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Biden seeks winning message in Trump attacks

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President Biden is in search of a winning message on the 2024 campaign trail, one that is not overly reliant on attacks on former President Trump and the risks of putting him back in the White House.

Biden is clearly energized and comfortable taking the fight to Trump, as evidenced by his speech last week near Valley Forge, Pa., in which he forcefully lambasted the former president for his inaction during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

But his campaign and Democratic allies acknowledge a fear of Trump returning to the White House will not be enough on its own to win Biden another term. 

“It’s part of a winning message, but it’s only part of a winning message,” said Jim Kessler, a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way. “I think job number one is for voters to actually feel good about Joe Biden and to feel better about the economy and the direction the country is heading, and to feel that some of the major issues they’re concerned about are being addressed to their satisfaction.”

Biden aides believe they have a strong case to make to voters about his agenda. 

They say Biden guided the economy out of the nadir of the coronavirus pandemic, signed a sweeping Democratic law to lower energy and health care costs and has approved bipartisan legislation to address gun violence and veterans’ health care, to protect gay marriage and to invest in semiconductor manufacturing.

The economy has continued to add jobs and grow, defying predictions of an impending recession, while inflation has steadily come down over the past year.

And yet, polling has shown Biden locked in a close race with Trump or trailing the former president in several swing states, even as the former president faces 91 felony charges.

Biden’s approval rating at the end of 2023 was 39 percent, a Gallup poll found, the lowest mark for a modern-era president seeking reelection at that point in their first term.

A Monmouth University poll published in December found Biden struggling with voters on the issues, too; 68 percent said they disapproved of his handling of inflation, 69 percent disapproved of his performance on immigration, and 54 percent said they disapproved of his efforts on climate change.

Quinnipiac University poll of Pennsylvania voters released this week found Biden narrowly leading Trump. It is a state Biden can ill afford to lose in 2024.

Yet the poll also offered hints that going after Trump could prove beneficial to Biden.

The poll found 44 percent of Democrats in the state view protecting democracy in the U.S. as the most important issue, with no other issue hitting double digits. Among independents, 22 percent said their top issue was preserving democracy, tied with border security for the top response.

An Associated Press-NORC poll released in December found 67 percent of voters said November’s election will be important to the future of democracy, ranking behind only the 75 percent who said it would be important for the economy.

“Ultimately, our goal and our north star has to be on defining the choice for the American people of just what will be on the ballot in November — and that will be between Joe Biden’s historic and popular agenda and the many times rejected MAGA agenda,” Biden campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement. “It’s a false choice to indicate we can only do one or the other, and you will hear us talk about the full set of issues on the line this election throughout the cycle.”

The Biden campaign’s first ad of 2024 was narrated by Biden and argues that Trump, the GOP primary front-runner, has made efforts to “erode American democracy and excuse — and even promote — political violence.”

Biden’s first official campaign event of the year was squarely focused on the threat Trump poses to democracy, invoking the chaos and violence of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

His second campaign event in South Carolina blended in more of his accomplishments and how his administration has lowered costs and invested in Black communities in particular, but it also featured warnings that Trump and his supporters were out to erase the nation’s history.

Biden’s campaign has also hammered Trump over his insistence that he is responsible for the end of Roe v. Wade, as well has his calls to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump himself has taken note of Biden’s fixation on him to suggest it’s a sign of the weakness in his case for reelection.

“When you have a majority of Americans who are not satisfied with how things are going in the country, specifically with respect to the economy, you don’t have that many choices. You have to play with the cards that you’re dealt,” former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in an interview.

But the Biden campaign has invested in a more positive message about the candidate, even if it’s yet to turn the tide in public polling.

One ad focuses on the White House’s efforts to lower prescription drug costs by giving Medicare the ability to negotiate prices, specifically citing legislation that capped insulin prices for seniors.

Another ad launched last fall highlighted provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, passed with Democratic votes and signed by Biden in 2022, that lowered health insurance premiums and lowered power costs by investing in clean energy.

Strategists also believe Biden could see a boost if Congress clinches a deal on border policy in the coming weeks, if inflation continues to cool and if interest rates begin to come down.

“By November of this year, I think Joe Biden will have a very strong story to tell,” Kessler said.

“Already, you’re starting to hear a brightening of moods on the economy.”

Source: The Hill

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