Skip to content

Biden on full push ahead of the midterms, but not to all the top battlegrounds

Tuesday’s Florida stops are emblematic of a clear pattern for the president

President Joe Biden attends a Democratic campaign rally with Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, left, and Senate candidate Val B. Demings at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens on Tuesday.
President Joe Biden attends a Democratic campaign rally with Florida gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, left, and Senate candidate Val B. Demings at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens on Tuesday. (Saul Martinez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has a full schedule for the final days of the midterm campaign, and on Tuesday he proved once again it is worth watching what he says to smaller crowds of donors as much as to the big rallies.

Campaigning in Florida, Biden said Tuesday that Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., “used to be a friend — I don’t know what happened to him.”

“Something happened to Lindsey,” Biden told attendees at a reception for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist. “I don’t know what it is, but Lindsey is now talking about the need to elect more Republican senators so they can pass a law codifying Dobbs,” the Supreme Court decision that ended the abortion rights protections of Roe v. Wade.

[A week out, here are 2022’s most vulnerable House and Senate members]

The remarks at the private event for Crist were the latest example of the president making arguably more interesting remarks to donors and supporters at fundraisers and small receptions than at larger campaign rallies.

The president on Tuesday night headlined another of those larger rallies, where he shared the stage with Crist and Rep. Val B. Demings, Florida’s Democratic nominee for Senate, each trying to get out the vote in what appear to be uphill battles for statewide office.

“This election is not a referendum,” Biden said Tuesday night. “It’s a choice.”

The president is trying to persuade voters to cast their ballots not only as a proxy of what they may think of his performance, whether on combating inflation or some other policy area, but also on what could come if Republicans are in the majority. That included a now-familiar recitation of Biden’s criticism of Florida Sen. Rick Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, who released a policy blueprint that Biden argues would put Social Security and Medicare “on the chopping block.”

Crist, a former Republican who is seeking to be governor again, this time as a Democrat, is running against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who may well have 2024 presidential ambitions. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates that contest Likely Republican. The outlook for Demings is the same in her contest with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Biden generally has steered clear of the hottest Senate battlegrounds, with the notable exception of Pennsylvania, where he has been a frequent visitor in support of commonwealth Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the Democrats’ bids for governor and senator, respectively, and he’s scheduled to rally with former President Barack Obama in Philadelphia on Saturday.

He is slated to deliver a speech on democracy Wednesday evening from Capitol Hill, according to senior White House officials Anita Dunn and Jen O’Malley Dillon. It’s a theme he has touched on in several major addresses this year, warning that former President Donald Trump and his MAGA movement are threatening to erode the country’s democratic norms.

Biden’s other scheduled stops in the closing week of the campaign include visits to New Mexico, California and Maryland. It’s likely the audiences there will hear him say, again, that the election on Tuesday is the most important in American history.

The president’s trip to Albuquerque, N.M., includes a campaign rally hosted by the state Democratic Party supporting Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and other Democratic candidates. In San Diego, Biden will make a campaign stop in support of California Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in a race that Inside Elections rates as Lean Democratic.

“This is a genuine inflection point in American history. How we decide the next four years is going to determine what this country looks like 40 years from now. Not a joke,” Biden said at the reception for Crist, which was at a private residence in Golden Beach, Fla.

The rally was a bit farther south, at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens.

One prominent South Florida Democrat who didn’t attend Biden’s rally was Annette Taddeo, the party’s nominee for the 27th District, which is generally southeast of the historically Black university where the president rallied. A spokesman said she had “several pre-scheduled fundraisers” to attend.

The 27th District represents one of the Democrats’ best chances of unseating a Republican, in this case freshman Rep. María Elvira Salazar. A poll released last month by a Republican polling firm put Salazar ahead by 6 percentage points, while another survey commissioned by Taddeo’s campaign shows the contest essentially tied. As with the Senate and gubernatorial races, Inside Elections rates the race as Likely Republican.

Covering a wide swath of Miami-Dade County, including Little Havana, the 27th is “potentially the last remaining competitive district in the state,” said Sean D. Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University in Miami. It is one of just nine districts across the nation that Biden won in 2020 that also sent a Republican to Congress that year.

The swing district is 75 percent Hispanic and has generally favored moderates, although recent redistricting tilted it toward the GOP. Taddeo is “a formidable candidate,” Foreman said. But, he noted, she got a late start, entering the race in June after dropping out of the governor’s race.

“Democrats are really squeezed for resources in Florida this year, and she’s competing with the top-of-the-ticket races,” Foreman said. “The national and state headwinds may be too much for Taddeo to overcome.”

Recent Stories

House passes $95.3B aid package for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan

Senate sends surveillance reauthorization bill to Biden’s desk

Five races to watch in Pennsylvania primaries on Tuesday

‘You talk too much’— Congressional Hits and Misses

Senators seek changes to spy program reauthorization bill

Editor’s Note: Congress and the coalition-curious