A bipartisan Biden drops recent ‘MAGA’ rhetoric during groundbreaking stop in Ohio

By | September 9, 2022

With less than nine weeks to go until November’s midterm elections, President Biden returned to Ohio – home to a crucial Senate showdown – to showcase the groundbreaking of a semiconductor plant that he’s promoted as evidence his administration’s economic policies are working.

“It’s time to bury the label Rust Belt,” Biden touted in comments to the crowd in Licking County, an overwhelmingly Republican part of the Buckeye State located outside of Columbus. “Made in Ohio and made in America is not just a slogan. It’s happening.”

Biden hailed the Intel Corporation’s new $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility, which the company green lighted in anticipation of the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, a bill the president signed into law last month after winning bipartisan support in Congress. The new project’s expected to create thousands of jobs and Intel announced millions of additional investments in educational and workforce development at local colleges.

“We need to make these chips right here in America,” the president stressed. “The future of the chip industry is going to be made in America, made in America.”

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The CHIPS measure was one in a series of legislative victories for the president and congressional Democrats this summer, and the White House has been anxious for Biden and other top administration officials to hit the road this summer and autumn to tout their successes. 

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The president’s revived agenda, along with his rebounding (but still underwater) approval ratings, matched with the easing of gas prices and record inflation and a string of election victories this summer as the issue of legalized abortion has surged in the wake of the move by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wader ruling, is giving Democrats renewed energy optimism they may be able to hold onto their razor-thin House and Senate majorities in November’s midterms.

But the event in Ohio was billed as an official White House event rather than a political gathering, and standing in front of bipartisan crowd, he praised retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman, who attended the event, noting that the senator was “a good man” who will be “leaving a hell of a legacy.”

Biden refrained from repeating some of the heated rhetoric he’s used in recent weeks targeting “MAGA Republicans” whom he argues have embraced “semi-fascism” due to their continued loyalty to former President Donald Trump.

The president’s more aggressive political language of late appears to be a move to alter the midterms narrative from a referendum on Biden and congressional Democrats and their record steering the country — amid record inflation, soaring crime, and border security — to a choice election between Biden and Trump and a battle to save democracy. The president’s new push has made national headlines, and has received plenty of pushback from Republicans.

“What we’re seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden told Democratic donors at a gathering in Maryland two weeks ago. “It’s not just Trump,” he went on, “it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something: It’s like semi-fascism.”

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At an ensuing DNC rally that evening, the president charged that “MAGA Republicans don’t just threaten our personal rights and economic security, they’re a threat to our very democracy.

In a speech early last week in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, spotlighting his plan to tackle crime and beef up police funding, Biden once again took aim at what he claims is the far-right’s extremism and lawlessness.

“You can’t be pro-law enforcement and pro-insurrection,” the president said as he referred to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other Trump supporters, which disrupted congressional certification of Biden’s 2020 Electoral College victory over the then-president. “You can’t be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 patriots. You can’t do it.” 

Two days later — in a primetime address at Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park, where the Declaration of Independence and the nation’s Constitution were debated and signed — Biden kept up his jabs.

“Too much of what’s happening in our country today is not normal. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” the president charged in his speech.

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After those speeches and the ensuing anger from Republicans, Biden and the White House clarified the remarks, apparently attempting to walk back the divisive rhetoric somewhat. 

“I don’t consider any Trump supporters a threat to the country,” Biden said on Sept. 2. “I do think anyone who calls for the use of violence, refuses to acknowledge an election…changing the way you count votes, that is a threat to democracy.”

The White House also denied that Biden’s Philadelphia speech — where he said the country was in a battle for the heart and soul of America, and urged people to “vote, vote, vote” — was a political address. 

“It’s no more ‘political’ than this accurate and timely reporting from CNN,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told reporters, before sharing CNN headlines like “Jake Tapper breaks down GOP threats to democracy” and “An Arizona Trump rally and voting rights march underscore the fight for democracy.”