President Joe Biden is leaning heavily into a new messaging strategy aimed at branding Republicans as "ultra-MAGA" extremists ahead of midterm elections in which the Democrats look to be in serious trouble.
The slogan was unveiled last week, while Biden added Tuesday that congressional Republicans want to raise taxes on 75 million families and threaten to sunset Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — long considered the untouchable third rail of politics.
This strategy was mocked by Republicans who see it as a replay of Hillary Clinton's 2016 "deplorables" jibe that largely backfired and that Biden pledged to avoid.
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But the move was well received in Democratic circles as the party clings to control of Congress.
“I was pleased that the president took off the gloves,” said Democratic strategist Michael Stratton. “You can only turn your cheek so many times. The president has done that time and time again, and now it’s time to push back on the falsehoods and the bad, bad policies that are being advocated by Sen. Scott.”
Many of Biden's new talking points stem from Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and a list of proposals he released in February. On Page 38 of the 60-page document is a bullet point that reads, "All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again."
Biden and other Democrats have attacked the proposals as dangerous and destabilizing.
"Really, ask yourself: How well are we going to sleep at night knowing that every five years, MAGA Republicans — as I said, this is not your father's Republican Party — are going to have to vote on whether you will have Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and what amounts you'll have in each of those programs?" Biden said during a speech on inflation. "You know what they're likely to do? Use them as hostages every five years to get their way on other things."
Few Republicans have backed Scott's ideas. The Washington Post rated Biden's claim that congressional Republicans want to raise taxes as false, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said specifically that his party will not introduce a bill that sunsets entitlement programs.
Biden and White House press secretary Jen Psaki point to Scott's position as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and to a lack of competing GOP proposals to back their claims.
Psaki mentioned Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel as a fan of Scott's ideas. But for her part, McDaniel says it's all a distraction from Biden's record.
"Every time Joe Biden lies about his failed economic record, he is insulting every struggling American family and small business owner," she said in a statement. "Biden might be living in an alternate reality, but voters are not, which is why they solely blame Biden and Democrats for the rising prices they see for everyday goods, gas, and groceries. The economy is on the ballot in November, and voters know Biden and Democrats are only making it worse.”
The RNC points to inflation costing people $536 per month on average since Biden took office, something the president blames on COVID-19-related supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine. He called reducing inflation his top economic priority in a Tuesday morning speech during which he also attacked Republicans as "ultra-MAGA."
Biden apparently invented "ultra-MAGA" himself in reference to former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan and what he describes as extreme policy positions from congressional and other down-ballot Republicans.
With the midterm elections approaching and his approval ratings stuck in the low 40s, Biden is working to force the GOP into the spotlight, branding them as the most extreme political organization in recent American history.
Trump isn't on the ballot this fall, Biden argues, but his agenda certainly is.
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While Biden came into office preaching an agenda of unity, Stratton, the Democratic strategist, argues that with Republicans continuing to point the finger of blame at Biden, the time has come to point back.
"Republicans have done a very, very good job of messaging that all of these ills are because of Biden," Stratton said. "That's hardly the case, but as you know, there's no premium on telling the truth anymore. I think it's high time the president, who has worked really, really hard to get bipartisan agreement on so many issues, now is taking off the gloves to push back."