefer that framework this November. Although Biden’s approval rating has risen after a string of legislative victories in Congress and lower gas prices, a majority of Americans still disapprove of his job performance.

Democrats want to avoid a referendum by making the election about much more — abortion rights, the survival of Social Security, the climate and even democracy.

More: Why Biden is trashing his ‘ultra MAGA’ agenda, not Donald Trump, in his midterm push

Two factors helped their case and created a highly unusual midterm election cycle: The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade emboldened Democrats who might otherwise be unenthusiastic about voting. And the continued presence of former President Donald Trump — who is under FBI investigation for possessing classified documents and is openly considering a 2024 presidential run — has kept his Make America Great Again movement the focus of Democratic attacks.

With his speech on Thursday, Biden wants to raise the stakes of the upcoming election.

What they say

  • White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Biden believes what he calls “MAGA Republicans” represent an “extremist threat to our democracy,” our freedoms and our rights. “They just don’t respect the rule of law,” he said.

  • Biden previewed a potential speech theme in comments from Maryland last week: “MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security, they threaten our very democracy. They refuse to accept the will of the people They embrace political violence. They don’t believe in democracy.”

  • Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee and a former Biden aide, said the impeachment of Roe, allegations of election tampering and voter suppression and Republicans still questioning Trump’s 2020 election are examples of democracy which is threatened. “It’s a contrast to the extreme wing of the Republican Party that is a real threat to democracy,” Richmond said. “I think that’s what he’s going to talk about.”

  • “He’s trying to go aggressive for November,” said Matthew Kerbel, a political science professor at Villanova University, pointing to polls showing growing concern about the fate of the democracy. “I suspect it will connect it to the choice people have made. Maybe not explicitly, because it’s a White House event, not a campaign event, but I think the message will be clear.”

Because it matters

Democrats, who once seemed on track for a potentially disastrous midterm election, have found new reasons for optimism after special election victories in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

Democratic Senate candidates in key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Georgia are leading Republicans, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages.

And with Biden’s speech on Thursday, the president will set the stage for the coming weeks.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What Biden will say during his primetime speech Thursday

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