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How Joe Biden went from predicting a Republican ‘epiphany’ to declaring war on the ‘MAGA party’

WASHINGTON — Three years ago, candidate Joe Biden boldly predicted that once he defeated Donald Trump, Republicans would have an “epiphany,” break free from the shackles of the far right, and work cooperatively with the Democrats to reach a consensus.

“What’s going to fundamentally change with Donald Trump out of the White House – this is no joke – is you’ll see an epiphany occur among a lot of my Republican friends,” Biden said on May 14, 2019, during campaign in New Hampshire, adding that Republicans were too “intimidated” by Trump to compromise.

This week, President Biden rolled out a new message calling the GOP the “MAGA party” — tying Republicans to the ex-president’s controversial policies with an election-year attack designed to activate disillusioned Democrats and persuade independents that the GOP is too radical. hold the power.

“MAGA Republicans – ‘Make America Great Again’ Republicans,” he said at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser on Wednesday, carrying the same message in speeches throughout the week. “It’s the most extreme party. And that’s what the Republican Party is now… They run the show, MAGA Republicans.

Biden’s rhetoric is an attempt to sharpen his indictment of Republicans ahead of a midterm election in which his party could lose control of the House and Senate. It comes as Trump maintains a firm grip on the GOP, wielding his influence with conservative voters to purge his critics and using his endorsements in the 2022 primaries to exact revenge on those he sees as disloyal.

Some Republicans say Biden is looking for a political strategy.

“The president is desperate,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. “His polls, especially among independents, are on a journey to the center of the earth. And I think they’re trying to change the narrative.

But Biden allies say the pessimism of the president, a 45-year Washington veteran who has built his political identity on cross-party cooperation and finding common ground, is more of a searing indictment of the opposition.

Biden’s agenda to tackle key economic issues — from rising costs of childcare and college tuition and prescription drugs, to climate change and access to health care — faces to unanimous Republican opposition and was deadlocked in the Senate 50-50. His voting rights push rushed headlong into a unified GOP filibuster.

“In his 36 years as a senator, few senators were more committed to bipartisanship, to building real personal relationships, to working across the aisle than former Senator Biden,” said Senator Chris Coons, D-Del., Friend of Biden and Senate. successor. “For him to say ‘This is a new Republican party that I’m having trouble finding common ground with’ is really a statement.”

‘MAGA Republicans… Lead the fight against them’

A Biden adviser, who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s thinking, stressed to NBC News that he does not back down from working with Republicans whenever possible, citing the bipartisan infrastructure law and the US-China competition package as examples.

The adviser said Biden’s new message is based on his view that most of the party has taken a sharp turn to the hard right, pointing to the agenda of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., as well as that party elites waging culture wars against Disney, seeking to ban books and attempting to ban abortion. The adviser added that Democrats would say the GOP is the party of Scott, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.

As another example of “MAGA” influence, Advisor Biden cited a GOP primary this week in West Virginia, where Rep. Alex Mooney defeated Rep. David McKinley, who voted for the bipartisan Infrastructure Act and been criticized for this.

Still, it’s not clear that the focus on Trump will be enough to save Democrats from heavy losses in the medium term. The ex-president is no longer in power and does not have the right to vote; he is banned from Twitter and Facebook. A recent gubernatorial race in Virginia, where Democrats unsuccessfully sought to tie Republican Glenn Youngkin to Trump, reveals the limits of such a strategy.

Biden took aim at Scott, the chairman of the GOP’s Senate campaign arm, for proposing an “ultra-MAGA” agenda that calls for raising federal income taxes on about half of Americans and scrapping all laws federal government in five years, what Biden said was tantamount to eliminating Medicare and Social Security.

“It’s really beyond pale,” Biden said, adding that while “MAGA Republicans” make up about a third of the American electorate, their politicians control the party. “We have to take the fight to them. We have to make our point, and do it very strongly.

‘Ultra-MAGA’ and proud Republicans

Coons said the president was “just observing reality.”

“Unfortunately, the political reality is that more and more Republicans at the state and federal level are in thrall to the former president and his views and positions. And I think that can make compromise and increasingly difficult consensus,” he said.

And some top Republicans are embracing Biden’s label.

“I am ultra-MAGA. I’m proud of that,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., whose loyalty to Trump propelled her to the leadership position of House Republican number three, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

Asked about Biden’s message, Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R.S.D., said, “It’s an election year.”

“The rhetoric is going to get hot,” he said. “I think he tries to take a bad hand and play it the best he can and start countering or attacking. But I don’t think that works collectively. Because we just had a lot of people who I think don’t fit that description. But it’s definitely an election year strategy.

And it marks a clean break from a longstanding approach that has drawn its own share of criticism from within its own party.

In 2019 and 2020, some Democrats criticized Biden’s predictions of a GOP epiphany, accusing him of naivety about the nature of his opposition. One of those critics, progressive strategist Max Berger, said he was glad to see Biden step away from that vision — although it’s not an easy transition.

“I think it’s a big step in the right direction, but it’s a difficult pivot of all his talk about trying to achieve bipartisanship,” Berger said.

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