Biden’s campaign trail distracts from pre-halftime message

While the remarks were no more than a few isolated sentences in thousands of words uttered over four days, they diverted attention from Biden’s core task: preserving Democrats’ slim congressional majorities and with it any chance of further legislative gains before he himself may be up for re-election in two years.

The President has hardly harmed himself and his party with his statements. Musk is a deeply divisive figure, Biden’s comment about a “free” Iran could resonate with Iranian-American voters in Southern California – and anyone put off by his shooting at protesters or the coal industry would probably already be voting Republican.

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Nonetheless, the incidents underscored Biden’s penchant for deviating from the message. While his outspokenness sometimes helps him relate with members of the public, it poses a potential risk for candidates who have relied on the president to provide last-minute help for their campaigns.

“No one ever doubts that I mean what I say. Unfortunately sometimes I say everything I mean,” Biden said Saturday in Illinois after his barb at a group of protesters.

Biden travels to New York on Sunday to campaign for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who faces an unexpectedly tough re-election bid after visits to New Mexico, California, Illinois and Pennsylvania starting Thursday.

The president’s vow to shut down coal plants – which led to a falling out with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin – came during a Friday speech in which he shed light on his semiconductor law in California, where he traveled to speak on behalf of the imperiled Democratic congressman Woo Mike Levin.

Biden said burning coal is becoming less economically viable and “we’re going to shut down these power plants across America.”

The White House was forced to play defense on Saturday after angering Manchin by issuing a statement saying Biden’s comments on coal had been “skewed” and hailing the fellow Democrat as a “tireless advocate for his state and the hard working men and women who live there.”

Biden’s top spokeswoman, Karine Jean-Pierre, also had to clarify that the president was not calling for regime change in Iran when he hinted that the country would soon be “free,” telling reporters on Friday he was merely expressing “our solidarity with the protesters from .”

Anti-government protests have gripped Iran for weeks and have put pressure on Biden to call off talks with Tehran on reviving a nuclear deal.

The comment on Iran, which drew cheers from the crowd, recalled that during a speech in Poland in March, Biden said the war in Ukraine showed that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot stay in power.” Most Americans agreed with the sentiment, but it sparked controversy on the world stage that clouded Biden’s core message, and the White House was quick to clarify the remarks.

Incidentally, during a Friday fundraiser in Chicago for two House Democrats who compete, Biden said Musk acquired a platform that “spits out lies” when he bought Twitter Inc.

Then, on Saturday morning, the president called protesters outside an event in Joliet, Illinois, and held up signs condemning socialism as “idiots.”

One of the protesters held a sign that read “Where’s Nancy” — an apparent reference to the words of an intruder who attacked Speaker Nancy Pelosis’s husband with a hammer at their San Francisco home.

Biden, however, delivered during the marquee event of his move ahead of the halftime in several states: a Saturday night rally in Philadelphia featuring former President Barack Obama, Pennsylvania Senate nominee John Fetterman and governor hopeful Josh Shapiro.

The president quipped that he lived in Pennsylvania longer than Republican Senate nominee Mehmet Oz, “and I moved away when I was 10 years old,” and sharply laid out his commitment to the election.

“Your right to vote is on the ballot. Your right to vote is on the ballot paper. Social Security and Medicare are on the ballot. There is something else on the ballot: character. Character is on the ballot,” Biden said.

Not long after, Donald Trump struggled to stick to the script as he rallied for GOP candidates in western Pennsylvania on Saturday.

The former president mooted another run at the White House, calling Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a potential 2024 rival “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

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