Donald Trump keeps bringing the 2024 presidential election back to where Joe Biden wants to fight it as Biden's team pounced after Trump said during a Fox News town hall that he would not be a dictator "except on Day One."
It emphasised Trump's words as just another example of the GOP frontrunner's undemocratic and hazardous ambitions for a possible second term.
According to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations, Biden has expressed concern to confidants that Trump would have unlimited authority if he were to return to government.
Trump would almost certainly have at least one Republican-controlled chamber in Congress, a conservative Supreme Court, the support of true believers on his staff and Republican state politicians — and the knowledge that he could be impeached twice and tried criminally in four jurisdictions and still claim power.
Biden has privately stated that he would see it as a mandate to misuse power at home and influence how America is perceived overseas.
All three sources said the president's stakes have risen as he has watched the Republican Party remain in Trump's grip despite January 6 and the disclosures of what his predecessor has in store for the future.
“It’s coming back full circle — that in the president’s mind, this is the moral authority for the race. This is an existential threat. This is the reason he ran initially, and the reason — with Donald Trump running — he’s running again,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster for Biden’s campaign in 2020.
“The president has always believed that it was his duty to get the nation beyond Trump,” said one of the three people close to him, who spoke with Biden about his views on Trump and was granted anonymity to speak about private discussions. “He had hoped 2020 would have done it but it didn’t. So he has to do it again.”
Some Democrats have encouraged the reelection campaign to focus on other matters. This past weekend, a number of the party's governors used their annual conference to push Biden to focus on matters other than Trump, such as abortion.
While the Biden campaign will continue to draw issue-specific comparisons, the president has made it plain that he intends to portray the next election as a war for democracy itself. The Republican nominee continues to give enough opportunities for Biden to return to this same topic.
This topic inspired Biden's successful 2020 presidential campaign, which he described as "a battle for the soul of the nation."
Despite opposition from some Democrats, Biden pushed that point hard again during last year's midterm elections, saying that the hardline "MAGA Republicans" represented a threat to the republic's foundation and rights.
According to three individuals close to Biden, his honest remarks Tuesday at a series of Boston fundraisers were both an example of the president expressing something unscripted that astonished staff and an insight into his genuine views.
“If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running,” Biden said. “But we cannot let him win.”
Biden then struck a grave tone, warning that he’s “running against an election-denier-in-chief,” who is “determined to destroy American democracy.”
“Trump’s not even hiding the ball anymore,” Biden told the crowd. “He’s telling us exactly what he wants to do. He’s making no bones about it.”