ROCKVILLE, Md. – Aiming to turn months of legislative achievement into political energy, President Joe Biden asked Thursday to highlight the choice voters face midterm elections comparing Republican ideology to “semi-fascism” while leading a kickoff rally and fundraiser in Maryland.
The events in Washington’s safe Democratic suburbs are 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’ political hopes have rebounded in recent months amid a flurry of legacy-defining actions by Biden and Congress.
From bipartisan action on arms control, infrastructure and home technology production to deal only with the efforts of the Democrats climate change and health care costs, Biden is expected to highlight the achievements of the party’s unified but razor-thin control over Washington. And he will seek to sharpen the contrast with Republicans who once seemed poised for significant victories in November.
Just months ago, like inflation soared, Biden’s poll results worsened and his agenda stalled, Democrats braced themselves for significant losses. But the intense voter reaction to the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and a productive summer on issues that are central to Democrats have the party feeling like it’s finally on the offensive heading into the Nov. 8 vote, even as the president remains unpopular.
Democrats, said Biden pollster John Anzalone, are “in a better position to compete because Joe Biden put us there.”
“That doesn’t mean the wind is at our backs,” he added. “But we have more of a breeze than what felt like a stormy hurricane in our face.”
Before the packed rally at Montgomery High School in Rockville, Biden was raising about $1 million at an event with about 100 donors for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Victory Fund in the backyard of a lavish Bethesda home.
“I think the American people are waking up to the reality that things have changed so drastically” with Republicans, he told donors, adding, “mark my words” that if Democrats lose the midterms, Republicans will move to “wipe out the election board everywhere.”
Biden’s event on Thursday comes a day after the president moved to fulfill a long-delayed campaign promise to pardon federal Student loans for lower- and middle-income borrowers — a move Democrats say will energize younger and black and Latino voters.
Republicans, however, saw their own political advantage in the move, portraying it as an unfair giveaway to prospective 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.”
Aides to Biden said he would continue to paint Republicans as the “ultra-MAGA” party. — a reference to former President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” — opposition to his agenda and adoption of conservative ideological propositions, and Trump’s False Claims About the 2020 Election.
“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the whole philosophy at the root of — I’ll say something, it’s like semi-fascism.”
The Republican National Committee called Biden’s comments “despicable.”
“Biden has forced Americans out of their jobs, transferred money from working families to Harvard lawyers and sent our country into recession until families can’t afford gas and groceries,” said spokesman Nathan Brandt. “Democrats don’t care about suffering Americans – never have.”
Since the Supreme Court’s ruling in June, Democrats have seen a surge in donations, polls and special election filings for congressional vacancies. The latest happened Tuesday in a Hudson Valley district that, in the year of the Republican wave, should have been an easy GOP victory. Instead, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, a Democrat who campaigned on a pro-abortion rights platform, defeated his Republican counterpart of Duquesne County, Mark Molinaro.
The change gives Democrats a new sense that a Republican victory in the House is no longer such a sure bet, especially as the polls are better than Biden and battle-tested incumbents are running in their districts
Meanwhile, Democrats have benefited from Republican candidates who won the primary but are 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 pro-Trump candidates in House races have not always been the party’s first choice.
Trump’s grip on the Republican Party remains strong and may have even gotten tighter since the FBI raid of his Mar-a-Lago home.
JB Poersch, president of the Senate Majority Project, an outside group that works to elect Democrats to the Senate, said Republican candidates are “getting caught up in the Trump tornado again — that’s exactly what voters in both parties are not doing.”
Biden’s political event, sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, comes as the president and members of his cabinet are poised to launch what the White House has billed as the “Building a Better America Tour” to promote “the benefits of the President’s achievements and the American People’s Deflation Act and highlight the contrast with the vision of Congressional Republicans.
It comes as the White House takes advantage of a steady decline in gasoline prices, which, while still high, have fallen daily since mid-June.
Months ago, Democratic lawmakers facing uphill re-election battles tried to contain themselves when Biden came to town, though White House aides said Biden was still an asset to them by raising issues that resonated with voters and sharpens the distinction with Republicans.
Now allies are seeing that fortunes begin to turn and the president is more of a direct asset to the campaigns.
In Maryland, Biden was set to join gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and a host of other officials on the ballot. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who is up for re-election, missed it, according to a spokesman, because of a long-planned wedding anniversary trip with his wife, but he recorded a video welcoming Biden to his state, which will be played at the rally.
“Joe Biden is not on the ballot technically, but Joe Biden is on the ballot,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said at the rally. “And Joe Biden needs your support”
Cedric Richmond, the former congressman from Louisiana and a senior Biden adviser who now advises the Democratic National Committee, said that if he were a candidate, he would rush to get Biden on his side.
“I was going to stand in front of the van and become a drummer and talk about all the accomplishments that happened under Biden,” Richmond said Wednesday. “You’ve got a president who just keeps his head down and gets the job done, and I think voters as we go into this campaign season will see and appreciate that.”
He acknowledged that some Democrats may choose to “bring Washington to their district.”
“There are probably a few cases where it 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 has everything to do with typical Washington dysfunction.
He added: “The important thing to emphasize is that you don’t have this dysfunction right now because of President Biden.”
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