PHILADELPHIA – President Joe Biden sounded like a candidate making his case for a second term Friday night as he rallied a raucous meeting of national Democrats who chanted, “Four more years!”
The only thing missing was an official announcement — that's not expected for at least several weeks.
Speaking to the Democratic National Committee after a strong jobs report, Biden boasted about helping create a strong economy and said his administration had made the country's most significant federal investments in public works, health care and green technology in decades. He also slammed Republican extremism, suggesting that party is still too beholden to former President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement.
“Let me ask you a simple question. Are you with me?” a grinning Biden asked onstage in Philadelphia as hundreds of party leaders from around the country interrupted him with cries of “Four more years! Four more years!”
He later added, to nearly as loud applause, “America is back and we're leading the world again.”
Biden has sought to seize the political offensive after a strong midterm election season for his party and as he looks toward 2024, with Trump having already announced another bid for the White House. It’s especially important given mounting pressures in Washington, including a special counsel investigation into his handling of classified documents and a Republican-controlled House eager to serve as a check against Biden and his agenda on Capitol Hill.
Speaking before Biden on Friday night, Vice President Kamala Harris was just as defiant about the GOP and its staunch opposition to issues like abortion rights.
“There are those who want to stand in the way of our momentum,” she said. "The extremist, so-called leaders, who want to distract and divide our nation as they ban books, as they reject the history of America, as they criminalize doctors and nurses and the sacred right to vote.”
At a DNC fundraiser before taking the stage, Harris referenced Democrats' holding onto Senate control during fall's midterms and reminded a smaller crowd: “It’s not the time to pat ourselves on the back. It’s the time to see it through."
“And that’s going to take as much work, if not more, than everything that everyone here put into where we are today," she said.
Looking to the future himself, Biden told the same reception: “No matter who is president, things are going to change radically in the next 15 years.”
“Are we going to be leading the pack?” he added. “Or are we going to be the end of it?”
Earlier in Philadelphia on Friday, Biden and Harris visited a water treatment plant and hailed $15 billion in funding to remove lead pipes from service lines around the country. That comes from a bipartisan infrastructure package, which is also bankrolling railway projects the president spent this week trumpeting.
“The issue has to do with basic dignity,” Biden said. “No amount of lead in water is safe. None.”
With the State of the Union address coming next week, Biden has renewed calls for political unity, something he's acknowledged being unable to achieve despite his promises as a candidate in 2020. But those appeals haven't tempered Biden's broadsides against Trump and the former president's MAGA movement.
“This ain’t your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said, adding that the GOP agenda was so extreme that “we have to keep pointing out what the other team wants.” Of Trump loyalists, he said, "These aren’t conservatives.”
That's made some Democrats anxious to see Biden stay aggressive in touting his record.
“The president is trying to solve the problems of the nation on infrastructure, on microchips, on gun safety, on health care," said Randi Weingarten, a DNC member and president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Compare (that) to the GOP, which seems to be on a revenge agenda.”
Biden’s speech comes the day before the DNC is set to approve an overhauled presidential primary calendar starting next year that would replace Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot. New Hampshire and Nevada would go second, followed by Georgia and Michigan — a change the president has championed to ensure that voters of color have more influence deciding the party’s White House nominee.
The new calendar would be largely moot if Biden runs again, since party elders won't want to oversee a drawn-out primary against him. Democrats have been solidly unified in their opposition to the new Republican-controlled House, while no major Democratic challenger is thought to be preparing to run against Biden.
Biden's advisers haven't waited for his official reelection announcement, already spending weeks making staffing arrangements and readying lines of political attacks against Republicans seen as early presidential front-runners, including Trump, who launched his campaign in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Alan Clendenin, a DNC member from Florida, said Biden has strengthened the economy, reestablished U.S. global standing and promoted inclusive values — the opposite of what Trump and DeSantis stand for.
“They predicted gloom and doom. He's proved them all wrong,” said Clendenin, who kicked off a DNC Southern caucus meeting by noting that Florida has begun lagging behind other states in key policy areas and joking of its governor, "That’s what happened when you’re led by the devil.”
Biden repeatedly denounced “extreme MAGA Republicans” as a threat to the nation's democracy in the runup to the midterms and gloated a bit Friday about the results.
“People looked at me like I was nuts,” he said, referring to his repeated emphasis on MAGA Republicans last fall. “They’re nuts. I’m not nuts.”
The president, meanwhile, will have a harder time campaigning on future legislative accomplishments now that the GOP controls the House. A coming fight over extending the nation's legal debt ceiling may only harden partisan clashes.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he and the White House would continue talking about ways to avoid a debt limit crisis. But, referring to federal spending, McCarthy said, “The current path we’re on we cannot sustain.”
Biden has also suggested that simply bashing Republicans won't be enough, however, noting that Democrats have seen their support among Americans without a college degree decline. He said Friday night that his party "stopped talking to” blue-collar workers.
"We have to get working-class people to say we see them,” the president added.
In a more lighthearted nod to the coming Super Bowl, Biden declared “Fly, Eagles, fly!” and called fans in Philadelphia “the most informed, obnoxious fans in the world."
That would ostensibly include his wife, Jill, who is a diehard Eagles supporter.