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Biden Campaign: Defending Democracy Key09/28 06:13

   On the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, President Joe Biden stood in 
early 2022 at the literal epicenter of the insurrection and accused Donald 
Trump of continuing to hold a "dagger" at democracy's throat. Biden closed out 
the summer that year in the shadow of Philadelphia's Independence Hall, 
decrying Trumpism as a menace to democratic institutions.

   PHOENIX (AP) -- On the anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, President Joe 
Biden stood in early 2022 at the literal epicenter of the insurrection and 
accused Donald Trump of continuing to hold a "dagger" at democracy's throat. 
Biden closed out the summer that year in the shadow of Philadelphia's 
Independence Hall, decrying Trumpism as a menace to democratic institutions.

   And that November, as voters were casting ballots in the midterm elections, 
Biden again sounded a clarion call to protect democratic institutions, warning 
that their underpinnings remained under threat.

   Biden on Thursday will make his fourth in a series of presidential addresses 
about the state of democracy, a cause that is a key motivator and a touchstone 
for him as he tries to remain in office even in the face of low approval 
ratings and widespread concern from voters about his age, 80.

   The location for this speech, as was the case for the others, was 
deliberately chosen: It will be near Arizona State University, which houses the 
McCain Institute, named after the late Arizona Sen. John McCain -- a friend of 
Biden and the 2008 Republican presidential nominee who spent his public life 
denouncing autocrats around the globe.

   Now, as Biden slowly ramps up his Democratic reelection campaign, his core 
focus on democracy is increasingly intertwined with the political dynamics that 
are confronting him. His likeliest 2024 opponent, Trump, continues to spread 
falsehoods about the results from the 2020 election he lost to Biden and is 
battling unprecedented criminal charges stemming in part from those lies.

   Those competing with the Republican former president for their party's 2024 
presidential nomination have largely avoided challenging his election 
falsehoods and his allies on Capitol Hill are only becoming more emboldened as 
he eggs them on, including toward a looming government shutdown that appears 
all but inevitable.

   In closed-door fundraisers, Biden has opined at length about his case for 
reelection, imploring supporters to join his effort to "literally save American 
democracy," as he described it to a gaggle of wealthy donors earlier this month 
in New York.

   "I'm running because we made progress -- that's good -- but because our 
democracy, I think, is still at risk. And I mean it," Biden said. "I don't 
think it's hyperbole to suggest that. Because our most important freedoms -- 
the freedom to choose, the freedom to vote, the freedom to be, the right to be 
who you are, to love who you love -- is being attacked and shredded today, 
right now."

   Advisers see Biden's continued focus on democracy as not only good policy 
but also good politics. Campaign officials have pored over the election results 
from last November, when candidates who denied the 2020 election results did 
not fare well in competitive races, and point to polling that showed democracy 
was a highly motivating issue for voters in 2022.

   Candidates who backed Trump's election lies and were running for statewide 
offices with some influence over elections -- governor, secretary of state, 
attorney general -- lost their races in every presidential battleground state.

   A senior White House official, who insisted on anonymity to preview Biden's 
Thursday remarks, said his Arizona address will highlight the "importance of 
America's institutions in preserving our democracy and the need for constant 
loyalty to the U.S. Constitution." Biden's appearance at the center that honors 
McCain will also tie into the theme, with the president set to urge Americans 
to "never walk away from the sacrifices generations of Americans have made to 
defend our democracy."

   In few states does Biden's message of democracy resonate more than in 
Arizona, which became politically competitive during Trump's presidency after 
seven decades of GOP dominance and later became a hotbed of efforts to overturn 
or cast doubt on Biden's victory there.

   Republican state lawmakers used their subpoena power to get ahold of all the 
2020 ballots and vote-counting machines from Maricopa County, then hired Trump 
supporters to conduct an unprecedented partisan review of the election. The 
widely mocked spectacleconfirmed Biden's victory but fueled unfounded 
conspiracy theories about the election.

   Later, the GOP-controlled board of supervisors in one rural county refused 
to certify the midterm election results, forcing a judge to intervene. The 
state has seen an exodus of election workers.

   And last November, voters up and down the ballot rejected Republican 
candidates who repeatedly denied the results of the 2020 election. Kari Lake, 
the GOP gubernatorial candidate, has never conceded her loss to now-Gov. Katie 
Hobbs and is preparing a bid for the U.S. Senate next year. Republican Senate 
candidate Blake Masters and Mark Finchem, who ran for secretary of state, also 
repeated fraudulent election claims in their respective campaigns.

   Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., who defeated Masters, appeared at a campaign rally 
in November alongside former President Barack Obama, who in his remarks framed 
the race in Arizona as a battle to protect democracy. That message, Kelly now 
says, not only resonated with members of his own party but independents and 
moderate GOP voters.

   "I met so many Republicans that were sick and tired of the lies about an 
election that was 2 years old," Kelly said. "They were just done with it, and 
they did not appreciate folks who were running for high offices just lying 
about it."

   Indeed, Republicans privately concede that the election denialism rhetoric 
that dominated their candidates' message -- as well as the looming specter of 
Trump -- damaged their efforts to retain the governor's mansion and flip a 
hotly contested Senate seat, according to three Republican officials who worked 
in statewide races last cycle.

   The issue of democracy resonated more in Arizona than in other competitive 
states, and to have candidates deny basic facts on elections helped reinforce 
claims from Democrats about GOP extremism on other, completely separate issues, 
said the Republican officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to 
candidly describe the party's shortcomings last year. Though Trump-animated 
forces in the party dominated public attention, many Republican voters were 
concerned about other issues such as the economy and the border and did not 
want to focus on a past election result.

   Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in next 
year's Senate race, said a democracy-focused message also is particularly 
important to two critical blocs of voters in the state: Latinos and veterans, 
both of whom Gallego said are uniquely affected by election denialism and the 
Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

   "You know, we come from countries and experiences where democracy is very 
corrupt, and many of us are only one generation removed from that, but we're 
close enough to see how bad it can be," Gallego said. "And so Jan. 6 actually 
was particularly jarring, I think, to Latinos."

   On Thursday, Biden is set to speak at a performing arts center on the shore 
of Tempe Town Lake, a once-dry riverbed that has become an oasis for outdoor 
recreation in the desert. The lake is the centerpiece of the Rio Salado 
Project, a riverbed revitalization plan that McCain advocated for until his 

   As he pays tribute to McCain on Thursday, Biden will also announce new 
federal funds being directed to build the McCain Library, which the White House 
described as a "new multi-purpose facility to provide education, work, and 
health monitoring programs to underserved communities in the state."

   The money comes from a massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed 
in the early months of Biden's presidency, and the project is in partnership 
with the with the McCain Institute and Arizona State University. The late 
senator's wife, Cindy McCain, other members of their family, Hobbs, and the 
state's representatives on Capitol Hill will be at the event commemorating 
McCain, "whose intolerance for the abuse of power and faith in America sets a 
powerful example to live by," the White House said.

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