SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Joe Biden was raising campaign cash in San Francisco on Wednesday while seven Republican presidential hopefuls held a debate down the coast in Simi Valley. Biden wasn’t paying them much attention because he’s already zeroing in on Donald Trump, the GOP front-runner who wasn’t on the stage.
The president has been increasingly calling out Trump by name and referring to him as his “likely opponent” in 2024, signaling a likely rematch from four years earlier and warning of what the Democratic incumbent sees as major dangers to the nation if he is not reelected.
“I’m running because Democracy is still at stake in 2024. Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy American democracy,” he said during one fundraiser, referring to a Trump campaign slogan and skipping entirely over Trump’s GOP rivals.
Biden’s trip to the West this week is counterprogramming of sorts as a government shutdown looms, House Republicans launch impeachment hearings, the Republican debate unfolds and Trump makes a campaign stop in Michigan to court autoworkers.
Biden is drawing a contrast with the GOP logjams in Congress, seeking to showcase what he is getting done and trying to make the case that will continue as long as he wins a second term.
“I’m running because important freedoms we have now are at stake,” Biden told supporters at a Tuesday night fundraiser. “The right to choose. The right to vote. The right to be who you are, love who you love. They’re being attacked and being shredded right now.”
Earlier Tuesday, Biden became the first modern president to walk a picket line when he joined UAW members in the Detroit area. The union has expanded its strike against Detroit automakers by walking out of spare-parts warehouses in 20 states.
Biden met with the science and technology advisers on Wednesday to discuss artificial intelligence, vaccine misinformation and other concerns. He said he did not think a government shutdown was unavoidable.
“I don’t think anything is inevitable when it comes to politics,” the president said. When asked what could be done to avoid it, he said, “If I knew that I would have done it already.”
Before he heading to Phoenix in the evening, Biden headlined three Northern California fundraisers, avoiding for now the famous names — and bank accounts — in Los Angeles as the actors’ strike wears on, although the writers’ strike ended Tuesday.
In Arizona, a critical swing state he won in 2020, Biden will pay tribute to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain and give a democracy-focused address on Thursday.
Trump, meanwhile, railed against electric vehicles during a speech in Michigan at a non-unionized auto parts supplier, shortly before the second debate of the primary season got underway without him. Biden never mentioned the debate, but at his final fundraiser of the night, he told supporters Trump was out for revenge.
“He’ll seek revenge for what’s happened … you know all the assertions he’s made,” Biden said. “Donald Trump does believe we’re a nation driven by anger and fear, and is playing on it. He says we’re a failed nation.
“Did you ever think you’d hear a former president of the United States say those kinds of things?”
Trump is facing multiple criminal indictments, including charges related to the Republican’s role in seeking to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Nonetheless, Trump is the most popular choice among Republicans at this point for the party’s White House nomination.
Nearly two-thirds of Republicans — 63% — now say they want him to run again, according a poll last month from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That’s up slightly from the 55% who said the same in April when Trump began facing a series of criminal charges.
While 74% of Republicans say they would support Trump in November 2024, 53% of those in the survey say they would definitely not support him if he is the nominee. An additional 11% say they would probably not support him.
Biden doesn’t fare much better, with 26% overall wanting to see him run again, with 47% of Democrats saying they want him to run, compared with 37% in January.
___ Long reported from Washington.