Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(VALLEY FORGE, Pa.) — In his first major campaign event of 2024, President Joe Biden on Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, will deliver a speech near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to argue democracy and fundamental freedoms are under threat if former President Donald Trump returns to the White House.

The Biden campaign has billed the location in the election battleground state as being a “stone’s throw” away where then-Gen. George Washington, leading the Continental Army, “transformed a disorganized alliance of colonial militias into a cohesive coalition united in their fight for our democracy” nearly 250 years ago.

He’ll make the afternoon remarks at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, which is actually about 15 miles from the Revolutionary War site that’s considered the birthplace of the American army.

“This Saturday will mark the three-year anniversary of when, with encouragement from Donald Trump, a violent mob breached our nation’s Capitol,” Biden campaign manager Julie-Chavez Rodriguez told reporters in a call previewing the speech. “It was the first time in our nation’s history that a president tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”

“Let’s all take a moment to sit with the gravity and significance of the moment we’re all living through,” Biden communications director Michael Tyler added later. “The leading candidate of a major party in the United States is running for president so that he can systematically dismantle and destroy our democracy.”

With Iowa’s Republican primary 10 days away, and Biden facing polling woes for months, he’s expected to start taking a more aggressive posture against Trump, but some Democratic strategists question whether the “threat to democracy” message will resonate with Americans now that it’s been three years since Jan. 6 and Trump was in the White House.

“The venue makes some sense and the timing makes some sense. It makes sense on January 6th, but don’t kid yourself. On January 8th and 9th, Americans will still be going to the grocery store,” Democratic strategist James Carville told ABC News in a phone interview. “People live in the economy and experience it many times a day. They don’t live on January 6th.”

Democratic strategist Tim Hogan, who worked on presidential campaigns for Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Hillary Clinton, said the Biden campaign should take every opportunity to draw a sharp contrast with Trump.

“Trump is operating behind this smoke screen of a GOP primary right now. So, it’s important to clarify and focus now on the threat that he poses, so if and when he emerges as the Republican nominee, the Biden campaign can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Hogan told ABC News.

“Are there many things you have to talk about in a presidential campaign? Absolutely. Voters care about their future, and Donald Trump poses a threat to them in a lot of different ways…All of that is going to be part of the messaging,” he said.

Views of Jan. 6 have grown increasingly divided along partisan lines as misinformation about the attack has run rampant.

A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released this week found 25% of Americans believe the falsehood that the FBI was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack, and that while 77% of Democrats say that those in the pro-Trump mob who entered the Capitol were “mostly violent,” the number is 18% among Republicans, down from 26% in 2021.

Friday speech was rescheduled from Saturday due to predictions of bad weather in Valley Forge, where Washington and his troops struggled to survive a brutal winter.

The Biden campaign also appears to be using the symbolic setting to highlight how, unlike Trump, the nation’s first president left office voluntarily despite calls to stay on. Deputy campaign manager Quetien Fulks told reporters that George Washington “united American willpower and went on to lead this nation as commander and as president – before relinquishing power – the ultimate precedent and the experiment of American democracy.”

Biden has frequently called out Trump as his “predecessor” in closed-door campaign fundraisers, but Friday’s speech could see him make stronger, public attacks, in which he condemns Trump’s anti-immigrant comments — what Biden calls “Nazi rhetoric.” He’s described Trump’s vision to lead “with revenge and retribution,” often qualifying how he he cites Trump’s language statements with “his words.”

Trump, the consistent frontrunner for the Republican nomination, is facing 91 criminal charges against him in four felony cases, with one case concerning his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden. He continues to deny any wrongdoing.
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The campaign speech near Valley Forge was announced in conjunction with Biden making a trip Monday to Charleston, South Carolina, to speak at the the historic Mother Emanuel AME Church, where nine Black Americans were murdered in 2015 by a white supremacist in a mass shooting.

The campaign says the choice of locations is designed to reinforce to Americans what Biden sees as what’s at stake in November’s election – the ideals of freedom and democracy on which the nation was founded 250 years ago.

“Whether it is white supremacists descending on the historic American city of Charlottesville, the assault on our nation’s capital on January 6, or a white supremacist murdering churchgoers at Mother Emanuel nearly nine years ago,” Fulks told reporters, “America’s worried about the rise in political violence and determined to stand against it.”

Leading up to Friday’s speech, the Biden campaign released its first television campaign ad of 2024, part of a half-million-dollar blitz in key swing states and digital platforms — in which he’s heard calling the preservation of democracy the central issue of his presidency.

In narrating the ad, Biden does not call out Trump by name but warns against “an extremist movement that does not share the basic beliefs in our democracy,” over images of the Capitol attack and “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017, an event he has said propelled him to run for office in 2020.

To help frame his speech, the White House said Biden had lunch this week with historians and scholars to discuss what it called “ongoing threats to democracy and democratic institutions both here in America and around the world.”

Former Vice President Kamala Harris is also traveling to South Carolina, the first state where Democrats will head to the polls on Feb. 3, at least two times in January. She’s set to launch a “reproductive freedoms tour” in Milwaukee on Jan. 22, on the anniversary of the now-overruled Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

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