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Biden is turning the tables on Republicans by calling them 'soft on crime'

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden traveled to Pennsylvania yesterday, where he spoke passionately about getting assault-style weapons off of America's streets. And he didn't only talk about his efforts to address gun violence.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Let me say this to my MAGA Republican friends in Congress. Don't tell me you support law enforcement if you won't condemn what happened on the sixth.

FADEL: In a crucial state in the midterm elections, Biden is trying to turn the tables on Republicans, painting them as extremists who are soft on crime. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez has more.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Early in his speech, when talking about gun safety, President Biden turned toward the officers in the crowd and lamented about the demands put on law enforcement.

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BIDEN: When it comes to public safety in this nation, the answer is not defund the police. It's fund the police.

ORDOÑEZ: It was a forceful message in support of law enforcement, an area that has been a political vulnerability for Biden. Republicans have long held an advantage over Biden on the issue of crime, but Biden is trying to flip the script on Republicans for excusing political violence.

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BIDEN: You can't be a party of law and order and call the people who attacked the police on January 6 patriots.

ORDOÑEZ: He dug deeper into the message, calling it sickening to hear about the threats made against the FBI after the search for classified documents in former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago home.

BEN TULCHIN: Six months ago, you would not have seen this happen.

ORDOÑEZ: That's Ben Tulchin, a Democratic strategist. He says Biden is able to paint defund-the-FBI Republicans as extremists in a way that Republicans painted the defund-the-police advocates.

TULCHIN: Republicans, by overreaching, have really hurt themselves on an issue that, you know, up until recently, has been an issue they've had an advantage on.

ORDOÑEZ: Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel criticized the president's visit, saying his agenda has left Pennsylvania communities less safe. But Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster, says all the White House has to do is point to the words and deeds of Republicans to gain an edge.

CORNELL BELCHER: We actually have Republicans - congressional Republicans - on record talking about defunding the FBI. The ad makes itself.

ORDOÑEZ: And he says the White House is smart to use its bully pulpit to make that case.

Franco Ordoñez, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF PORCUPINE TREE'S "INSIGNIFICANCE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.