President Joe Biden was hoping to underscore his record with the public before announcing a highly anticipated reelection campaign.
But declared and undeclared Republican presidential candidates, including former President Donald Trump, are hogging the political spotlight as the 2024 primary enters the spring, though not always to Biden’s disadvantage.
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Biden acting presidential compared to “the dumpster fire engulfing the Republican Party” is a proverbial political split-screen “I’d take any day of the week,” according to former White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz.
“President Biden is not going to get as much attention as his [predecessor] does for getting indicted, and that’s OK because this contrast is why Democrats have prevailed in the last three election cycles,” Schultz told the Washington Examiner.
But Schultz encouraged reporters assessing a president’s success by their media coverage to engage in “some self-reflection” after Biden returned from a five-day trip to Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“The journalists who ask if Biden is going to get drowned out are the same journalists breathlessly covering Donald Trump wall to wall,” he said.
Democratic strategist Tracy Sefl contended Biden’s accomplishments, such as the partisan American Rescue Plan Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, will be promoted “in a more subtle way” amid “the Trump-GOP food fights.”
“What I mean by that is, for example, a voter may be inundated with news about the latest Republican outrage, but they‘ll be listening to the coverage while driving home from a doctor’s appointment in their newly affordable electric vehicle over a local bridge that’s been fully repaired,” she said.
Basement strategy redux?
Biden has taken some heat from Republicans for a relatively low-profile public schedule and lack of media interviews compared to his White House predecessors at this point in their presidencies. Some even liken it to an updated version of the COVID-19 “basement strategy” in 2020, when Biden was running to defeat Trump. Biden largely stayed at home in Delaware while Trump ran around the country to campaign events, even after being hospitalized for the virus shortly before Election Day.
Biden’s daily White House schedule can, at times, also seem less than vigorous. For instance, on Monday, April 17, the White House put a 9 a.m. “lid” on news announcements to reporters.
Democratic strategist Mark Mellman disputed the assumption Biden is not commanding the public’s attention despite the White House taking advantage of preplanned trips across the country to attract local news coverage while national and international outlets were focused on Trump’s indictment.
“[Presidents] always have competition, apathy and disinterest most important, but President Biden will always have the opportunity to talk to the American people,” Mellman said. “On any given day, Trump’s grave legal perils may well dominate the news. But President Biden has access to the public every and any day.”
At the same time, Biden’s trips to Minnesota and North Carolina were overshadowed by Trump speculating about being indicted in New York before Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg advised the former president he was proceeding with charges.
For Duke University Polis Center Director Mac McCorkle, Biden’s trip to semiconductor manufacturer Wolfspeed in Durham, North Carolina, to launch his “Investing in America Tour” and discuss his economic agenda was not “buried.” Yet McCorkle did recall MSNBC leading with Trump’s potential indictment instead.
“If it’s Trump in the general [election], it’s still going to be a referendum on Trump in many respects, so I just don’t know that there’s anything that Biden can do about it,” he said. “And I’m not sure he has to do anything about that.”
University of Minnesota Center for the Study of Politics and Governance Director Lawrence Jacobs pointed to Biden’s 43%-52% approval-disapproval rating after his visit to the Cummins Power Generation Factory, north of Minneapolis, where the president also cited his clean energy achievements.
“Plenty of bad news now: inflation, possible decline of [the] economy, massive intel breach, etc.,” he said. “Ducking coverage in 2023 [is] probably better than having headlines on bad news.”
The White House has been trying to strike a balance between criticizing the Republican field without amplifying any presidential hopeful’s message. But Biden aides do not seem to mind relitigating abortion access, entitlement reform, and gun control, with Democrats attributing their outperformance in last year’s midterm elections to their positions on those issues.
As the Republican contenders attack one another on Social Security and Medicare, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was ready with a statement scrutinizing Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) for signing a bill into law that will further restrict Florida’s abortion ban from 15 to six weeks into a pregnancy.
“At every opportunity following the Supreme Court‘s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, from the Kansas ballot initiative in August, to five abortion ballot initiatives in November, to last week’s elections in Wisconsin, the message has been clear: Americans demand the freedom to make their own decisions about their own bodies without government interference,” she wrote Friday.
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White House spokesman Andrew Bates similarly criticized “MAGA Republicans” for attending a recent National Rifle Association convention in Indianapolis. Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), Gov. Chris Sununu (R-NH), former Arkansas GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and multimillionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy addressed the conference in person. DeSantis, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley recorded video remarks.
“Unlike MAGA House Republicans, President Biden is acting to keep kids safe by providing communities with funding for well-trained school resource officers and appropriate school physical security improvements, among other school safety strategies that communities may choose for their schools,” Bates wrote in a statement. “But we can’t stop there. We have to keep weapons of war off our streets and out of our schools, and take other commonsense steps to keep guns out of dangerous hands.”
Original Location: Biden is content to keep quiet and let 2024 Republicans fight it out, for now
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