When President Joe Biden rallies Florida’s Democrats on Tuesday for a pause in his extended campaign, he will finally arrive in the state his advisers have long viewed as the perfect backdrop to his warnings against “MAGA” Republicans.
For months, Biden and his team have been hoping to use Florida’s constellation of Trump-aligned Republicans — including the former president himself — to crystallize Biden’s closing speech that elections are a choice, not a referendum, and motivate Democratic voters.
“You can’t shake a stick (in Florida) without hitting a Republican who represents the extremism the president is talking about,” said one of Biden’s top advisers. “So it allows the president to really drive home what is at stake and what is the choice.”
Biden made that argument to voters in Miami parks on Tuesday, a week after Election Day. The rally comes as Biden has sharpened his attacks on Republicans and painted an increasingly bleak picture of America with a Republican majority in Congress.
The Rising Sun State represents an important battleground for the midterm elections and future presidential elections. But more importantly, with the president’s approval ratings low, the Biden team is viewing Florida as the perfect political backdrop to frame the midterm elections as a choice — between “radical MAGA Republicans” and Democrats — rather than a referendum on the president and his party, according to several Biden advisers. and Democratic officials.
Biden’s team first identified Florida as the perfect starting point for its half-message over the summer. The kick-off was postponed due to the president’s diagnosis of Covid-19 and frustrated once again by Hurricane Ian, so Biden instead chose a venue for a big rally where he makes his closing argument ahead of next week’s midterm elections.
He has drawn on Florida Senator Rick Scott’s policy proposals and brinkmanship threats from Republicans regarding the debt ceiling to argue that the GOP would hurt the economy and jeopardize popular entitlement programs. With Florida in the background, Biden also held a state event before the rally, drawing attention to Republican proposals on Social Security and Medicare.
“I came to Florida today to talk about two very, very important programs,” Biden said, speaking at a small venue in Hallandale Beach. “A large number of people in the state will be affected, and they are trapped by our Republican friends.”
Democratic officials are under no illusion that Biden’s visit to Florida on Tuesday will fundamentally alter the dynamics of the Senate and the governor’s race that appears to be going the way of Republicans, but they do see an opportunity to nationalize the midterm stakes in the final stage.
Scott, the chair of the Republican campaign arm that has set a political agenda that would put Medicare, Social Security and other government programs to a vote every five years, was among the things he did. The state is also the home of former President Donald Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis, both presidential candidates likely in 2024 that Democrats have been keen to portray as the faces of a new, more radical Republican party.
“And by the way, that’s not your dad’s Republican Party,” Biden said in Hallandale Beach. “It’s a different deal now. There are a lot of good Republicans, but they’re under a lot of pressure.”
A second senior Biden adviser argued that Biden’s contradictory argument, with Florida as a backdrop, is “more important” in the final week of the midterm elections.
“As Congress’ Republicans plan to scrap Social Security and Medicare, cut Social Security and Medicare, or hold it hostage to debt-limit negotiations, it’s becoming clearer… to voters across the country,” the senior adviser said.
Biden is organizing the rally in Florida largely at the invitation of the state’s Democratic candidate, former Governor Charlie Crist, according to two Democrats familiar with the decision.
In an interview with CNN on the eve of Biden’s visit to his state, Christ was arrogant about the president’s willingness to campaign on his side in the final phase of the midterm elections, where he hopes to deny DeSantis’ re-election.
“He’s the most important man in the world,” Crist said. “The fact that he came to Florida a week before the election says everything you need to know about how important Florida is.”
More than any other issue, Crest said he hopes — and expects — that Biden won’t get involved on the abortion rights issue when the president leads the rally for Crist and Senate candidate Val Demings. Crist said DeSantis’ record as conservative on this issue speaks for itself, adding that abortion rights are the “number one issue” in his race.
When Biden visited Florida last month for a tour of the damage from Hurricane Ian, the president and DeSantis put their political differences aside to stress an effective response.
“We have very different political philosophies, but we worked hand in hand,” Biden said during a pause.
But a few weeks later, the governor made it clear that Biden was still in his sights as a potential contender, even as he objected to a potential national race during a debate with Crest.
“I just want to make things very clear,” DeSantis said. “The only worn-out, old donkey I look forward to laying in the pasture is Charlie Crest.”
While Democratic officials insist that Biden is focused first and foremost on the upcoming midterm elections, campaigning on behalf of the Democrat running to oust DeSantis this week could partially provide a preview of what the Biden-Diantes match could look like in 2024. In a recent discussion week, DeSantis will not commit to a full four-year term if he wins re-election.
The first and last question for DeSantis is: “What do I need to do for DeSantis to succeed?” “This is the same conversation Trump had with himself,” said Cedric Richmond, a senior adviser to the Democratic National Committee.
However, Biden’s decision to rally in Florida – where the race for governor or the Senate was not particularly close – a week after the election draws attention to the limits of his ability to sway voters in the final phase of the campaign. It also highlights the extent to which Biden has struggled to persuade voters to view the election as anything other than a referendum on him and his party amid economic anxiety.
With 56% of Americans disapproving of Biden’s job as president, according to a CNN polling, he has been largely sidelined from publicly campaigning with several Democratic candidates in the nation’s most competitive race.
Biden, irritated by suggestions that he is not required during the campaign, insisted to reporters that more than a dozen different campaigns requested him in the final stage of the contest.
“It’s not true,” he said last week when a reporter noted that he had not been organizing as many rallies in the last phase.
Notably, Biden accepts that not every Democratic candidate welcomes him as an alternative while his approval ratings remain underwater. He has told fellow Democrats that he respects their political intuition when it comes to their own races and has joked publicly that he would campaign for…or against his favorite candidates, “whichever will help the most.”
But he has been frustrated by coverage suggesting he is a political albatross, according to people familiar with the conversations, arguing that his policies – when properly explained – are widely popular with voters.
Democrats familiar with the decision-making process have acknowledged that Biden is not required to campaign in the most competitive races. They also argued that assemblies are costly and less valuable from an organizational perspective than they used to be.
What is clear is that Biden watched as his reputation as a Democrat could venture places others could not fade. As vice president, Biden was often dispatched to red states and conservative districts to campaign for vulnerable members of his party, which is often seen as more palatable than his boss at the time, Barack Obama.
Now, the former president appears to be the hottest Democrat in the country’s high-profile races. He has held rallies in Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin over the weekend, and will visit Nevada and Arizona this week.
Biden and Obama will appear together next Saturday to support Senate and gubernatorial candidates in Pennsylvania – where a born Biden has been hailed.
Compared to his predecessors, Biden has maintained a lighter campaign schedule. His Tuesday evening event in Florida will be his first gathering this month, compared to the 16 that then-President Obama held in October 2010 and the 26 that then-President Trump held in October 2018.
Biden has been wanted in the fundraising circuit, though he spoke at several fundraisers raising dollars nearly every week this fall to help the DNC raise a record midterm total of $292 million through September. Democratic officials credited Biden’s decision to share his presidential campaign slate with the DNC early in his presidency with a midterm record of $155 million in grassroots fundraising.
On the event side, Biden has scaled back the state’s battlefield political rallies in favor of Washington political speeches and official events as he drew attention to his accomplishments — such as infrastructure and manufacturing investments — and cautioned against the Republican alternative.
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein suggested on CNN in October that the lack of large rallies was strategic: “I don’t think rallies have proven effective for candidates in the midterms, so we’re trying something different,” he said, referring to the failure of the Obama and Trump models. In order to avoid losses for their parties.
But as Biden prepares to hold rallies this week in Florida, New Mexico, California and Pennsylvania, one of Biden’s top advisers said, “There is a time and place for rallies.”
“As you approach the end of any elections, rallies are a way to speed up the base. Rallies are a way to get out of the voting,” the senior adviser said.