President Biden Makes ‘Closing Argument’ to Democratic Faithful Ahead of Midterms
WASHINGTON — Though the polls are once again suggesting a slight tilt toward the Republicans ahead of the midterms, President Joe Biden was having none of that as he delivered what he called his “closing argument” for his party in what he dubbed “the most consequential election” of our lifetimes.
“The polls have been all over the place,” the president said before a raucous, pizza-fueled gathering of about 160 party volunteers, staffers and donors at Democratic National Headquarters on Capitol Hill.
“Most pollsters said they’re not even sure anymore — not about the outcome, but about polling,” he said, eliciting a loud cheer from those in the room and the many thousands of volunteers who tuned in to a live stream of the event.
“I’m not even being facetious,” Biden said with a mischievous gleam in his eye. “One day the Republicans are up, then it’s the Democrats, and then it’s the Republicans again.
“But I’m not paying attention to what’s happening in the polls,” the president said. “What’s important is what’s happening on the phone [as you make contact with voters], what’s important is what’s happening when you knock on doors.
“Everybody wants to make this election a referendum between two vastly different visions for America,” he continued. “But I want to make it clear, this election is not a referendum, it’s a choice.
“Democrats are building a better America for everyone, one in which the economy grows from the bottom up and the middle out and where everyone does well; the Republicans are doubling down on a mega-MAGA trickle down that benefits the very wealthy — an approach that has failed the country before and will fail it again,” Biden said.
Biden, who clearly relished the moment and appeared to be in mid-campaign form, used his 45-minute speech to lay out an extensive list of what Democrats have accomplished in the first 18 months of his presidency, and to draw a stark contrast between his party and the Republicans.
The president touted passage of legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs and health care premiums that did not garner a single Republican vote.
He also promised that if Democrats prevailed at the polls 15 days from now they would protect reproductive rights, the right to privacy and the right to vote — something they have not been able to do due to the narrowness of their current Senate majority.
Additionally, Biden argued he inherited a struggling economy and a nation without a plan to combat the coronavirus pandemic and enacted a massive plan to vaccinate millions of Americans, while pushing an economic agenda that led to historically low unemployment and a boost in small-business applications.
“Over the last few years and facing the most difficult challenge in history, we’ve made real progress despite opposition from powerful special interests and extreme politics,” he said.
Biden noted that during his years in the Senate and as vice president he worked well with many “decent, honorable conservative Republicans … who believe in playing by the rules.
“But this MAGA crew, this is a different breed of cat,” he said.
Biden also highlighted the passage of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that he called the “most consequential infrastructure bill since Eisenhower’s interstate highway system.”
“We’re building roads, bridges, ports, airports, delivering clean water and high speed internet to every American, and we’re just getting started,” he said.
“You know, we had planned to have an infrastructure week,” he said, pausing to suppress a chuckle, “And it just kept on happening.”
Biden acknowledged inflation remains a problem for many Americans, but he also noted the U.S. has a lower inflation rate than most other countries.
“We know a lot of folks are struggling with inflation and higher costs, driven by Putin’s war in Ukraine and the global pandemic … That’s why I am determined to reduce the burden on working and middle class folks by bringing down the cost of everyday things … and it’s not just food and energy, but the cost of prescription drugs and health care costs and so much more.”
“What are they running on?” Biden asked of Republicans. “If they win, what do they say they’ll do? Well I have to hand it to them, they’re saying it out loud. They’re so confident they’re going to win they’re saying it without an ounce of shame.”
Biden noted House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others in the GOP leadership in the House and Senate have said they will push to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill passed in August that lowered prescription drug prices and included billions in funding for programs to combat climate change.
“And of course, they’re still determined to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act. That means eliminating the protections for tens of millions of people who can’t afford health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition,” he said.
He also targeted pledges from Sens. Rick Scott, R-Fla. and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., to reassess Social Security and Medicare spending on a regular basis and pledged he would reject any plan to cut those benefits.
“Republicans have threatened that they will shut down Congress and refuse to pay our bills unless I yield and cut Social Security and Medicare. They would default on our federal debt to do that. And let me tell you, nothing would create more inflation and damage the American economy more than their holding the economy hostage to eliminate programs millions of Americans rely on and pay into. Let me be clear, I will not cut Social Security.”
Biden also assailed GOP efforts to block his plan to forgive student loan debt for millions of Americans, saying it shows Republicans have little to no interest in helping working-class people.
“That’s mega-MAGA trickle-down politics in the extreme,” Biden said, referring to former President Donald Trump’s allies and sycophants on Capitol Hill.
“I’ll never apologize for helping middle class and middle-class folks and Americans as they recover from the pandemic — especially not to the same public officials who voted for a $2 trillion tax cut for the wealthy.”
Biden’s personal investment in firing up the Democratic party’s grassroots ground troops underscored much he and party leaders believe is at stake in two weeks’ time.
Democrats currently hold a tie-breaker in the Senate, which is divided 50-50, and they hold only a six-seat majority in the House. Historically, the president’s party loses seats in the midterm elections.
According to a NBC News poll released on Sunday, Democrats hold a one-point advantage in the generic ballot among registered voters, though Republicans lead among likely voters.
The poll also found that voters continue to be most concerned about the state of the economy, as well as threats to democracy.
Control for the Senate is expected to be close, with FiveThirtyEight over the weekend downgrading Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate to a 55% likelihood.
The president on Monday noted Democrats made history in 2020 with record turnout that lifted the party into the White House and majorities in Congress, leading to the passage of major legislation.
“The election 15 days from now really is a choice about whether we move forward or whether we go back. And I’ve never been more optimistic about America’s future than I am today,” the president said.
He then recalled a conversation he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping. “We’d been speaking through simultaneous interpreters and Xi said, ‘Can you explain America to me?”
“And I said, ‘Yes I can and I can do it with one word: Possibility.’ That’s why we believe anything is possible.
“I came here today for two reasons. First, to say ‘thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Secondly, to remind each and every one of you that when we get people out to vote, we win.”
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.
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