Former President Trump is not yet the Republican nominee for 2024, but he’s the main character at President Biden’s campaign events.
Biden, who early in his presidency would tip-toe around referencing his predecessor by name, has now made Trump central to his pitch to donors. At recent fundraisers, Biden repeatedly spoke about specific comments Trump 4made and painted him as a singular threat to democracy should he win back the White House in 2024.
Biden’s focus on his predecessor underscores how much of a motivating factor Trump is for Democratic voters and the president himself, and it reflects how the nation is hurtling toward a rematch between the two men who were on the ballot in 2020.
“Folks, this is a big deal, this election. We’ve got to get it done — not because of me, and I mean that,” Biden told a group of donors Wednesday in Weston, Mass. “If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running. But we cannot let him win, for the sake of the country.”
Biden mentioned Trump’s name 28 times at a Denver fundraiser last week, according to a White House transcript, and roughly a dozen times at each of his three fundraisers in Massachusetts this week.
He has zeroed in on the threat Trump poses to democracy, building on a core theme of the 2020 campaign and the 2022 midterms. Biden has called Trump an “election denier in chief” who is “determined to destroy American democracy.”
Biden cited Trump’s rhetoric to bolster his point, highlighting the former president’s vow that he would act as his supporters’ “retribution,” Trump’s description of his political opponents as “vermin” and his description of 2024 as the “final battle.”
Further strengthening Biden’s argument, Trump this week told Fox News’s Sean Hannity he would not be a dictator if reelected, “except on day one.”
Biden told donors in Boston if he is victorious in 2024, “We’ll be able to say we saved American democracy. It sounds like hyperbole, but really and truly.”
Trump’s policy views have also become central to Biden’s remarks to donors. Biden has over the past two weeks hammered Trump over his renewed vow to terminate the Affordable Care Act, as well as the former president taking credit for the end of Roe v. Wade and abortion protections.
Even Biden’s laugh lines in speeches to donors have become Trump-centric.
“We all know Trump became the first losing presidential candidate in history to refuse to accept the will of the people. He didn’t even show up at my inauguration, which I can’t say was a disappointment,” Biden said at all three of his Massachusetts fundraisers.
Trump, who is dominating GOP primary polls with the Iowa caucuses roughly one month away, has also been a central figure for those hosting Biden’s campaign receptions. Former Ambassador Alan Solomont, who hosted Biden’s Weston fundraiser this week, introduced the president by speaking about his concern for what kind of country his grandchild would grow up in if Trump is reelected.
Biden’s focus on the former president in his remarks coincides with the Biden campaign going on offense against Trump on a near-daily basis.
The campaign has rolled out several releases under the banner “Trump’s America in 2025” that outline what a second Trump presidency would mean for abortion, gun violence, democracy, health care and more.
It’s familiar and comfortable terrain for Biden, who spent much of the 2020 campaign warning about the threat Trump posed to American democracy and institutions and in 2022 sought to turn the midterms into a referendum on Trump and his election denialism.
“I’ve been around a while in politics, and I never thought I’d run in an election like this. Folks, that’s what’s at stake,” Biden said in Boston on Wednesday. “American democracy — I give you my word as a Biden — I believe, is at stake.”
Biden’s belief that democracy is at stake — and that his 2020 victory makes him uniquely suited to take on Trump again — has fueled his decision to seek a second term amid concerns about his age. Biden, 81, would be 86 at the end of a potential second term.
But polling has shown voters may not see Trump as the existential threat that Biden and other Democrats describe him as.
A Morning Consult poll conducted Dec. 1-3 found Biden and Trump tied at 43 percent each in a hypothetical 2024 match-up. An NBC News poll conducted Nov. 10-14 showed Trump leading Biden by 2 percentage points.
Biden and other Democrats have been optimistic that if and when Trump is firmly the Republican nominee in 2024, voters will become increasingly aware of the potential consequences of a second Trump term in the White House.
Biden on Wednesday said he believes there are “probably 50” Democrats who could defeat former President Trump in a general election, but underscored his belief that beating Trump is something he takes personally.
“I’m not the only one who can defeat him, but I will defeat him,” Biden said.