WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden pilloried Republicans up and down ballots across the nation as election deniers who reveled in political violence, while his predecessor, Donald Trump, urged voters to oppose “growing left-wing tyranny" on the final Sunday before midterm elections that could reshape Washington's balance of power.
Wrapping up a five-state, four-day campaign swing with an evening rally at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, Biden championed Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. She's locked in a tight race with Rep. Lee Zeldin, who is looking to become the state's first GOP governor since George Pataki left office in 2006.
The president said hundreds of Republican candidates for state, federal and local office are "election deniers, who say that I did not win the election, even though hundreds of attempts to challenge that have all failed, even in Republican courts.”
Biden said that for the deniers, “There are only two outcomes for any election: either they win or they were cheated.”
Biden said Republicans were willing to condone last year's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and that, after the recent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some in that party made “light of it” or were “making excuses.”
“There's never been a time in my career where we've glorified violence based on a political preference," the president said.
More than 41 million people have voted early in Tuesday's races, which will decide control of Congress and key governorships — the first national election since a mob overran the Capitol. Earlier Sunday, as Trump addressed supporters in Miami, a reference to the House speaker prompted chants of “Lock her up!" — a stark reminder of just how far apart each side is.
Trump is hoping that a strong GOP showing on Election Day will generate momentum for the 2024 run that he is expected to launch this month.
“I will probably have to do it again, but stay tuned,” Trump said, teasing an event he has with Republican Senate candidate in Ohio, JD Vance, for Monday. "We have a big, big rally. Stay tuned for tomorrow night.”
Trump also told the crowd that "every free and loving American needs to understand that the time to stand up to this growing left-wing tyranny is right now,” while calling on his supporters to reject the “radical left-wing maniacs” and adding that Hispanics would show up strong for GOP candidates.
Sen. Marco Rubio joined Trump at the rally as he seeks reelection. Not attending the Miami event was Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection against Democrat Charlie Crist and is widely considered Trump’s most formidable challenger if he also were to get into the White House race.
Instead, DeSantis held his own, separate events Sunday in another part of the state where he stuck to the centerpieces of his reelection campaign, including railing against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and “wokeness” in schools and other parts of society. The governor's counter political programing avoided antagonizing Trump — meaning it didn't deliver the dueling 2024 events that could be in his and Trump's near future.
Trump said Sunday that Florida would “reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor.” But he was more confrontational during a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday night, referring to Florida's governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”
It's a rivalry that's been simmering for more than a year as DeSantis has taken increasingly bold steps to boost his national profile and build a deep fundraising network.
Trump remains the most popular figure in the Republican Party. Still, many of his supporters are eager for the prospect that DeSantis might run, seeing him as a natural successor to Trump, without the former president's considerable political negatives.
For national Democrats, meanwhile, the focus is on the fate of their narrow control of the House and Senate, which could evaporate after Tuesday.
New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, head of the Democrats’ House campaign arm, is in a tough contest for his seat. But he insisted Sunday that Democrats are “going to do better than people think on Tuesday,” adding that his party is “not perfect” but “we are responsible adults who believe in this democracy.”
“I think this race is razor-close and I think everybody who cares about the extremism in this ‘MAGA’ movement — the racism, the antisemitism, the violence — needs to get out and vote and that’s not just Democrats, it’s independents and fair-minded Republicans,” Maloney told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” referring to former President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.
Voters may rebuke the party controlling the White House and Congress amid surging inflation, concerns about crime and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests the party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms.
On a weekend that also featured Democratic rallies by former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, first lady Jill Biden attended church services while campaigning in Houston on Sunday. Like her husband and his presidential predecessors, she argued that democracy itself was on the ballot.
"So much is at stake in this election," she said. "We must speak up on justice and democracy.”
Traveling in Chicago Vice President Kamala Harris struck a similar tone, saying, “These attacks on our democracy will not only directly impact the people around our country, but arguably around the world.”
Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated and has even begun raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Federal intelligence agencies are warning of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists.
Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said Democrats were “inflation deniers,” trying to deflect the other side's branding of her party as anti-democracy for rejecting the results of 2020's free and fair presidential election simply because Trump lost it.
“If we win back the House and the Senate, it’s the American people saying to Joe Biden, we want you to work on behalf of us and we want you to work across the aisle to solve the problems that we are dealing with," McDaniel told CNN's “State of the Union."
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the nation’s largest union of public employees, has been traveling the country rallying for Democrats. He said, “It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough, but we aren’t giving up hope."
“Clearly people are concerned about the economy," Saunders said. But he added that voters also are “concerned about the freedoms being taken away from them, whether you’re talking about voting rights or whether your talking about a women’s right to choose.”
Weissert reported from Washington. Gomez Lincon reported from Miami. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Hope Yen in Washington contributed to this report.
Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.