Biden to address 'extremist threat to democracy' in prime-time speech

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(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden is expected to speak on the battle for the “soul of the nation” Thursday night.

President Joe Biden on Thursday will speak in prime time about the “soul of the nation” as he ramps ups his political messaging ahead of the midterm elections this November.

Biden is set to make the remarks from outside Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia at 8 p.m. in what will be his second trip to the battleground state this week.

“For a long time, we’ve reassured ourselves that American democracy is guaranteed,” Biden will say, according to speech excerpts the White House released late Thursday afternoon. “But it is not. We have to defend it. Protect it. Stand up for it. Each and every one of us.”

The ramped-up rhetoric appears to mirror Biden’s 2020 messaging, in which he presented himself as a clear contrast to Donald Trump and the race itself as an inflection point for the nation.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday’s speech would be in the same vein as his messages to the nation after the Charlottesville clash involving white nationalists and on the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol.

Biden has repeatedly cited Charlottesville as the moment he decided he was going to run for president. In a 2017 article for the Atlantic, Biden said the deadly event was indicative that the “giant forward steps we have taken in recent years on civil liberties and civil rights and human rights are being met by a ferocious pushback from the oldest and darkest forces in America.”

“You think about the battle continues, and so what the president believes, which is a reason to have this in prime time, is that there are an overwhelming amount of Americans, majority of Americans, who believe that we need to … save the core values of our country,” Jean-Pierre told ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce during Wednesday’s press briefing.

“The president thinks that there is an extremist threat to our democracy,” she said on Wednesday.

Jean-Pierre pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision striking down abortion rights — in which Justice Clarence Thomas called for the reconsideration of rulings involving same-sex marriage, contraception and other unenumerated rights — as evidence the rights of Americans are in jeopardy.

Biden’s speech Thursday comes after a stop in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, earlier this week, where he went after ‘MAGA Republicans’ for their response to the Jan. 6 attack and the FBI search at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

“For God’s sake, whose side are you on? Whose side are you on?” a fired-up Biden pressed as he made the case for his administration’s plan for policing and crime prevention.

More criticisms of his Republican colleagues are likely in store, as Jean-Pierre said Biden views MAGA Republicans as the “most energized part of the Republican Party” and won’t be “shy” about speaking out.

A White House official further previewing Biden’s speech on Thursday said the president will address what he sees as the “direct threat to our democracy from MAGA Republicans, and the extremism that is a threat right now to our democratic values.”

But the official insisted that despite Biden’s criticisms, the prime-time address won’t be about Trump.

“This is a speech about the American democracy,” they said, noting Biden views the issue as one that should unite the American people. “It’s an optimistic speech.”

The GOP issued a preemptive rebuttal of Biden’s remarks, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speaking in Scranton (Biden’s hometown) just hours before the president was set to take the stage in Philadelphia.

McCarthy criticized Democrats on inflation, crime and the border before demanding Biden “apologize for slandering tens of millions of Americans as fascists” after the president recently described the ideology being adopted by MAGA Republicans as “semi-facism.”

“What Joe Biden doesn’t understand is that the soul of America is the tens of millions of hard working people, loving families, and law-abiding citizens whom he vilified for simply wanting a stronger, safer, and more prosperous country,” McCarthy said.

“The soul of America is not the ruling class in Washington, it is the law-abiding, tax-paying American citizen,” he continued. “The soul of America is our determination to get up and go to work everyday, provide for our families, to love our children, be involved in their education and ensure that this nation and its people always come first.”

– ABC News’ Justin Gomez, Mary Bruce, Sarah Kolinovsky and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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