Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.

President Joe Biden’s age will be a defining factor in the upcoming election, but in his State of the Union Address on March 7, Americans did not see an old, frail moderate.

Biden took a stronger tone towards his Republican opponents in the chamber, countering their boos with quips about their shortcomings. He used the night to kick off a general election campaign that officially has an opponent and, maybe, a strategy.

If Biden wants to beat Trump again in November, he needs to reach the more apathetic voters on his own side that won him the presidency in the first place. To do this, he should continue being a warrior. He should not equivocate his political goals for the sake of appealing to undecided voters.

This strategy will inspire people to vote in November more than the alternative, which is being soft on Trump and portraying himself as the country’s unifier. After his fiery address, a CNN poll found that viewers shifted 17 points toward thinking the country is headed in the right direction after seeing the speech than before.

For these numbers to continue rising, Biden must stay in the direction conveyed in the speech. A common instinct for politicians coming out of the primary is to put aside their partisanship and appeal directly to moderates and undecided voters.

In this election, however, many voters already made up their minds at least once. This is the first presidential general election rematch since 1956. Better yet, Trump is the first candidate since 1892 to not win back to back elections.

This matchup has been long awaited, so the amount of voters who truly have no idea of their preference between the two is likely smaller than in other presidential elections. Instead of chasing independents or Republicans who voted for Nikki Haley, Biden should focus on mobilizing Democrats who may otherwise stay home.

These voters won Biden the 2020 election. A quarter of voters in the last election, which had the highest turnout in U.S. history, did not vote in 2016. Biden improved over Clinton with suburban and white non-college voters, which contributed to flipping the rust belt from Trump.

If Biden wants to attract these voters again, he needs to give them a reason to vote beyond civic duty. He can chart an aggressive course to rile support in a few main policy areas.

Economically, Biden is receiving low polling marks on the economy, but this is just as much a result of congressional policy as Biden’s own directives. To show distance between himself and the policies contributing to inflation, Biden proposed a budget laden with tax increases for the rich and increased aid for students and seniors.

This budget may not make it through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, but it will show the country that he is not going to equivocate on his policies. His championing of social security and student debt relief may also poll well among those key voting demographics.

Biden has already shown some shakiness. He said that he would approve banning TikTok if Congress wanted it, even though he and his campaign use it to reach younger voters.

He has shifted rightward on immigration amidst pressure from Republicans. One particularly loud one, Marjorie Taylor Greene, goaded Biden into calling undocumented immigrants “illegals” mid speech, which may alienate voters.

Biden also privately expressed his frustration with the war in Gaza to donors, but has not substantially changed US policy towards the region. Only three in 10 respondents of an NBC poll approved of Biden’s handling of the war, but Biden is finally showing signs that he may take a stand against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In a hot mic moment after the union address, Biden said he and Netanyahu would have a “come to Jesus moment.” Still, these lines are meaningless if they don’t amount to anything. Biden should not be teasing voters with attractive campaign tactics and one-liners while also contradicting them with his policies. The administration’s actions should strike the same straightforward, no-malarky tone that his address suggested.

Despite its aggressive tone at times, the speech re-emphasized the compassion that Biden has touted throughout his political career. He delivered his message with both force and sincerity, which he must continue to do throughout the campaign.

Biden’s brand moving forward must be rousing enough to motivate apathetic voters and forceful enough to establish a rift between him and Republicans. Through it all, however, Biden cannot abandon the compassion he’s employed to lead the country and resonate with its people.

Joey Barke is a junior government and politics and journalism major. He can be reached at