White House defends Biden’s quiet campaign strategy after he gives ‘closing argument’ speech to DNC staffers
The White House promised President Joe Biden would be spending more time on the campaign trail ahead of next month’s midterm elections following a speech in which he delivered his “closing argument” to a room full of Democratic staffers in Washington.
After being asked by CNN’s Jeremy Diamond whether Biden feels like he’s doing everything he can to get Democrats across the finish line, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested there will be more campaign travel in the coming weeks and argued that the President is speaking to Americans often about popular policies.
“Look, when the President speaks, he has a large bully pulpit, and he has been able in the past several weeks to set that national conversation – to be able to talk about what’s at stake,” Jean-Pierre said.
Pressed on whether Biden would travel more often ahead of the elections, Jean-Pierre said, “I’m not going to get ahead of the President. There will be more travel that we certainly will be announcing as you mentioned.” She noted scheduled travel that’s been previously announced, but added, “I would say stay tuned.”
The comments came after Biden delivered his “closing argument” for the Democrats two weeks before the midterms to staffers at the Democratic National Committee in Washington. During his speech, Biden pledged to protect key entitlement programs and abortion rights and framed the election as a “choice” between Democrat and GOP visions for the future – not a referendum on his presidency.
Biden’s decision to eschew criss-crossing the country in a traditional midterm rally blitz comes at a critical juncture of the campaign season. The White House contends that the focus on smaller, targeted events on the President’s schedule is purposeful – though Biden also continues to make weekend stopovers at his home state of Delaware. And while Biden claims that scores of Democratic candidates have called for him to campaign in their states, the curation of events is possibly a reflection of the President’s unpopularity with some Democrats who have distanced themselves from him.
This week – just two weeks ahead of a consequential election day — Biden will be spending three out of five working days in Washington, appearing in a mix of official and campaign events that are in-person and virtual, before traveling to Delaware for the weekend. Later this week, from Washington, he will virtually appear at political fundraisers for Democrats around the country. On Thursday, he will head to New York to deliver remarks related to CHIPS manufacturing. And on Friday, he will return to Pennsylvania for the second time in about a week for a Democratic fundraiser.
Biden and former President Barack Obama are set to campaign in Pennsylvania on the final weekend of the campaign, with stops scheduled in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, a Democratic official familiar with the planning tells CNN. Pennsylvania remains the one place in the US where Biden travels without worry of doing harm to the Democratic ticket. As of now, it’s the only scheduled joint appearance between the 44th and 46th presidents – but an official said the schedule remains in flux and open to adding more. Axios was first to report the joint appearance.
Despite that relatively light campaign schedule, Biden on Monday said the elections were “one of the most important elections in our lifetime.”
“It’s going to shape the way this country looks like for the coming decade,” Biden told the staffers, volunteers and grassroots donors at the Democratic National Committee’s DC headquarters.
He added: “I’m here to deliver what I believe is the closing argument about what we need to do in the next 15 days to make a victory assured and make it clear that this election is a referendum – is not a referendum, I should say, it’s a choice. Everybody wants to make it a referendum. But it’s a choice between two vastly different visions for America. Significantly different.”
During his speech, the President said that Democrats are fiscally responsible, the protectors of social security and Medicare, the defenders of reproductive rights and American democracy. He also attacked and criticized former President Donald Trump by name for his handling of the economy and the pandemic.
At the briefing, Jean-Pierre said the Biden administration is “actually laying out issues and policies that are very popular with the American people, that are issues that the American people want to see.” She sought to contrast Biden’s message with congressional Republicans, who she said “do not want to see Americans have lower health care costs” or “lower energy costs.”
“The first thing that they said they would do is repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which, by the way, pieces of that, if you look at it in its parts, every part of that is popular with the American people,” she added.
Biden, Jean-Pierre pointed out, has talked about student debt relief, the economy, infrastructure and abortion often in the last several weeks.
“And so almost every day … you have seen the President in front of the American people talking exactly to that,” she added.