Biden turns the State of the Union into a fiery campaign stump speech: From the Politics Desk


Welcome to a special post-State of the Union edition of From the Politics Desk, a newsletter that brings you the NBC News Politics team’s latest reporting and analysis from the campaign trail, the White House and Capitol Hill.

In tonight’s edition, senior national politics reporter Jonathan Allen breaks down how Joe Biden’s State of the Union address felt more like a campaign stump speech. And senior national politics reporter Sahil Kapur takes you inside the House chamber for the highly anticipated event.

Biden turns the State of the Union into a fiery campaign stump speech

Analysis by Jonathan Allen

President Joe Biden dispensed with the pretense of rising above the political fray tonight, delivering a State of the Union address that hammered his general election rival, former President Donald Trump, and Republicans in Congress with unusual force.

“It wasn’t long ago when Republican President Ronald Reagan thundered, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!’” Biden said a few minutes into the speech, referring to the former Soviet leader and the Berlin Wall in pushing for continued U.S. aid for Ukraine. “Now, my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin ‘do whatever the hell you want.’ … I think it’s outrageous; it’s dangerous, and it’s unacceptable.”

That was one of a dozen times Biden alluded to Trump, whom he beat in 2020, as his “predecessor.”

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In what amounted to a fiery campaign stump speech in the House chamber, Biden peppered in proposals for a second term — cutting prescription drug prices, raising taxes on corporations and providing mortgage subsidies — with broadsides at his political opponents. His allies will be reassured by his energy and the combative tone of the remarks — signs of vitality that undercut caricatures of Biden, 81, as listless and disengaged.

But at a time when critics say age is catching up to him, Biden botched a couple of lines badly. In an unscripted moment, he invited Republicans to travel with him to foreign countries and included Moscow — the Russian capital from which the invasion of Ukraine was ordered — on his list. Later, as he ripped Trump for trying to sink a border security measure, he bungled the words intended to deliver a punch.

“I’m told my predecessor called Republicans in Congress and demanded they block the bill. He feels it would be a political win for me and a political loser for him,” Biden said. He was supposed to follow that up by saying it would be a win for the American people.

Instead, Biden said, “I’d be a winner — not really.”

Those two moments were brief in an address that lasted a little over an hour. Biden largely spoke with certainty and vigor, and he laid out the areas where he will contrast with Trump between now and November in ways that thrilled Democrats in the chamber.

“Four more years,” they chanted repeatedly.

In other words, there was enough there for Democrats to feel good about the man who virtually locked up their nomination Tuesday — even if he left Republicans with a little more political ammunition.

Inside the House chamber: A long wait, followed by upbeat vibes and a few hecklers

By Sahil Kapur

The president was 16 minutes late walking into the House chamber.

But the vibe was upbeat as they waited for him. And when he finally did arrive to give his final State of the Union address before the 2024 election, he spent several more minutes chatting up lawmakers like he had nowhere else to be.

Standing by the edge of the aisle, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., put on her red “MAGA” hat and could be seen speaking in Biden’s direction. He moved on and chatted up others, with several Democrats stopping to take selfies with him. Democrats broke out into chants of “four more years” as the Republicans stood stone-faced.

Some bipartisanship was also on display: Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat, sat on the Republican side of the aisle next to Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah as the escort committee prepared to bring in the president. The two retiring centrists were greeted by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., who is running for the Senate, with friendly smiles and handshakes.

It took about 10 more minutes for Biden to start speaking. He received the occasional shout and boo, sometimes from the guest section and other times from lawmakers. In a minor miracle, he avoided any left-wing protests over Gaza throughout the speech.

The most regular shouter was Greene, who yelled “Laken Riley!” as Biden discussed immigration. Biden called Riley “an innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal” and urged Republicans to pass the bipartisan border security bill.

Biden said they’re blocking it on orders from Trump to deny him a political win. “Unfortunately,” he said, “politics have derailed this bill so far.”

Dozens of Democratic women wore white and pins reading “Fighting for Reproductive Freedom” and (seemingly) deliberately bunched themselves into one area.

While Democrats were engaged — cheering, applauding, approvingly laughing at Biden’s jokes — Republicans appeared bored through much of his speech, many looking at their phones and some walking out early.

About an hour in, they finally applauded when Biden said the words, “Let me close with this …”

“I know you don’t want to hear any more, Lindsey, but I got to say a few more things,” Biden said, drawing laughter from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

After Biden finished speaking and Johnson adjourned the House and dimmed the lights, the president held court for about half an hour before he finally exited.

Read Sahil’s takeaways from Biden’s speech here.

That’s all from The Politics Desk for now. If you have feedback — likes or dislikes — email us at politicsnewsletter@nbcuni.com

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This article was originally published on NBCNews.com



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