Biden says he is an optimist. But his dire warnings about Trump are central to his campaign

(Abbie Parr/Associated Press)

Biden says he is an optimist. But his dire warnings about Trump are central to his campaign


November 19, 2023

President Biden ends almost every speech by saying he has “never been more optimistic” about the country’s direction. But lately he has also begun to paint a vision of a catastrophic future for the United States, that is, if Donald Trump returns to the presidency.

Biden has accused the former Republican president in recent days of being determined to destroy American democracy and seeking revenge and retaliation.”

Biden’s re-election campaign sends more emails with stark warnings: Trump’s America in 2025: A Unilateral National Abortion Ban and Trump’s America in 2025: Mass Detention Camps.” Trump has proposed the largest operation to arrest and deport migrants in American history. one endorsed


federal ban on abortion.

The contrast between Biden and Trump was always going to be central to the Democratic president’s 2024 strategy. But there was a time when Trump




brief and mocking mentions in Biden’s speeches, if Trump was mentioned at all.

Today, Biden’s campaign has sharply increased its references to Trump, with just under a year until the election. The change reflects how lukewarm Democratic voters, with Biden down in the polls, may be more motivated by stopping Trump than hearing about investments in infrastructure and renewable energy.

Biden has acknowledged that many voters don’t feel good about the economy. Voters are frustrated by high inflation and concerned about his age. At almost 81 years old, Biden is already the oldest elected president.



Campaigning for donors in San Francisco on Wednesday, Biden argued that Trump was using Nazi rhetoric to demonize perceived political enemies, after Trump recently pledged to root out enemies he described as vermin. Moments later, Biden returned to the usual refrain in his remarks, saying, “I have never been more optimistic about the future of our country.

There is a dissonance between Biden’s hopes for a rising America and his dark warnings that the country could fall under the power of someone he calls a would-be despot. The campaigns view the two messages as complementary.

I don’t think they are in suspense. That’s literally the choice, said Michael Tyler, Biden’s campaign director. These are two sides of the exact same coin, and it is our responsibility to promote both

on both


When asked about Biden’s comments and comparisons to Nazi rhetoric, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said it was “despicable and racist” of Biden to make that disgusting connection. Cheung added: “He is clearly suffering from a severe case of Trump Derangement Syndrome and needs to get professional help.

Biden received the nod for Kentucky governor. Andy Beshear’s reelection after a campaign in which the Democrat often promoted federal spending on infrastructure and COVID-19 relief, two areas that Biden allies see as achievements.

But it is becoming conventional wisdom for Democratic strategists to argue that Biden should put Trump at the center of voters’ minds. Jim Messina, the manager of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, wrote in Politico on Monday that voters would move to Biden once they were reminded of the chaotic, lawless circus that was Trump’s presidency.

Biden’s campaign is focused on shifting the political conversation toward Trump and away from Republican candidates who lagged behind the former president in the polls. Biden’s team also wants to draw attention to what Trump would do while in office, not just his myriad legal troubles.

Our democracy is at stake, Biden said in his speech in San Francisco. Trump is running on a platform to end democracy as we know it, and he’s not even hiding the ball.”

There are indications that messages about protecting democracy can resonate with voters. AP VoteCast, a wide-ranging survey of American voters, found that half of voters in the 2022 midterm elections named inflation as the single most important factor when thinking about the election, but the future of democracy was close behind.

But Democratic voters were mainly focused on democracy issues. In national congressional elections, Democrats won six in 10 voters who considered the future of democracy their single most important factor, while about four in 10 supported Republican candidates.

The Trump campaign has responded with a messaging strategy that accuses Biden of being corrupt and destructive. Trump’s two impeachments and four major indictments are evidence to his supporters of the former president’s persecution, while they claim without conclusive evidence that Biden profited from the business dealings of his son Hunter, who is under investigation by a special prosecutor.

He is a corrupt politician and he is totally compromised, Trump said Saturday while campaigning in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Polls show that Republican attacks on Hunter Biden have raised questions among many Americans about his father’s integrity.

An October poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 35% of American adults believe Joe Biden personally did something illegal related to the business dealings of his son, who has acknowledged struggling with drug addiction. Another 33% say the president has acted unethically but not broken the law. Only 30% say Joe Biden has done nothing wrong.

Even if Biden overcomes negative polls and wins a second term, there is no guarantee that democracy will automatically be saved.

In a Nov. 9 speech to donors in Chicago, the president acknowledged that he would still need to create a sense of unity by returning the nation to the principles of equality in the Declaration of Independence. But those are the same principles he also said Trump and his millions of supporters are willing to abandon.

My idea is: if you can’t unite the country, how do you keep a participatory democracy going if you can’t reach consensus? he said. How does that work?

Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York and AP Director of Public Opinion Research Emily Swanson contributed to this report.


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