Posted by on January 11, 2022 7:07 am
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Biden begins 2022 by poking the Trump bear

President Joe Biden speaks from Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol to mark the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol by supporters loyal to then-President Donald Trump, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP) Greg Nash/AP

Biden begins 2022 by poking the Trump bear

Christian Datoc January 11, 07:00 AMJanuary 11, 07:00 AM

President Joe Biden has adopted noticeably tougher messaging in discussing former President Donald Trump and Republicans, and veteran political operatives say the strategy is “clearly” aimed at boosting Democrats in a midterm election year.

Despite ushering through his bipartisan physical infrastructure legislation in November, the president ended the year on a major skid. Numerous polls showed Biden’s approval ratings slipping significantly in December. Still, the White House is starting the year by revisiting its massive “voting rights” push in partnership with Democratic leadership.

The president’s first major address of 2022, delivered on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, stressed how Republican efforts to pass strict state-level voting laws and Trump’s claims about the 2020 election were attacks on democracy.

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During that speech, Biden addressed Trump nearly 20 times but never by name. Instead, he referred to Trump as the “defeated former president” and repeatedly cast himself as a guardian of democracy compared to his predecessor.

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“He values power over principle because he sees his own interests as more important than his country’s interest and America’s interest,” the president said at the time. “Because his bruised ego matters more to him than our democracy or our Constitution.”

When questioned about Trump by reporters throughout 2021, the president and his senior aides claimed Biden didn’t spend much time thinking about his predecessor. Yet, three senior Democrat officials told the Washington Examiner that Biden’s new focus on the “other guy” will help remind voters just what’s “at stake” in 2022 and 2024.

“Republicans have grasped at any opportunity available to frame the president as ineffective or out of touch with voters, and Jan. 6 was the perfect opportunity to remind the nation just how dangerous former President Trump was as an alternative,” one such official explained. “We might not have accomplished everything we set out to address in the president’s first year in office, but he still succeeded in getting the coronavirus pandemic under control and ushered through generational legislation like the American Rescue Plan and bipartisan infrastructure package. He’ll continue fighting for voters, and the more people — and Congressional lawmakers — are reminded of the type of man the president really is, the easier it will be to realize our other legislative priorities.”

A second Democratic official conceded it couldn’t hurt Biden’s sagging poll numbers to “go back to the well” on Trump.

“The core reason President Biden decided to even run in 2020 was to steer the country away from the dangerous path we were on,” that person said. “He always talks about Charlottesville being a turning point, and what Trump tried to do on Jan. 6 makes that look like nothing. Play the hits. It can’t hurt.”

A third official added that refocusing on Trump and voting rights could ease tension between the White House and West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, the final roadblock to Senate Democrats passing Biden’s Build Back Better social spending legislation.

“Manchin even said it himself. He did not like the constant media attention that came with the last round of negotiations,” that official explained. “Taking a break to address voting rights creates a new media cycle and headlines that will let the president and his top staffers go back to the drawing board and finally get this thing done.”

White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, asked about Biden’s speech the following day, argued Biden “has never shied away from directly addressing the threat his predecessor poses to our democracy and the basic values our country was founded on.”

“The former president posed a unique threat to the soul of our country when President Biden announced his presidency back in 2019, and he made that point throughout his campaign and over the last year in office,” she said during a gaggle with reporters on Air Force One. “The president will not back down from holding his predecessor accountable when it is appropriate. But the president also knows that — the importance of delivering for his agenda. That’s what he wants to focus on is delivering for the American people, like he has been doing.”

Still, two GOP campaign operatives told the Washington Examiner they think Biden is making a mistake in keeping Trump in the political conversation.

“He’s going to wake the bear,” one said of Biden’s strategy. “This guy can’t even keep his own party together to vote for their socialist wish list spending bill. What does he think is going to happen once Trump really decides to start playing hardball? I understand the White House is probably panicking and thinks they need a Hail Mary to save them in 2022, but this will do the opposite.”

Focusing on Trump in last year’s elections, especially the Virginia governor’s race, did not prove a successful strategy for Democrats.

Trump certainly seemed to be keyed in on Biden’s speech. The former president released more than five statements after his successor’s remarks, claiming Biden seeks to “further divide” the country.

“This political theater is all just a distraction for the fact Biden has completely and totally failed,” Trump wrote in one statement. “The Democrats want to own this day of January 6th so they can stoke fears and divide America. I say, let them have it because America sees through their lies and polarizations.”

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“It’s because they don’t have the answers or justifications for what happened. They got away with something, and it is leading to our Country’s destruction,” he added of the Jan. 6 select committee’s investigation. “They want all conversation concerning the Election ‘Canceled.’ Just look at the numbers, they speak for themselves. They are not justifiable, so the complicit media just calls it the Big Lie, when in actuality the Big Lie was the Election itself.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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