“We are running a campaign like the fate of our democracy depends on it. Because it does,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told reporters

By Matt Viser

January 3, 2024 at 5:00 a.m. EST

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President Biden is scheduled to travel to Valley Forge, Pa., on Saturday to give remarks on the anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection as his campaign attempts — at the start of the election year — to take a more aggressive posture toward Donald Trump and center the election around a fight for democracy.

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Biden will speak near a site where a group of militias gathered to form a coalition to fight for democracy — and where George Washington established headquarters during the Revolutionary War — as a way to invoke the core theme of his presidential campaign some 250 years later.

On Monday, Biden is scheduled to visit Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., where nine people were fatally shot by a white supremacist in 2015.

The two events — as well as a trip to South Carolina by Vice President Harris on Saturday — signal a reinvigorated campaign from the likely Democratic ticket just as Republicans begin their nomination process with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15. It also comes at a moment when anxious Democrats have worried about Biden’s low approval ratings, his age and the lack of an alternative for the party.

As the 2024 election year kicks off, Biden’s actions and rhetoric suggests his campaign has finally settled on a central message–that American democracy cannot survive another Trump presidency. As Biden’s economic successes fail to move teh polls, and Biden himself shows reluctance to whole-heartedly embrace an abortion rights message, the emphasis on democracy has risen to the fore.

“Our message is clear and as simple: We are running a campaign like the fate of our democracy depends on it. Because it does,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told reporters on Tuesday.

Biden said to be increasingly frustrated by dismal poll numbers

Senior aides to Biden’s campaign outlined several new efforts to start the year, including ads that will begin running centered on Biden’s speech on Saturday and an attempt to illustrate in a more stark way the choices voters will face in November.

Focusing on democracy has several advantages for Biden. It plays into his comfort with speaking about the meaning of America. It seizes on the unique character of his likely opponent. And it signals to voters that whatever their dissatisfactions with Biden–whose approval ratings remain stubbornly low–Trump would be worse.

Still, Biden’s campaign so far has struggled to stay with a consistent message for any length of time, and coming weeks will tell if this time will be different. And the rhetoric on democracy would falter if Trump is not the Republican nominee; he is currently the overwhelming frontrunner, and upcoming primary votes, starting with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 15, will show if he can solidify that status.

Biden has in recent weeks started speaking more directly about Trump, but often during fundraisers that are not seen by average voters. His campaign is choosing to escalate that message more directly in a symbolic setting on the anniversary of the insurrection, as a way to draw the contrast.

“On January 6, 2021, we witnessed a very different vision of America, one defined by revenge, retribution and a rebuke of our very democracy,” Rodriguez said. “It was the first time in our nation’s history that a president tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”

Michael Tyler, the campaign’s communications director, highlighted some of Trump’s recent rhetoric and his vow to seek retribution from his political opponents if he wins the 2024 election.

“He’s promising to rule as a dictator and use the government to exact retribution on his political enemies, all while he and his MAGA supporters encouraged and applaud political violence across the country,” he said.

Trump’s campaign advisers Chris LaCivita and Susie Wiles on Tuesday released a memo outlining their view of the presidential race. They blamed Biden for legal indictments of Trump, and for judicial decisions to declare Trump ineligible for the ballot.

“Please make no mistake: Joe Biden and his allies are a real and compelling threat to our Democracy,” they wrote. “In fact, in a way never seen before in our history, they are waging a war against it.”

Biden says he might not be running if Trump weren’t in the race

While most of the remarks from Biden campaign aides on Tuesday focused on Trump, who leads by wide margins in the polls, they also pointed at some of the other Republicans in the field.

“The 2024 field has made clear time and time again, that they don’t just accept — they give their full-throated endorsement to Donald Trump’s anti-democratic, anti-freedom rhetoric and actions,” Rodriguez said.

Some aides also pointed to some of the recent rhetoric around the Civil War, with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, not naming slavery as a cause of the conflict, and with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) changing school curriculum in his state.

“They also want to take away the freedom to learn by banning books and rewriting and erasing important parts of American history because if they don’t like it, you don’t have the right to read it,” Tyler said. “And you have to believe me, just look at Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis for their take on American slavery and the Civil War.”

Biden’s trip to South Carolina also is an effort to address a concern among some Democrats, as support from Black voters drops. It has been a key constituency for the Democratic Party, and for Biden’s 2020 presidential primary campaign.

“Whether it is white supremacists descending on the historic American city of Charlottesville, the assault on our nation’s capital on January 6, or a white supremacist murdering churchgoers at Mother Emanuel nearly nine years ago, America’s worried about the rise in political violence and determined to stand against it,” said deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks.

By Pulaski

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