Biden privately commands staff in campaign mode
President Biden is telling White House aides to get into campaign mode, say people familiar with the conversations at Axios – reminding them that even small mistakes can be costly and demanding they seize opportunities to highlight differences with the Republicans.
Why is this important: His private urgings over the past month are another indication that he wants to make the November congressional and gubernatorial contests choices between two competing visions for recognition, rather than a referendum on his two years in office.
- They are also an acknowledgment of the high stakes of these midterms.
- A new Republican majority would thwart his presidency and instantly put the White House on the defensive with investigations.
- Biden has already started becoming a lawyer, according to the New York Times reported last week.
What we mean: Beginning in April, in several West Wing conversations with members of his team, Biden began impressing on them the need to avoid bureaucratic language and get to the heart of his party’s campaign message, sources said.
- At the same time, officials want to highlight some of the administration’s flagship programs, like the bipartisan infrastructure bill and $1.9 trillion in coronavirus relief spending.
What we are looking at: Biden has lashed out at Republicans for promoting “ultra-MAGA” policies.
He also zeroed in on Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee, for his plans to raise taxes for some Americans who currently don’t pay them.
- The Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion quashing Roe v. Wade added internal urgency to the White House push and gave the administration a clear problem with which to draw contrast with Republicans.
- With the return of Anita Dunn to the West Wing as senior adviser, Biden has an inside veteran to coordinate messaging with outside groups and across the administration.
What they say : “President Biden has always said don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative,” White House spokesman Michael Gwin said.
- “The president won’t shy away from pointing out the contrast between congressional Republicans and the work he and his administration are doing to lower prices and make our communities safer and stronger.”
Between the lines: Biden’s approach risks undermining one of his biggest selling points for 2020 with the American public — that a centrist Democrat could transcend partisan bickering in Washington and find common ground with Republicans.
- The president has searched for a Trump replacement all year and has been reluctant to directly criticize Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a former colleague.
- But in recent months, Biden has grown more comfortable with the idea of running against Republicans — rather than trying to appeal to them.
Rollback: In Seattle in April, on a trip that mixed politics and politics, Biden lashed out at the GOP. “It’s not your father’s Republican Party,” he said, standing behind a desk bearing the presidential seal.
- In early May, he launched the “ultra-MAGA” line, tapping into the wary sentiment of Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.
- Biden raised a level in Chicago last week: “Look at my predecessor, Great King MAGA – the deficit grew every year he was president.”
- In response, as the Washington Post notes, some Republicans adopt the “ultra-MAGA” mantle.
- The White House on Friday encouraged congressional allies, in talking points obtained by Axios, to amplify Biden’s message that Republicans did not support his defunding of police in the COVID-19 relief bill.
The bottom line: Biden’s confidants tell Axios he’s at his best at delivering political zingers when he actually believes them.
- His 2012 attacks on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were effective because they were genuine: Scranton Joe really hated Ryan’s budget proposals.