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Biden to take campaign against Trump to church where white gunman killed nine

Biden-Harris campaign manager predicts ‘a really close election’

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina applauds in Columbia, S.C., after Biden won the state primary on Feb. 29, 2020.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina applauds in Columbia, S.C., after Biden won the state primary on Feb. 29, 2020. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden’s top reelection campaign aides barely mentioned the other Republican presidential candidates during a 2024 kickoff call, hammering a message that Donald Trump is “running as a dictator.”

Officials briefed reporters Tuesday on some of the campaign’s strategies and plans for January and topping the list was portraying Trump as a threat to American democracy and enabler of white supremacism.

Biden is set to deliver remarks during a campaign event Monday at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Officials said Biden would discuss white supremacists like a white gunman, Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black members of the congregation in 2015.

The church, known as Mother Emanuel, is one of the oldest Black churches not just in the Palmetto State, but in the entire South. It avoided being burned down in 1812 due to its role in a slave revolt. Former House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., has said Roof carried out his deadly massacre because it was an act “he thought would ignite a race war.”

The Palmetto State was pivotal to Biden winning the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination — and it was Clyburn’s endorsement that many of the party’s strategists and political observers credit with helping him lock up the state. Monday’s visit will mark Biden’s fourth as president, with one campaign aide noting the state was the catalyst for “propelling” him to the nomination four years ago.

Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, called Emanuel AME a “historic venue that embodies the stakes of our nation at this moment.

“Whether it is white supremacists descending on a historic American city in Charlottesville, [Virginia], the assault on our nation’s capital on Jan. 6 or a white supremacist murdering churchgoers at Mother Emanuel nearly nine years ago, America is worried about the rise in political violence and determined to stand against it,” he said.

The officials described the normalization and embrace of white supremacy as a top argument the president and vice president intend to make as the 2024 campaign season gets underway. Another part of the Biden-Harris message will be using Trump’s own words against him, they made clear.

With his recent statements about governing like a dictator on “day one” back in the White House, should he win in November, Trump essentially is saying he intends to use “his power to systematically dismantle and destroy our democracy,” said Biden-Harris 2024 Communications Director Michael Tyler.

He also accused Trump of “running a campaign of retribution” and a “campaign that’s about dividing our country, attacking our values and ruining our ideals,” Tyler said. “He wants to end free and fair elections all together.” Biden will begin making that case on Saturday, on the third anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot with remarks in Valley Forge, in the key swing state of Pennsylvania, which Biden won in 2020.

The former president has used sharp rhetoric on the campaign trail in recent months, telling his loyalists that 2024 will be their “final battle” and using rhetoric similar to Adolf Hitler by saying immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of the United States. Using a tactic that hard-line populists have used in other countries in the past, Trump during a Dec. 5 Fox News town hall made vague promises about how he would improve the economic situations of Americans.

“Who doesn’t want strong borders and a strong military and low taxes and low interest rates, and go out and buy a house?” he asked rhetorically that night to cheers from a friendly audience.

The Biden-Harris campaign officials also contended that Trump’s rhetoric so far in the 2024 cycle has signaled to his base that violence in his name is “encouraged,” and that, if elected again, he would alienate Black and Hispanic people through hard-line conservative policies.

Their warnings to those voting blocs comes hours after a new poll showed Biden continuing to shed support from two groups that help him defeat Trump in 2020.

Sixty-three percent of Black registered voters told USA Today and Suffolk University pollsters that they backed the president given a choice between him, Trump and a third party candidate. Asked only about a two-way race between Biden and Trump, the incumbent’s support from Black voters rose to 72 percent.

But in 2020, Biden was backed by 87 percent of Black voters. Among Hispanic voters, Biden trailed Trump in a two-way race, 44 percent to 41 percent — a huge drop from the 65 percent of the group that backed Biden in 2020 (to Trump’s 32 percent).

Asked about polling that continues to paint a bleak picture of Biden’s reelection odds, Fulks said the Biden-Harris campaign intends to “scale up” its efforts and staffing — including paid media buys — so the operation is “fully operational” when voters are more seriously thinking about the election. And when they do, Fulks and the other officials made clear, the president and his surrogates will be making the case that voters have a clear “choice” between Biden and Trump.

They also signaled they expect another tight finish, like the 2020 race that saw Biden win the general election by around 7 million votes in a country of over 333 million people.

“We know that this will be, you know, a really close election,” Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez told reporters, adding that campaign officials believe “the president and vice president have multiple paths to victory.”

“And our campaign is going to continue to focus on really turning out their voters, persuading the persuadable and continuing to build out the coalition that sent the president [and] the vice president to the White House in 2020,” she said. “We know that elections are a choice.”

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