Over the last two weeks, Americans have seen a markedly different commander-in-chief. During remarks in Statuary Hall on the one-year anniversary of the January 6 Capitol attack, President Biden was clear and direct, "I did not seek this fight, brought to this Capitol one year ago today. But I will not shrink from it, either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation, and I will allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy."
In a break from previous speeches where the president opted to either ignore or deflect questions about former President Trump, Biden went on to reference his immediate predecessor more than a dozen times throughout the address, calling him out specifically for refusing to accept defeat in 2020 and for his actions inspiring the violent mob on last year.
The following day, the president turned his ire towards obstructionist Republicans on Capitol Hill who have sharpened their economic attacks on the White House given rising inflation and ongoing supply chain concerns.
In remarks highlighting the fact that the unemployment rate had dropped to 3.9 percent – the fastest one year drop in American history – the president zeroed in on Republicans, "They want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen. They voted against the tax cuts for middle-class families. They voted against the funds we need to reopen our schools, to keep police officers and firefighters on the job, to lower health care premiums. I refuse to let them stand in the way of this recovery."
Now that we are in an election year, the president has kick-started his messaging as he outlines a strong contrast to the obstructionist GOP. To build on his legislative success, President Biden should highlight during the midterms his significant accomplishments, including a generational investment in infrastructure modernization and greatly reduced childhood poverty.
Elections are won and lost based on not just on articulating vision, but making sure voters understand, and feel, important accomplishments. Joe Biden has both.
This past Tuesday, the president and Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Atlanta to aggressively push for two key voting rights bills, The Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Highlighting many of the GOP-passed bills affecting voting access since the 2020 election, Biden was equally direct, "The goal of the former president and his allies is to disenfranchise anyone who votes against them."
Both bills face an uphill battle in the Senate, despite voting rights legislation having wide-ranging, bipartisan support in the past, including form every previous Republican president over the past fifty years, aside from former President Trump.
With 300 days left until the midterms, it’s clear the president is already calibrating his messaging heading into a contentious electoral season where historically an incumbent president usually sees his party lose seats.
One of the president’s favorite sayings from the campaign trail is a simple admonition, "don’t compare me to the Almighty, compare me to the alternative." It’s clear from this change in tone that the president is focused on framing 2022 as a comparison with the "alternative" congressional Republicans.
And Joe Biden is spoiling for a fight.