President Joe Biden warned US voters Wednesday that the future of democracy was at stake in next week's midterms, with the steadfast refusal of some Republican candidates to accept election results opening a "path to chaos in America."
With conservatives hammering his administration over the state of the economy, the 79-year-old Democrat took aim squarely at Republicans who have cast their lot with former president Donald Trump in denying Biden's 2020 election victory.
"There are candidates running for every level of office in America... who won't commit to accepting the results of the elections they're in," Biden said in a televised address to the nation.
Their goal, he said, was to follow Trump's lead and try to "subvert the electoral system itself" -- noting there are more than 300 Republican election deniers on the ballot in races across the country this year.
"They've emboldened violence and intimidation of voters and election officials," he charged-- less than two years after a mob of Trump supporters ransacked the US Capitol to try to overturn the 2020 result.
"That is the path to chaos in America," he said. "It's unprecedented. It's unlawful. And, it is un-American."
Biden's dire warning of threats to democracy comes six days ahead of Tuesday's vote, in which Republicans are heavily favored to capture the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate.
In the wake of a violent attack on the husband of the Democratic House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, which dramatically heightened concerns about heated political rhetoric, Biden urged Americans to unite in defense of democracy.
"We must with an overwhelming voice stand against political violence and voter intimidation, period," he said.
"We have to face this problem," he said. "We can't pretend it's just going to solve itself."
But nearly 22 months after the Capitol insurrection, polling shows that American voters are more concerned with the economy.
More than half say the price of gas and consumer goods is the economic issue that worries them the most in a new Quinnipiac University national poll.
Democrats are being attacked on inflation and fears of a looming recession, with the Federal Reserve repeatedly hiking interest rates -- and Biden acknowledged Wednesday that "inflation is still hurting" at a White House event with union workers and employers.
His admission came as the US central bank delivered another steep rate hike, raising the benchmark borrowing rate by 0.75 percentage points -- the fourth straight increase of that size and the sixth hike this year.
- Balancing act -
Biden, whose approval rating has been underwater for more than a year, has been relatively inconspicuous on the campaign trail.
But he entered the fray in the home stretch with Wednesday's address, ahead of stump speeches in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, California and Maryland.
Democrats have some major legislative victories to tout, but they have been hamstrung since Biden's election win by internecine fights between progressives and moderates.
A huge row sparked by the party's leftist flank calling on Biden to negotiate with President Vladimir Putin over Russia's invasion of Ukraine was the most recent example of Democratic dysfunction.
Before settling on a "kitchen sink" strategy of talking about the cash in voters' pockets, Democrats spent much of the campaign pulling in different directions on the importance of abortion rights, climate change, reproductive freedoms and the war in Ukraine.
But polling consistently shows voters more focused on their pocketbooks, and internal divisions left Democrats without a cohesive response to Republican attacks that they have mishandled the economy.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report moved 10 House races toward the Republicans on Tuesday in the solidly Democratic states of New York, New Jersey, Oregon, California and Illinois.
If all of the races in Cook's Republican column go as predicted, the party would need to win just six of the 35 "toss up" races to take the majority. Democrats would need 29.