WASHINGTON — President Biden is preparing for certainly one of the largest tests of his presidency: Can he save his party?
Fresh off a series of legislative victories, the president kicked off the transition to campaign mode with a speech at a Democratic National Committee rally in Maryland on Thursday as he tries to preserve the party’s control of Congress within the midterm elections.
But his approval rating stays stubbornly low — lower, in some cases, than those of the candidates he hopes to assist — and inflation stays stubbornly high. At 79, Mr. Biden is the oldest president in American history, which has change into an increasingly uncomfortable issue for Democrats.
Embracing the role as his party’s top campaigner will mean directly confronting Republican attacks when nearly three-quarters of voters say america is heading within the incorrect direction. It should also mean enduring cold shoulders from some Democratic candidates, a number of of whom have made clear that they would favor if Mr. Biden stayed away.
Representative Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat who’s running for the Senate, cited scheduling conflicts when Mr. Biden was in his state in July, declining to look beside the president at the same time as Mr. Ryan — a moderate — is locked in certainly one of the country’s most intense campaign battles in a critical swing state.
Mr. Ryan’s spokeswoman, Izzi Levy, said the president was not someone the congressman desired to campaign with.
“We haven’t been serious about him or some other out-of-state surrogates,” she said, noting that Mr. Ryan’s approval rating in Ohio was higher than Mr. Biden’s. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.”
White House strategists also imagine nobody is healthier positioned to contrast the Democratic Party’s ideas with those of what the president calls the “ultra-MAGA Republicans,” a phrase meant to attract attention to the control that former President Donald J. Trump still wields and the variety of Republicans who adhere to his election-denying conspiracies.
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“What we’re seeing now’s either the start or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Mr. Biden said at a D.N.C. reception before the evening rally on Thursday. “It’s not only Trump, it’s your entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semifascism.”
The F.B.I.’s search of Mr. Trump’s home in Florida this month to retrieve classified documents has focused attention on him at an opportune time for Mr. Biden, raising latest questions on the previous president’s norm-busting — and possibly illegal — behavior. But it surely has also made it tougher for the White House’s messages to interrupt through the barrage of Trump-related news coverage.
In a technique memo released by the White House this month, advisers promised that Mr. Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the cupboard would fan out across the country for events intended to advertise the president’s accomplishments.
The memo, from Jen O’Malley Dillon, a deputy White House chief of staff, and Anita Dunn, a top communications adviser, said the president would deliver two complementary messages: a reminder that Democrats “beat the special interests” in passing laws that almost all Republicans opposed and an attack on the intense policies embraced by Mr. Trump and his allies.
“Our polling shows that messages that highlight that the president and congressional Democrats defeated special interests tests well,” Ms. O’Malley Dillon and Ms. Dunn wrote within the memo, which was addressed to Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff. “Our goal for the subsequent few weeks is straightforward: take our message — one which we all know resonates with key groups — and reach the American people where they’re.”
That is strictly what a few of Mr. Biden’s allies are hoping he’ll do.
4 months ago, strategists and pundits had all but written off Democratic hopes in the autumn, suggesting that the party was doomed. Now, strategists at Solution to Win, a progressive consulting and donor group, argue that Democrats can avoid historic political defeat — and even achieve success — by aggressively making their case concerning the accomplishments of Congress and the Biden administration.
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In a 34-page presentation for grass-roots organizations and political activists early this month, Solution to Win argued that Democrats should acknowledge that “Americans are bombarded and overwhelmed with crises” but emphasized that “Trump Republicans will take us backward by overturning the desire of the people, controlling our lives and ruling for the rich few.”
Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, a founding father of the group and an creator of the presentation, said in an interview that Mr. Biden could possibly be a crucial a part of delivering that message — if he pushed beyond the same old campaign tactics that had up to now did not turn his approval rankings around.
“During his whole profession, Biden’s at all times been a workhorse, not a show pony, right?” Ms. Fernandez Ancona said. “I believe he needs to make use of all of the tools within the toolbox, and never identical to traditional political stumping and press, but like latest media, like these emerging platforms — podcasts, TikTok and influencers. You must get out differently.”
There may be little indication up to now that Mr. Biden and his White House are planning nontraditional efforts. On Thursday, during his remarks in Maryland, the president was set to be flanked by Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and several other of the party’s candidates who’re running this fall.
The committee’s advisory for the event said the president was there to rally with candidates to “highlight the selection voters have within the midterms.”
Before the rally, Mr. Biden headlined a personal, committee fund-raiser for the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund, a part of a concerted effort by party leaders to lift record amounts of cash for his or her candidates. The president is scheduled to host one other committee fund-raiser in Recent York on Sept. 19.
Throughout the summer, a variety of Democrats running in competitive races distanced themselves from Mr. Biden, broke with the White House on policy — as some did this week after his announcement on student debt forgiveness — or each.
In a single campaign ad, Representative Kim Schrier of Washington highlighted “taking over the Biden administration to suspend the gas tax.” One other spot featured Representative Jared Golden of Maine noting his differences with “President Biden’s agenda” as he forged himself as an “independent fighter.” And in an explicit pitch, Representative Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat running for re-election in a difficult Ohio district, released a television ad declaring that “she doesn’t work for Joe Biden; she works for you.”
Several Democratic strategists conceded that Mr. Biden would almost definitely confront more hesitancy from his party’s candidates. But that isn’t unique to the present president. Ben LaBolt, a former campaign aide and administration official under President Barack Obama, said Mr. Biden and his advisers needed to make sure that they sent him to places where he could possibly be helpful.
“There’s a strategic deployment of the president that also allows candidates to define their very own message in a localized way based on the highest priorities for his or her states or districts,” Mr. LaBolt said.
“You didn’t see President Obama flying right into a bunch of red states to campaign for senators in Arkansas and Nebraska and Louisiana,” he added. “You go where you’ll be able to have an effect on turnout.”
Mr. Biden’s allies have noted that he and members of his administration have appeared with some Democrats who’re in competitive races. Representative Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from a highly competitive northeastern Pennsylvania district, plans to look with Mr. Biden when the president visits Wilkes-Barre, Pa., next week, said Wendy Wilson, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cartwright.
“I do know the president’s poll numbers haven’t been where we would like,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney of Recent York, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm. “But the actual fact is that each front-liner I do know is completely happy to face next to him and say, ‘We’re constructing a latest bridge,’ or, ‘We’re replacing all of the lead service lines with good union jobs and having cleaner drinking water.’”
White House officials said they hoped a method Mr. Biden could improve Democratic turnout was by focusing attention on the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ushering in a wave of abortion bans in conservative states. Abortion rights activists have been frustrated that Mr. Biden has not been more aggressive on the problem, but aides say they recognize its power to motivate Democratic voters.
The true trick, the president’s allies said, will likely be framing the race in ways in which seemed virtually unimaginable earlier within the yr.
“Plenty of that is how people see the race,” said David Axelrod, the political adviser and strategist who helped Mr. Obama win the White House in 2008. “Do they see it as a referendum on current conditions? Or do they see it as a selection between a productive governing party and an obstructive opposition? And that’s the struggle. He may feel that he may help tilt that balance.”
Katie Glueck contributed reporting from Recent York.