Biden’s trip to Normandy raised the stakes for his re-election

President Joe Biden may have done some of his best campaigning for his re-election by going to France for four days.

To be clear, the commander in chief’s visit to Normandy was nonpolitical, but his presence among European leaders, the stirring rhetoric of his D-Day anniversary speech and the contrast it drew with presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump helped his re-election effort immensely.

As a former campaign event planner, I saw five clear benefits from the trip for Biden’s image:

  1. It was a reminder that the president is leader of the free world. The United States plays a critical role in preserving freedom around the world, something that Biden reminded the audience in his speech about the heroic effort to defeat the Nazis and which was subtly reinforced by his meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris. This drew a sharp contrast with Trump, who heaps praise on authoritarian leaders like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.
  2. The trip resonated with older voters who Biden needs. D-Day doesn’t just matter to the generation that stormed the beaches, but also their children, who couldn’t help but recall Ronald Reagan’s great speech at the same location. In this setting, Biden’s age and experience in foreign policy — which gives him the perspective of a leader who has lived through World War II, the Cold War and is now beating back authoritarian threats in his own country — become more of a virtue than a vulnerability. This trip resonated with a critical voting bloc of older Americans — including Republicans and independents — for whom preserving democracy is a primary issue.
  3. Europe’s troubles put America’s decision in stark relief. Right-wing parties’ victories in last week’s European Union elections and French President Emmanuel Macron’s dramatic calling of elections in the face of losses to the Le Pen party put the stakes of the U.S. election into a sobering relief. There is something more profound at stake than a tiresome rematch between two old men; democracy at home and abroad is on the ballot. Americans will get another reminder of those stakes when the president visits Italy — currently led by a right-wing leader, as it was in World War II — later this week for the G7. 
  4. Biden was the most popular politician there. American pundits may be scrutinizing Biden’s poll ratings compared to some of his predecessors, but compared to Europe’s leaders he’s George Washington on horseback. Biden continues to have higher approval ratings than other G7 leaders, and democratic leaders everywhere are under assault. There a larger geopolitical and demographic forces at play, and reality is that Biden is weathering the battles better than most leaders. This helps reaffirm that he is the right man at the right time for this job.
  5. The trip showcased Biden’s basic decency. One of his best contrasts with Trump is just his ability to relate to ordinary people and care about their struggles. The Normandy trip — with its respectful visits with veterans, bipartisan evoking of President Reagan’s D-Day speech, and extra time spent at cemeteries of American soldiers — was a key moment to remind Americans that our presidents can be strong leaders that stand as bulwarks to protect freedom as well as a decent human being. 

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