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Biden to target Trump in first 2024 campaign speech

US President Joe Biden will kickstart his 2024 presidential campaign tonight with a major speech warning that democracy is at risk from Donald Trump, three years after the deadly 6 January Capitol attack.

The 81-year-old will say the fight for democracy is a “sacred cause” in his speech, a day before the third anniversary of the Capitol assault by a pro-Trump mob trying to overturn Mr Biden’s 2020 election win, US media said.

Either trailing or neck and neck with Mr Trump in recent polls, the Democrat will frame his likely Republican rival as a threat to the nation in the address near the historic US independence war site of Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.

Mr Biden did not speak to reporters as he left the White House earlier aboard the presidential helicopter, Marine One.

But campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said Mr Biden’s election pitch four years ago that he was leading a “battle for the soul of America” was more relevant than ever.

“The threat Donald Trump posed in 2020 to American democracy has only grown more dire in the years since,” she said in a statement.

Joe Biden leaves the White House before boarding Marine One for Pennsylvania

Symbolic venues

The campaign push will continue Monday when the president visits a South Carolina church where a white supremacist shot dead nine black parishioners in 2015.

Mr Trump was impeached but acquitted over the 6 January riots.

The 77-year-old now faces a criminal trial on charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election.

The US states of Colorado and Maine have barred him from standing in presidential primaries on the grounds that he had engaged in insurrection over the Capitol events.

Mr Trump has challenged both rulings.

But 6 January has become increasingly polarized in US politics, a quarter of Americans believe that the FBI instigated the attack, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll showed this week.

The venues for Mr Biden’s first speeches of 2024 are deliberately symbolic – the first, at a school near Valley Forge, where George Washington, the first US president, regrouped American forces fighting their British colonial rulers during the bitter winter of 17777-8.

Mr Biden’s speech was originally scheduled for tomorrow but brought forward by a day because of a looming winter storm.

“We chose Valley Forge as George Washington united the colonies there,” said principal deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks.

Mr Biden lags behind Donald Trump, pictured, in some polls (file photo)

Democrats’ poll worries

The push comes after criticism from some Democrats that the Biden campaign has gotten off to a slow start.

Mr Biden lags behind Mr Trump in some polls, and also has the worst approval rating of any modern president at this stage in his term of office.

The president has failed to convince voters the economy is improving. Despite unexpected US job growth in December, he acknowledged today in a statement that “some prices are still too high for too many Americans.”

Migration remains a major headache, while there is division in his party over his support for Israel’s war on Hamas, and Congress is blocking his bid for more funds for Ukraine.

Mr Biden’s refusal to mention Mr Trump’s multiple criminal cases, to avoid the appearance of influencing the judiciary, has also deprived him of one of his most potent weapons.

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But perhaps Mr Biden’s biggest vulnerability is his age: as America’s oldest-ever president, he has suffered a series of trips and verbal slips.

“If the election were held tomorrow, President Biden would lose,” William Galston, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told AFP.

Yet the Pennsylvania and South Carolina speeches show the Biden campaign is now playing up a straight choice between him and Mr Trump, even though the battle for the Republican nomination doesn’t even start until the Iowa caucuses on 15 January.

Mr Biden’s first TV ad of the year warned this week of an “extremist” threat to democracy, featuring images of the Capitol attack set to dramatic music.

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