White House takes the gloves off ahead of 2024


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May 11, 2024

White House takes the gloves off ahead of 2024

The Biden White House has tried to present itself as being above the fray of day-to-day squabbles, but increasingly, it’s jumping in, bashing the GOP and other critics at every opportunity. The

The Biden White House has tried to present itself as being above the fray of day-to-day squabbles, but increasingly, it’s jumping in, bashing the GOP and other critics at every opportunity.

The administration didn’t miss a chance this week to hammer Republicans over Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) floating that the House would move towards an impeachment inquiry into President Biden. They were quick with memos and statements to criticize the GOP attacks as a “clown carousel” and the idea of pursuing impeachment as “baseless.”

And the White House issued a scathing rebuke of Fox New host Greg Gutfeld, who said that Jews captured and tortured during the Holocaust survived by having skills and being useful, calling out his comments as a “dangerous, extreme lie.”

The new levels of punchy rhetoric preview the White House messaging strategy going into 2024, which is to fight back and call out what they consider extreme.

President Biden and Vice President Harris arrive for an event to establish the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, in the Indian Treaty Room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus, Tuesday, July 25, 2023, in Washington.

It’s a shift from their previous attitude, which was to let what they considered to be Republican chaos speak for itself.

“The cost is too expensive, both short and long term, to let them operate in a vacuum without showing that one, we know how to fight; two, that we will fight; three, we fight with facts and not with some flaming lies of information,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist.

Early in Biden’s presidency, the White House was careful not to weigh in on controversial comments from the likes of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), hoping to avoid elevating her words and giving the far-right congresswoman more of a platform.

When McCarthy was struggling in January to get enough votes to be Speaker of the House, they sat back and watched it unfold.

Biden gently knocked the vote series at the time, saying, “It’s a little embarrassing it’s taking so long,” but also added, “that’s not my problem.” The White House had also insisted that Biden would not “insert himself” into the election, which ended up taking 15 ballots for McCarthy to finally clench enough votes.

But this week, when the Speaker signaled that the House could move forward with an impeachment inquiry, the White House came out with multiple statements and highlighted quotes from fellow Republicans in his conference pushing back on the idea.

It also released a memo about Republicans’ slams against the president overall, reflecting the Biden argument that the GOP is stepping up attacks on Hunter Biden and talk of impeachment because the economy is getting stronger and is now a less effective avenue for attack.

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Hunter Biden appeared in a Delaware court Wednesday, where his plea deal was put on hold by a judge who questioned the scope of the agreement.

The White House this week touted “Bidenomics” after gross domestic product (GDP) numbers showed surprisingly strong economic growth. It rebuked GOP lawmakers for not embracing the data, pointing to Fox Business anchor Cheryl Casone, who said Thursday, “There goes that recession talk, right?”

“Even Fox Business is welcoming today’s blockbuster economic growth numbers, the latest in a long line of proof points that Bidenomics is delivering for middle class families,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in a memo. “That’s because this strong growth report is objectively good news for the American people, which elected officials should support regardless of their political party.”

In the past, the White House has called out what it deemed antisemitism, and second gentleman Doug Emhoff in particular has spearheaded the effort against hatred towards Jewish Americans. The rebuke of Gutfeld was particularly notable, considering it called the conservative media voice’s comments insulting to the memory of people who suffered the Holocaust.

Over the last week, Vice President Harris has gone on the attack against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a presidential candidate, over changes his administration has made regarding the way slavery is taught in his state. She quickly traveled to Jacksonville to deliver remarks over his recent moves.

And press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has turned Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) into an almost-daily punching bag, chastising him for blocking military promotions over his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

Democrats argue that it’s significant the White House is getting punchier and not relying on the Biden reelection campaign to do it for them.

“I think the reason why it’s so important that it comes from the White House is because Joe Biden is a president for all people, and that White House works for all people,” Seawright said. “It helps weed out some of the foolishness, because I don’t think we can afford at this moment to let false information go unchecked or go numb to bad or false information for the sake of political gain.”

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) speaks to reporters as he arrives to the Senate Chamber for votes on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Greg Nash)

Another Democratic strategist argued the White House has picked its spots well, seeking to highlight when Republicans are fixated on issues that don’t resonate with most moderate voters. The strategist pointed to the GOP’s fixation on Hunter Biden as an example of something that is unlikely to move many mainstream voters.

Democratic communications strategist Katie Grant Drew noted the window for moving legislation closes early in election cycles so it “makes sense” the White House is preparing for 2024.

“They know they’re going to have to defend against Republicans’ insatiable appetite for investigations and impeachments, and the best defense is a good offense,” said Drew, a principal at Monument Advocacy. “When top Republicans continue to spout controversial rhetoric and spend time on divisive issues that the vast majority of Americans don’t agree with, the White House is going to use those moments to illustrate to the American people how extreme today’s Republican Party has become.”

Jim Kessler, co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way, said Biden and his team are wisely both selling their own victories and highlighting Republican dysfunction.

Ultimately, though, Kessler argued the 2024 election will be decided by broader issues such as the economy, something the White House has leaned into with its recent messaging.

“This election is going to come down to the middle. The middle ideologically, the middle of the country geographically, and the middle class,” Kessler said. “These are places where Biden’s got to win.”

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