President Biden on Thursday again attempted to water down his recent smears of Republicans as anti-democratic extremists with a pledge to work with “mainstream” members of the GOP but warned that democracy remains under threat from “Trumpers.”
In remarks at a Democratic National Committee event in Maryland, Mr. Biden front-loaded key campaign issues including abortion, gun control, and climate change before reigniting his campaign rhetoric aimed at his political opponents.
“Our democracy is on the ballot,” he said, returning to his recent framing of the upcoming midterms. “I believe America is at an inflection point. One of those moments where everything changes. The extreme set of MAGA Republicans has chosen to go backward, full of anger, violence, hate and division.”
He said that “not every Republican is a MAGA Republican,” and said not every member of the GOP “embraces extreme ideology.”
“I know because I’ve worked with them in the mainstream Republicans, and there’s still a few of them left,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden, who once pledged to be a “president for all people” — including those who didn’t vote for him — has come under criticism for his recent vilification of the GOP.
The president kicked off the Democrats’ fall campaign push by labeling former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” political agenda as “semi-fascism” during a Democratic National Committee fundraiser.
Days later, during a prime-time address before the dramatically lit backdrop and flanked by Marines at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden framed the midterm elections this year as an eternal battle for “the soul of America.”
He accused “MAGA Republicans” of refusing to recognize free and fair elections, talking about violence in response to political policies they don’t like and working to thwart “the will of the people.”
Mr. Biden tore into Trump loyalists for refusing to accept the outcome of the 2020 election. “Democracy cannot survive” under their belief system, he said.
Mr. Biden later walked back some of his remarks after Republicans and others accused him of using the bully pulpit to spout hyperpartisan vitriol.
When pressed last week after his remarks in Philadelphia about whether he thought all Trump supporters are threats to the country, Mr. Biden said he drew the line at those who refused to accept the 2020 election results and those who called for the use of violence.
But in a nationwide survey by the Trafalgar Group in the days after Mr. Biden’s speech in Philadelphia, 56.8% of respondents said the speech was a “dangerous escalation in rhetoric designed to incite conflict among Americans.”
Just 35% of those polled viewed the rhetoric as “acceptable campaign messaging” in an election year.
Among third-party and independent voters, 62.4% viewed the speech as dangerous, compared with 31.2% who said it was acceptable campaign rhetoric.
During his speech Thursday, Mr. Biden put guardrails around his attacks and stated early on in his speech that he was willing to work with his more centrists colleagues on the other side of the aisle.
But he maintained his stern warning about the threat of those who most support former President Donald Trump.
“The extreme set of MAGA Republicans has chosen to go backward, full of anger, violence, hate and division,” he said. “That’s what their game is. Together, Democrats, independents and mainstream Republicans can choose a different path forward for a future of unity and hope.”