WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden excoriated “MAGA Republicans” and the extreme right on Monday, pitching personal Labor Day appeals to union members in two key swing states that he hopes will turn out in force for his party in November.
“The middle class built America,” Biden told a workers’ gathering at park grounds in Milwaukee. “Everybody knows that. But unions built the middle class.”
Later Monday, he flew to West Mifflin, outside Pittsburgh — returning to Pennsylvania for the third time in less than a week and just two days after his predecessor, Donald Trump, staged his own rally in the state.
The unofficial start of fall, Labor Day also traditionally starts a political busy season where campaigns scramble to excite voters for Election Day on Nov. 8. That’s when control of the House and Senate, as well some of the country’s top governorships, will be decided.
Trump spoke Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, near Scranton, where Biden was born. The president made his own Wilkes-Barre trip last week to discuss increasing funding for police, decry GOP criticism of the FBI after the raid on Trump’s Florida estate and to argue that new, bipartisan gun measures can help reduce violent crime.
Two days after that, Biden went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a prime-time address denouncing the “extremism” of Trump’s fiercest supporters.
Trump has endorsed candidates in key races around the country and Biden is warning that some Republicans now believe so strongly in Trumpism that they are willing to undermine core American values to promote it. The president said Thursday that “blind loyalty to a single leader, and a willingness to engage in political violence, is fatal to democracy.”
Trump responded during his Saturday rally that Biden is “an enemy of the state.”
On Monday, Biden said “Not every Republican is a MAGA Republican” but singled out those who have taken Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign cry to dangerous or hateful lengths. He highlighted episodes like last year’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The crowd jeered loudly as Biden repeatedly chided Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin for voting against a Democratic-backed measure meant to lower prescription drug prices. The president also suggested Johnson and other congressional Republicans were wiling to undermine Social Security.
Unions endorsements helped Biden overcome disastrous early finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire to win the 2020 Democratic primary, and eventually the White House. He has since continued to praise the labor movement as president.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union, called Biden’s championing of unions heading into the midterm elections “critical” and said workers must “mobilize in battlegrounds across the country to ensure that working people turn out.”
In Pennsylvania, Biden was delivering remarks outside a union hall. He didn’t march in nearby Pittsburgh’s Labor Day parade, which is among the nation’s largest, despite attending the 2015 installment as vice president and returning in 2018. Both times, Biden, now 79, faced questions about whether he’d run for president in coming elections — which he opted against in 2016 before winning the White House in 2020.
This year, the oldest president in U.S. history has faced speculation about if he’ll seek a second term in 2024 — though he’s insisted that’s his intention, and the pressure has dissipated some in recent weeks after a string of policy and political successes for Biden and his party.