March 28, 2023

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Feisty Joe Biden draws battle lines in State of the Union speech

2 min read

US president Joe Biden had two missions on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, delivered to a newly divided Congress with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives.

The first was to defend his economic record and accomplishments of the last two years, setting the stage for a 2024 re-election bid that could be launched in the coming weeks. “We’ve been sent here to finish the job,” Biden said.

His second task, arguably more important, was to show that at 80 years old he still has the vigour to clash with Republicans and prevail in a second presidential campaign, whether it is a rematch against Donald Trump or another candidate.

The result was one of the punchiest public interventions of Biden’s presidency, in which he went off script on several occasions to respond to Republican heckles and jeers on matters ranging from the debt ceiling to smuggled fentanyl and immigration.

Democrats emerged delighted. “Take this speech to the trail in 2024 . . . this should put to rest concerns about Biden running,” said Jess O’Connell, a Democratic strategist and founder of Newco Strategies, a consultancy.
Biden is “ready to work with Republicans where they can and will . . . [But] if some of these new Republicans think they can intimidate him, they don’t know Joe”, she added.

The bulk of Biden’s address focused on domestic policies, particularly related to the economy, where the president’s approval ratings are low. He sought to more directly connect the investments and subsidies in his multitrillion dollar economic packages with the lives of middle- and lower- income households, stressing that his goal was to help “people that have been forgotten”.

He also sought to draw a contrast between his policies and those of congressional Republicans, forming early battle lines in likely legislative tussles with Congress as well as future Republican presidential challengers. The president warned them not to “hold…

2023-02-08 01:49:06

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