PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden will give a prime-time speech Thursday from outside Independence Hall, warning about threats to democracy, as he makes a swing of appearances to boost Democrats with roughly two months until the midterm election.
Biden will speak about “how the core values of this nation — our standing in the world, our democracy — are at stake,” according to the White House. He will talk about “the progress we have made as a nation to protect our democracy, but how our rights and freedoms are still under attack. And he will make clear who is fighting for those rights, fighting for those freedoms, and fighting for our democracy.”
The address comes a week after Biden sharply rebuked MAGA-aligned Republicans, calling the Make America Great Again movement “semi-fascism” and out of touch with most Americans’ political beliefs. The president spoke Thursday in Maryland while stumping for Democrats ahead of the midterms, which could determine whether Democrats hang onto control of Congress and how much of Biden’s agenda advances.
The remarks will also come as Biden faces negative approval ratings — though ones that have ticked upward in the wake of recent legislative victories — and as the economy remains a significant pain point for voters.
While the White House statement didn’t mention specifics, Biden has made no secret that he sees former President Donald Trump as a threat to the country’s foundations. Elevating Trump could also help draw attention to his divisive predecessor ahead of the election homestretch, as Trump continues dominating the news in a way that few former presidents can, most recently after an FBI raid found classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort home in Florida.
Biden’s speech Thursday will be part of a busy stretch of campaigning ahead of Labor Day, which traditionally marks peak political season. Biden is also due to speak in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday — the same region Trump will visit Saturday — and Biden is heading to Pittsburgh for its Labor Day parade, making it three Pennsylvania visits in seven days for the president.
The state is home to some of the country’s most crucial elections for governor, Senate and U.S. House, with the fate of Biden’s agenda potentially hinging on the congressional races, and critical laws on abortion and voting at stake in state level contests.
And the races this year will set the stage for 2024, when Pennsylvania will again be a crucial presidential battleground.
A labor-friendly and deeply-blue city – registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 7 to 1 – Philadelphia has long attracted Democratic presidents or aspirants.
John F. Kennedy landed Air Force Two on Independence Mall in 1962 to celebrate July Fourth and promote his foreign policy agenda to a packed crowd; Lyndon B. Johnson campaigned on Temple University’s campus in 1964. In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama delivered his signature “More Perfect Union” speech at the National Constitution Center, addressing racial inequality and resentment in the United States — an address frequently credited with saving his embattled primary campaign.
Biden himself has frequently come to Philadelphia in the past to make big speeches, both on the campaign trail and as president. In July 2021, he gave a speech on voting rights from the National Constitution Center, saying Americans were “facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.” More recently, Biden also spoke in June at a labor convention.
He based his 2020 campaign headquarters in Philadelphia.
Biden will spend Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre, talking about his plan to reduce gun violence. The visit to the Martz Center at Wilkes University was rescheduled from July, when Biden got COVID-19.
Trump will be in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday for a rally with his slate of Pennsylvania endorsed candidates, including gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano and GOP Senate nominee Mehmet Oz.
The Northeastern part of the state, home to Biden’s childhood hometown, Scranton, is a battleground that in recent years swung hard toward the GOP, but where Democrats hope they can improve their showings.
Inquirer news researcher Ryan W. Briggs contributed to this story.