Democrats change messaging to shore up support ahead of midterms

United States President Joe Biden will address a rally in New York, and former President Donald Trump will speak in Florida to fire up Americans two days before a tight midterm election in which Republicans are pushing to flip both chambers of Congress.

Democratic leaders have ramped up their efforts to galvanise support, changing their messaging days before the crucial elections, which will decide the fate of Biden’s legislative agenda for the next two years.

Biden’s Democrats have struggled to persuade voters on kitchen-table issues, such as four-decades-high inflation.

Also playing against the party is Biden’s unpopularity, which had led him to hold back from campaigning in some swing states. Only 40 percent of Americans approve of his job performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday.

For Democrats, Sunday’s rallies in areas traditionally friendly to the party are a last-minute chance to minimize losses on Tuesday.

Biden will appear in Westchester County, normally safe Democratic territory but where Republicans are threatening to make gains, thanks in part to relentless messaging that paints their opponents as soft on crime and inflation.

The president is flying to New York to support Governor Kathy Hochul, who faces an unexpectedly strong Republican challenge.

The US president joined forces with Democratic superstar Barack Obama in key swing state Pennsylvania a day earlier, campaigning alongside Senate hopeful John Fetterman and governor candidate Josh Shapiro.

Speaking to thousands in a Philadelphia arena, Biden cited Trump supporters’ growing belief in conspiracy theories to highlight what is at stake.

“Democracy is literally on the ballot. This is a defining moment for the nation,” Biden warned as he sought to push his party to the finish line.

‘Democrats have changed messaging’

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, said Democrats have changed their campaign messaging in the past week after what they had been emphasising did not move voters, who were focused instead on the economic situation in the country.

“For such a long time, Joe Biden was talking about the threat to democracy, … but that has not resonated with voters,” he said, adding that the voters have been more responsive to economic issues.

“So he started talking more about the economy and how he believes he has helped the middle class in America,” Fischer said.

The change-up comes late in the game. Nearly 40 million Americans have already cast their ballots in early voting.

Republicans are confident of wins on Tuesday, but Democrats have pushed back against the narrative of an inevitable Republican takeover of Congress.

“We’re going to hold this majority,” Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, who heads the Democratic congressional campaign arm, told the NBC TV network’s Meet the Press programme.

Maloney who is facing a tight race himself, described the elections as “razor close” and implicitly questioned the Republicans’ commitment to democracy.

“We’ve got all kinds of things we can do better, but we are responsible adults who believe in this democracy,” Maloney said on his fellow Democrats.

Bullish Republicans

Republicans on Sunday promised to deliver a “wake-up call” to Biden and retake Congress.

The latest polls have put Democrats on the defensive while Senator Rick Scott, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, summed up the mood in his party by predicting “a great night” in both chambers of Congress.

Fellow Republican Glenn Youngkin, the governor of Virginia, told the ABC News talk show This Week that his camp was the one “offering common-sense solutions” to pressing issues like high inflation and crime.

“This is going to be a wake-up call to President Biden,” Youngkin said.

Republican figurehead Trump has doubled down on voting conspiracy theories as he spoke at a rally on Saturday to boost Fetterman’s opponent, celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz.

In a rambling speech, Trump defended his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, urged Americans to “vote Republican in a giant red wave” and teased a potential run for the White House in 2024.

“I promise you in the very next, very, very, very short period of time, you’re going to be so happy,” Trump told his supporters.

Trump will appear in Miami alongside the state’s two US senators and several US representatives. Florida for years swung from party to party but has recently trended Republican and is not considered a major battleground this election.

Trump’s frequent rallies maintain his profile as he weighs launching a third run for the White House after the midterms, his advisers said. Florida could be a battleground in any nominating contest because its Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, is viewed by strategists as a formidable contender for the Republican nomination, should he throw his hat into the ring.

Trump’s support is credited with helping DeSantis win the governor’s race in 2018, but the two men are now rivals. That has made DeSantis a target for Trump, who called the governor “Ron DeSanctimonious” on Saturday evening.

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