With midterm elections approaching, Biden calls out Trump more often With the midterms approaching and lots of chatter about whether Biden will run in 2024, Donald Trump is a useful foil for the president once again.

Biden used to keep Trump mentions to a minimum. Not anymore

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In the early part of the Biden administration, there was an unwritten rule. Don't talk about the former president. But with midterms just around the corner, Donald Trump's name seems to be back on the tip of President Biden's tongue. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith has been asking why.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: In recent weeks, President Biden has had more to say about his predecessor.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Under my predecessor, the great MAGA king.

KEITH: And with increasingly sharp jabs.


BIDEN: And my predecessor had a chance to act. But he didn't have a commitment to you or the courage to stand up to his own party to get things done, dismissing and ignoring the forgotten people he promised to help. Remember how he was going to help working-class folks?

KEITH: After the most recent January 6 committee hearing, Biden, speaking remotely to a law enforcement group and still hoarse from his bout of COVID, went after Trump by name.


BIDEN: The police were heroes that day. Donald Trump lacked the courage to act.

KEITH: This Trump bump comes as the former president is endorsing candidates running in this year's midterm elections. And as he loudly hints, he'd like to be on the ballot again himself in 2024.

JOHN ANZALONE: The reemergence of the former guy is that he reemerges.

KEITH: John Anzalone is President Biden's pollster.

ANZALONE: He's the one becoming more visible and more contentious.

KEITH: On the line from his back porch in Alabama, Anzalone says calling out Trump is appropriately part of President Biden's midterm message.

ANZALONE: Joe Biden is the leader of the Democratic Party. And Donald Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. And for the leader of the Democratic Party to tell Americans what he is for and what the leader of the Republican Party is against is absolutely normal and expected.

KEITH: With the recent passage of a number of bipartisan bills and a deal among Democrats on the Inflation Reduction Act, Democrats expect to have an affirmative look-what-we've-done message to run on this fall in the face of economic headwinds. But it doesn't mean they can or should ignore the elephant in the room, says Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson.

JESSE FERGUSON: Typically, losing presidents ride off into the sunset with dignity.

KEITH: There is a long history of presidents facing down a tough midterm and running against their predecessor's policies or legacies. But this time is different because Trump isn't in the rearview mirror.


DONALD TRUMP: You need help. And I think that help will be forthcoming. And I think it's going to be a lot sooner than people think.

KEITH: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he asked Trump not to declare his 2024 candidacy until after the midterms, the implication being that it would be better for Republicans if the midterms were about inflation, immigration, crime and not the polarizing former president. But senior Democratic strategist Karen Finney says part of what Biden is trying to do is prevent Republicans from keeping Trump at arm's length.

KAREN FINNEY: You know, it's not just about Trump, it's that Trumpism. And look at how many Republican candidates in this primary season, whether they got Trump's approval or not, were vying for it.

KEITH: And if there is one thing almost everyone can agree on, it's this.

DAVID URBAN: Nothing motivates voters, both Democrats and Republicans, like Donald Trump.

KEITH: That's former Trump campaign consultant David Urban. But don't just take his word for it. Here's Faiz Shakir, political adviser to Bernie Sanders.

FAIZ SHAKIR: Nothing propels the Biden coalition, Democratic voters and the people who voted for him - nothing propels them more than Trump.

KEITH: Shakir says parts of the Democratic base are feeling lethargic and uninspired. But then, along comes Trump, with all his teasing about a 2024 run - a gift for Biden and Democrats.

SHAKIR: The challenge for Biden has been that he hasn't had a foil. You have a stance on Biden one way or the other. What Biden is trying to make clear is, no, there's a choice. There's a directional choice.

KEITH: David Urban says recent polls show many Democrats want someone other than Biden to run in 2024. But in a head-to-head matchup with Trump, the same polls still show Biden ahead.

URBAN: And so I think he likes to kind of thump his chest about that a bit.

KEITH: Urban says talking more about Trump gives Biden relevance.

URBAN: When people are looking at turning the page and moving on to a new candidate, new future - somebody younger, brighter, shinier - it allows him to say, yeah; I'm the guy that beat the guy, which is a pretty big claim.

KEITH: In a recent interview, Biden was asked about a possible rematch with Trump in 2024. Biden said he wasn't predicting it, but he also wouldn't be disappointed.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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