WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is shifting more into campaign mode, with plans to increasingly attack his likely 2024 Republican opponent, former President Donald Trump, after some of his allies have urged him to do so in recent days, according to five people familiar with the matter.
Biden personally made the decision to criticize Trump on more than policy during an event Thursday with the United Auto Workers, according to two of the people, after he had privately expressed dismay that union members might support his predecessor over him. He also took a punchier approach to his typical swipes at Trump during a fundraiser that same day, saying, “Since I came off the sidelines to go toe to toe with Donald Trump, we haven’t stopped winning.”
“The truth is, this guy can’t get tired of losing,” Biden added.
The president was “very tapped in” as Tuesday’s election results rolled in that night and were analyzed the following morning, as one person familiar with the matter described it. Multiple people familiar with the matter said he felt buoyed by Democrats’ strong showing after a string of polling that showed Biden losing to Trump in key battleground states.
“The fight that he has in him is starting to come out,” one Biden ally close to the White House said.
It’s an energy some of the president’s supporters have been looking for him to show at his public events.
“We’d all like to see him inject some more energy into his speeches and his appearances,” another Biden ally close to the White House said.
One Democratic strategist said, “The path to stronger political standing is a stronger contrast message with Trump.”
“Re-electing Biden in the abstract is not as potent of a message as re-electing President Biden against Donald Trump,” the strategist said.
As Biden prepared for his UAW event, he saw an opportunity to do more than just outline what he has done for union workers, one person familiar with the matter said. Already, he planned to criticize Trump over his record on manufacturing jobs — a line of attack he plans to continue, two people familiar with the matter said. But the idea of Trump peeling off his labor support after Biden joined the picket line during the UAW strike and has designated himself “the most pro-union president in history” made him want to go further, these people said.
“When you were in the middle of the fight, I stood and others stood with you, shoulder to shoulder, on that picket line. My predecessor went to a nonunion shop and attacked you,” Biden told the UAW audience. “I hope you guys have a memory. Where I come from, it matters.”
A White House official said the president still doesn’t plan to fully engage in campaigning against Trump until early next year. “Not every day at every event, but we’ll look for opportunities to do it,” the official said.
Biden has been talking to people outside the White House this past week who’ve been telling him that he needs to start hitting Trump and hitting him hard, and not wait until next year, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
“You can’t have Trump out there slapping him and not hit back,” said the ally, who argues the fight in Biden is starting to come out publicly. “He’s getting a little ticked off. He wants to whack him back.”
People familiar with the planning said the president will continue to attack Trump not just on economic issues — drawing a contrast between their records in office — but also on abortion. Biden criticized Trump by name on Thursday over his abortion record. It’s an issue where voters in Tuesday’s elections overwhelmingly favored Democrats.
“The only reason abortion is banned in America is because of Donald Trump,” Biden said at a campaign fundraiser on Thursday. “The reason fundamental rights have been stripped away from the American people for the first time in history is because of Donald Trump.”
Carol E. Lee
Carol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.
Kristen Welker is the moderator of “Meet the Press”.