LEESBURG, Virginia—Hours after the Justice Department released a report accusing Joe Biden of being an “elderly man with a poor memory,” the president made his first public remarks addressing the DOJ report to a room of his most enthusiastic supporters: House Democrats.
Conveniently, Biden left the report’s comments about his mental readiness out of his Thursday speech. But he did bring up the good news from the report: the DOJ closing the investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.
Biden also contrasted his compliance with the DOJ’s probe with former President Donald Trump’s obfuscation of a federal investigation into his squirreling away of state secrets at his Florida mansion.
“I was especially pleased to see the special counsel made clear the stark differences between this case and Donald Trump,” Biden said.
Biden’s mention of Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report exemplified his pitch to House Democrats on how they should message voters in 2024. Speaking at the House Democrats’ annual retreat, where they’re plotting their collective campaign strategy, Biden said Democrats need to draw comparisons with the dysfunctional Republican Party to retake the House of Representatives.
“We have to make the contrast, the choice, crystal clear, though our friends on the other side make it easy for us,” Biden said. “Time and again, Republicans show they are a party of chaos and disunion.”
Biden’s guidance to House Democrats makes a strong case as rudderless House Republicans repeatedly manage to tank their own legislation. Just this week, Republicans failed to pass an impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and couldn’t muster the votes to pass an aid bill for Israel.
Highlighting House Democrats’ legislative priorities, Biden suggested, could resonate with fed-up swing voters in 2024 as Republicans squander their majority with one of the most unproductive terms in modern history.
But Biden may not be the most effective mouthpiece for that message. Although the president didn’t address the concerns about his mental acuity during his speech, Hur’s description of Biden as “a sympathetic, well-meaning elderly man with a poor memory” is doing the media rounds.
Conservatives are seizing on the chance to cast Biden as unfit for office. The timing could hardly be tougher for Biden.
At the House Democrats’ retreat—officially called the Issues Conference—Democrats are pressing the media on their suite of legislative priorities and campaign strategy. Biden is a delicate piece of their 2024 puzzle.
During a Wednesday press conference, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Suzan DelBene (D-WA) said Biden may campaign with vulnerable House Democrats.
Sensing a weakness in the president’s unpopularity, the House GOP’s campaign arm has celebrated her comment, saying in a statement that it “fully endorses” DelBene’s plan.
But as Democrats struggle to craft effective messaging on border security and the economy—Republicans top 2024 attacks—they appear united with Biden on a two-pronged pitch to voters.
First, when Democrats were in the majority, they secured major policy victories and they’d like to get back to work. And second, the GOP is in destructive disarray.
During Biden’s speech, he hit on both of those points. He championed Democratic legislative wins under his presidency—like the sweeping tax and climate bill the Inflation Reduction Act—and called for the chance to “finish the job.” Then he bashed the GOP for not being “your father’s Republican Party.”
With those messages, Biden said, “we’re in a position to win in 2024.”