In his first appearance on the campaign trail leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, President Biden made sure that his predecessor, Donald Trump, remained front and center in the minds of voters.
Near the top of his speech in Rockville, Md., Biden repeatedly referenced Trump, who has been actively campaigning for GOP loyalists in the midterms and may be Biden’s rival again in the 2024 presidential race.
“In 2020 you and 81 million Americans voted to save our democracy. That’s why Donald Trump isn’t just a former president, he is a defeated former president,” Biden said. “And it’s not hyperbole, now you need to literally vote to save democracy again.”
Biden said the nation was at an inflection point, and needed to decide, “Will we be a country that moves forward or backward,” and whether the U.S. would be “a nation of unity, of hope, of optimism, not a nation of anger, violence, hatred and division.”
“Trump and the extreme MAGA Republicans have made their choice,” said Biden, using the acronym for Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism,” Biden said later in his speech.
Biden has had dismal poll numbers for much of the year as inflation spiked and investors worried about a possible recession. And Democrats have widely fretted that those poll numbers would lead to a Republican wave in November’s congressional elections.
But Biden has had a string of good political news lately, including passage of a spending bill to encourage chips plants in the U.S., a landmark climate change and health care bill, a decline of gas prices from their peak and the killing of a major al-Qaida leader.
Perhaps buoyed by this news, and his rising poll numbers, Biden appeared especially animated on Thursday as he campaigned in heavily Democratic Maryland for gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore.
Again and again, Biden called out Trump-aligned Republicans, linking them to GOP-led states that have enacted abortion bans or restrictions following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, while declaring that “your right to choose is on the ballot this year.”
“How extreme are these MAGA Republicans? Just look what has happened since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Red state after red state has raced to pass the most restrictive abortion limitations imaginable, even without exception for rape and incest,” Biden said. “But these MAGA Republicans won’t stop there. They want a national ban. They want to pass a legislative national ban in the Congress. If the MAGA Republicans win control of Congress, it won’t matter where you live, you won’t have the right to choose anywhere, anywhere.”
But Biden also vowed that if the GOP did retake control of Congress and move to ban abortion nationwide, “I will veto it.”
When he wasn’t warning about what would happen if Trump-backed candidates won in November, Biden also laid out his affirmative case for voting for Democrats. He touted record jobs growth, a drop in child poverty rates, 220 million Americans vaccinated for COVID-19, and his signature legislature efforts.
But the recurrent theme of his energetically delivered speech was the decline of the opposition party.
“What’s happened is there aren’t many real Republicans anymore,” Biden said, adding, “I respect conservative Republicans. I don’t respect these MAGA Republicans.”