Biden fires up Democratic faithful at midterms rally with Maryland party leaders

Fresh from a series of policy wins, President Joe Biden kicked off the general election campaign season Thursday night with a well-attended rally at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.

Roused by an exuberant crowd in deeply Democratic Montgomery County, leading national and state party leaders expressed growing hope for Democrats nationally in the November mid-term elections.

“Let me state the obvious, there’s a lot at stake in this election,” Biden told the crowd of more than 2,400 in the school gymnasium.

The event was studded with Maryland’s own Democratic powerhouses, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Jamie Raskin, Sen. Ben Cardin and the Democratic nominees for governor and lieutenant governor, Wes Moore and Aruna Miller.

Moore sat on stage with Biden during the president’s speech.

After being introduced by Moore, Biden opened his 29-minute speech with generous remarks about several Maryland Democrats who had spoken before him, sprinkled with some good-natured ribbing.

“Wes is the real deal. Folks, he is a combat veteran. The only drawback is, he’s a Rhodes Scholar.”

Speaking of Maryland’s U.S. senators, Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Biden told the crowd, “You have literally two of the best senators in the United States.”

“They’re strong and principled and effective,” he said. “Keep them. You need them. No, I need them.”

Biden turned next to the two members of the House of Representatives who spoke, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Jamie Raskin.

“Steny Hoyer, he’s been my friend for a long time. And how about that Jamie Raskin? He’s done an incredible job coming out of tragic circumstances for his family.”

A long list of party celebrities and statewide candidates served as warm-up acts to Biden, offering many of the same talking points about Democratic accomplishments of the past 18 months — the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act, bipartisan infrastructure act, gun reform laws — and drew contrasts with the Republican party under the influence of former President Donald Trump.

Some of the loudest bouts of applause throughout the night were for Biden’s student debt relief plan announced earlier in the week.

Vows to restore and protect reproductive rights also received especially loud cheers.

Biden promised the crowd that if Democrats win a majority in Congress, he would codify the rights once guaranteed by Roe v. Wade and said “I’m going to ban assault weapons in this country.”

“Were going to do it for your kids. Who are going to learn how to read and write in school, instead of duck and cover,” Biden said.

But the Democratic luminaries also stressed that they would not take anything for granted in the upcoming general election.

“People have said to me since our primary win: ‘Isn’t it great that you have to go up against Dan Cox?’” Moore told the crowd. “My answer is clear and consistent: Do not underestimate what we’re up against.”

Moore continued: “It is not ‘great’ that in November we are facing an election denier. An insurrectionist who called for Mike Pence to be hung for certifying a free and fair election,” Moore said. “For me, patriotism meant leaving my family and wearing my country’s uniform and leading soldiers with the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan. For Dan Cox, patriotism meant organizing buses to join him at the capitol on January 6th.”

The emotional crest of the 2 1/2 long program was delivered by Raskin, long a folk hero in his Montgomery County-based district but rapidly becoming a national progressive icon due to his regular prosecution of the legal and political cases against Trump and his defense of U.S. democracy.

To wild cheers and applause, Raskin sought to delineate the differences between Democrats and Republicans, name-checking Thomas Jefferson, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, John Lewis, “the great Elijah Cummings,” and “the last great Republican president, Abraham Lincoln” along the way.

He ended his speech by quoting Frederick Douglass and Thomas Paine.

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered,” Raskin said. “…The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious the end.”

Hoyer, known over his 55 years in Maryland politics for his long and passionate speeches, lamented having to follow Raskin on the program.

“These are the times that try Steny Hoyer’s soul, going after Jamie Raskin,” he quipped.

Republicans counter

Maryland Republicans and conservatives had hoped to use Biden’s appearance in Rockville for some counter-programming – and to publicize their own agenda.

But it didn’t entirely work out as planned.

Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick), the GOP nominee for governor, had scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon outside the Montgomery County Circuit Courthouse in Rockville, just a few blocks from where the Democratic rally was taking place, but he abruptly canceled about two hours beforehand and issued a statement instead.

Promises of a large protest from the conservative group Help Save Maryland also did not appear to materialize. No demonstrators could be seen around the vast perimeter of Richard Montgomery High School for the 90 minutes leading up to the Democratic rally. Three separate Democratic operatives reported seeing two teenaged boys near the premises earlier in the day, one with a “Let’s Go Brandon” banner – a coded epithet for Biden – and the other wearing a “Reagan ‘84” T-shirt.

Two hours before the doors at Richard Montgomery opened, the Republican National Committee hosted a telephone news conference with Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), who is challenging U.S. Rep. David Trone (D) this year (Trone addressed the Democratic rally in a video).

“We’re here to discuss the costly failures of Joe Biden and Democrats like David Trone,” Parrott said at the top of his 20-minute presentation. “He can’t run away from his 100% voting record where he’s supported the Biden policies and Nancy Pelosi’s policies.”

Parrott, who lost to Trone by 20 points in 2020 but has a considerably better chance of winning this time thanks to new congressional district lines and a more favorable national political climate for the GOP, used the forum to discuss his life and career in politics and as a traffic engineer.

Parrott criticized Democratic programs for contributing to the nation’s high inflation rate, but mostly pledged to bring “good government policies” to Congress. He highlighted his work to defeat Democratic gerrymandering attempts in Maryland.

Parrott also accused Trone of being out of touch with his district, which takes in a piece of western Montgomery County and then extends west to Frederick, Washington, Allegany and Garrett counties.

“I’ve focused on my constituents,” he said. “My opponent votes in a partisan manner…Trone is totally supporting President Biden. Trone doesn’t live inside the district. He’s a D.C. insider. I live right in the center of the district, in Hagerstown.”

Parrott urged reporters who were listening in to pay attention to his race.

“As you’re following this election, you’re going to see that it’s close,” he said. “People want good government. They want more money in their pockets.”

In his statement, Cox sought to tie Moore to unpopular Biden policies.

“I will win this November and vigorously serve the people of Maryland as governor because the failed policies of the Biden Administration which Wes Moore is praising, advancing and will implement are disastrous for Maryland,” he said. “This could not be better highlighted as it is today with President Joe Biden’s visit to Richard Montgomery High School to campaign for Wes Moore in-person while Wes Moore appears to be avoiding in-person debates with me.”

Cox also made reference to past COVID-19 public health protocols, a staple of his campaign stump speeches.

“The people of Maryland want their freedom back. We want our state back. I will work hard and will implement the constitutional and pro-freedom policies that Marylanders want and deserve.”

Biden’s speech was briefly interrupted by a protester who attempted to shout at the president about the stolen 2020 election but he was quickly shouted down by the crowd and removed from the high school gymnasium.

The heckler was quickly escorted out. He was wearing a suit and as he was being removed he held up two fingers on each hand in a “V,” Nixon-style, and took a brief bow.

Attracting crowds

For hours before the rally, traffic snarled in downtown Rockville, with a massive line of wannabe attendees circling the high school property.

More than 2,400 people crammed into the school’s gymnasium, with nearly 1,300 others in overflow spaces in the school’s cafeteria and auditorium.

Before heading to the main event, Biden briefly appeared in both overflow rooms to greet supporters.

When Biden walked onto the stage in the school’s auditorium, the surprised crowd of several hundred stood up and cheered, according to a pool report.

“The good news of being in an overflow room is you can leave when I start to speak,” Biden told the crowd, which he addressed for about four minutes.

In the cafeteria, Biden posed for a group photo with the crowd, bending down so everybody could fit in the frame. He took three photos with different parts of the crowd behind him.

On the way to the rally, Biden stopped at a fundraiser at a private home in Bethesda. About 100 people were on hand and the event was expected to raise $1 million for the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Grassroots Victory Fund.

He told the crowd gathered that he “underestimated how much damage the previous four years had done in terms of America’s reputation in the world” and that the party has “got to win” in November.

WATCH: President Joe Biden joins Wes Moore for DNC rally Thursday at local school

Democrat drops $10 million to prop up his re-election campaign in Maryland: report

As he prepares for a tough general election against a yet-to-be-determined opponent, U.S. Rep. David Trone (D-Md.), whose entire political career has been buoyed by his personal wealth, dropped $10 million of his own wealth into the campaign in late June — a reminder that his resources can be a buffer against any unfavorable political winds.

Trone spent more than $1.3 million between April 1 and June 29, according to newly filed campaign finance reports, and retained $10,760,327 in his campaign account in late June. That dwarfed the cash on hand of the leading Republican candidates who are competing in the six-way July 19 primary. Trone reported campaign debts of $13 million —all from loans he made to his campaign.

Del. Neil C. Parrott (R-Washington), who was the 2020 GOP nominee against Trone, reported $344,756 in the bank as of June 29, after raising $140,119 since April 1 and spending $57,148 in that period.

Matthew Foldi, a former journalist with conservative media outlets who entered the race only recently but has come out of the gate with a noteworthy array of endorsements, reported raising $186,896 since April 1 and having $98,800 on hand on June 29 after spending $124,274. He loaned his campaign $35,800 during this period.

Foldi has racked up endorsements in recent weeks from several Republican congressional leaders, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and also recently won support from Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R).

Despite Trone’s millions, money won’t be everything in the congressional general election. It’s shaping up to be a good year for Republicans, and congressional redistricting put more conservative territory into the 6th District, removing a good chunk of the Montgomery County portion of the district and substituting it for all of Frederick County.

Even with his personal fortune, accumulated as CEO of the national liquor store chain, Total Wine and More, Trone received a recent $4,000 contribution from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) campaign committee, and $5,800 from Charles Wagner, a California vineyard owner.

As of a week ago, the Cook Political Report rated the 6th District race in the “Lean Democratic” column.

The political tipsheet lists 81 House races across the country of being competitive to one degree or another. Besides the 6th District, no other Maryland races rate a mention on the list — meaning the handicappers do not, at this point, expect the seats to flip from one party to another

Here is a snapshot of fundraising in other Maryland congressional districts:

District 1

Democrat Heather Mizeur, a former state delegate, has outraised Rep. Andy Harris, the lone Republican in the state’s congressional district, this election cycle — and that was also true for the latest reporting period.

Cycle-to-date, Mizeur has reported raising $1,954,067 to Harris’ $1,341,558. Between April 1 and June 29, she raised $248,179, while Harris pulled in $162,821.

But Harris, who is seeking his seventh term, has no major primary opponent and had more cash on hand than Mizeur at the end of June: $1,849,850 to $1,103,317.

Mizeur is squaring off in the Democratic primary against David Harden, a national security consultant who was the subject of a flattering New York Times Opinion profile last week. Harden reported $37,162 on hand as of June 29, after raising $55,756 since April 1.

District 2

Nicolee Ambrose is the clear GOP fundraising frontrunner, and she remains the choice of most of the Republican establishment. Ten-term Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D) retains a massive war chest.

Ambrose, the Republican National Committeewoman for Maryland, reported raising $165,409 between April 1 and June 29 and finishing the reporting period with $105,141 on hand.

Ambrose reported a $5,000 contribution from Citizens United — a national conservative organization run by David Bossie, Maryland’s Republican National Committeeman — and a $5,000 contribution from the Conservative Leadership PAC, a political action committee that tries to get young voters behind conservative candidates. Harris contributed $4,000.

Ellen “EJ” McNulty, a former Hogan administration official who is also seeking the seat in the Republican primary, reported just $3,934 on hand.

Ruppersberger was sitting on $1,386,227 as of June 29.

District 3

Eight-term incumbent Rep. John Sarbanes (D) had just shy of $1 million in his war chest on June 29 — $978,748 — dwarfing the campaign treasury of the most high-profile Republican in the five-way primary, former radio host Yuripzy Morgan. She reported $24,660 on hand.

District 4

The leading Democrats, former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey and former Rep. Donna Edwards, are pretty evenly matched financially, but he has the edge: $321,127 on hand to $243,247. Much of the spending in the race is coming from outside sources.

District 5

U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D) remains a champion fundraiser — and he also funnels plenty of money to his needy colleagues. Hoyer raised $634,780 between April 1 and June 29 and parceled out $771,789 during that time. He finished the fundraising period with $1,272,529 on hand.

District 7

Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D) is the overwhelming favorite to win another term. He banked $523,183 as of June 29.

District 8

Rep. Jamie Raskin (D) is similarly well-situated for re-election, and he’s become a fundraising juggernaut since gaining prominence during President Trump’s second impeachment and now through his work on House panel investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Raskin raised $677,679 since April 1 and finished the reporting period with $2,780,601 on hand, after distributing $360,641 — much of it to colleagues.

U.S. Senate

As he marches to an almost certain second term, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) had $4,059,190 in his campaign account at the end of June.