During a visit to Wisconsin on Thursday, President Joe Biden mocked former President Donald Trump while announcing a massive infrastructure investment. The trip comes as the president and his team go on offense this week following an improved consumer mood, which his friends think will eventually translate into stronger feelings about the president’s handling of the economy as he prepares for a rematch with Trump.
That push was on show Thursday with a pair of Midwest events, beginning with a visit to Superior, Wisconsin, where Biden will be armed with $1 billion in federal funds to fix an outdated bridge in the battleground state. As he announced funds to repair the decaying Blatnik Bridge connecting Wisconsin and Minnesota, Biden stated that the investment would “make a huge difference” in the daily lives of local citizens. Biden sought to contrast himself with Trump during his general election pitch.
“My predecessor took a different approach: trickle-down economics and tax cuts for the very rich and large corporations, which greatly increased the deficit. That’s exactly what occurred,” Biden said, adding that jobs were sent offshore under Trump’s leadership.
The events occur as Biden prepares for a general election fight with Trump, whom the president believes secured the GOP nomination with his New Hampshire victory on Tuesday. In a statement issued following the primary, Biden emphasized the economy as a defining issue in November, stating that “our economy, which has seen the strongest recovery in the world since COVID,” is one of the topics “at stake.” But so far, Biden’s efforts to sell the economy—policy rollouts, travel to key states, and television and internet ad campaigns—have failed to reach voters, with fewer than a third saying they approve of his approach.
Biden’s friends are hopeful that this will change soon, especially as people become more optimistic about the status of the economy.
- According to the University of Michigan’s most recent consumer poll, sentiment rose dramatically last month, up 13% from December to its best level since July 2021. That, combined with lower inflation, growing earnings, and a robust labor market following COVID-era job losses, is a story the campaign is eager to promote.
- “Voters will be hearing this economic story more and more as we get closer to November, through our thousands of field organizers, advertising, and more,” said Lauren Hitt, a Biden campaign official. “It’s apparent that many Americans have already begun to hear it. This week, the gold standard for evaluating consumer attitudes discovered that Americans are more optimistic about the economy than they have been in years.”
- Biden’s campaign also feels that a sharper race between the president and his predecessor will help to focus its arguments. They’ve grabbed on Trump’s recent comments, predicting that the economy would crash and hoping that it would do so under Biden’s watch, and attempted to connect Trump’s job record to Herbert Hoover’s, who was president when the country entered the Great Depression.
Biden is also hoping to gain from the United Auto Workers’ endorsement of the incumbent president, which was revealed on Wednesday. UAW President Shawn Fain talked bluntly about Trump as he urged rank-and-file members to support a Biden candidacy.
- “Donald Trump is a scab,” Fain explained. “Donald Trump symbolizes the wealthiest class. Donald Trump opposes everything we stand for as a union and as a community. However, it remains to be seen whether the campaign’s economic message will resonate with voters, particularly as Trump prepares to make his own economic case against Biden in November.
- In addition to the $1 billion in funding to help repair the bridge, Biden announced another $4 billion for other infrastructure projects across the country, including the I-5 Bridge over the Columbia River between Vancouver, Washington, and Portland, Oregon; the I-10 through the Gila River Indian Community and Pinal County in Arizona; Pittsburgh’s I-376 corridor; and the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York. “On my watch, instead of infrastructure week, America is having an infrastructure decade,” Biden remarked, taunting Trump with a line he’s been using since the measure was passed.
- The Biden campaign is keen to target Republicans who are promoting the benefits of the infrastructure program despite voting against it. Rep. Pete Stauber, a Republican from Minnesota, described it as a “HUGE win” for his area, saying he was “proud to advocate for these funds!” “This is too brazen to dismiss. “Mr. Stauber voted against every screw, steel beam, and concrete pillar in this bridge,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz wrote on X. “Fortunately, @POTUS collaborated with Stauber’s colleagues and got the job done without him. “Thank you, Joe!”
- While there are no shovels in the ground yet, the Blatnik Bridge is projected to be under construction by Election Day, which Biden’s aides believe would serve as a visible reminder to voters of the administration’s achievements. The president has expressed displeasure behind the scenes that several of the projects he is promoting have been slow to materialize in front of voters.
- However, as they seek fresh ways to deliver the president’s message, Biden’s team has experimented with new tactics this year in an effort to shift the needle on the economy. When Biden visited Allentown, Pennsylvania, he bypassed the typical address and instead went to a local athletic store and coffee shop to hear directly from store owners.
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- In Raleigh, North Carolina, Biden crowded around a kitchen table with a family to listen to their worries. It’s part of their strategy to support average Americans who can speak to how the president’s initiatives have helped them personally. Biden’s advisers believe that using these messengers can help them emphasize their record in a more personal way with voters.
- Biden’s aides and allies have argued that many of these message efforts will take time to take effect since Americans are still grieving from the pandemic’s effects, even though some economic bright spots have emerged. “The frustration has been that, you know, the price of eggs is ridiculously high. And if salaries increase faster than inflation this year, people will believe that the president’s efforts are delivering the outcomes that they require in their lives,” said Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
- “As we hit record highs in the stock market, wages for working-class voters go up and inflation comes down faster than in any other developed country. That adds up to exactly the economic picture that you want by Election Day.”
- But, he admitted, “before those things really sink in for voters, the frustration remains.” So this campaign is a journey that will culminate when the polls close.” This year, much of the effort to persuade voters will be carried out on the ground in critical battleground states. And the Biden team is already predicting their intentions to deploy frequently to the battleground state. This week, Vice President Kamala Harris began her reproductive freedom tour in Waukesha County, ahead of Biden’s visit.
- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is scheduled to visit Milwaukee on Friday, as she plans to increase her domestic travel this year to promote the president’s record. Biden’s journey Thursday took him to Douglas County, where he defeated Trump by more than 9 points in 2020, helping Biden win a slim victory in the state.
- Biden’s ground operations will soon face major tests as they transition to general election mode. While some Democrats have expressed concerns about the pace of battleground organizing, the campaign has stated that it expects to be working “full steam” by early summer, with thousands of staffers deployed.
- The Biden team, which declared its campaign leadership in the state in December, has created infrastructure in Wisconsin in close collaboration with the Democratic National Committee and is actively canvassing and organizing for the general election while hiring people. The state campaign staff is also involved in the Biden campaign’s relational organizing program, which investigates innovative ways to reach voters via their social networks. “This is game-on in Wisconsin,” Wikler declared.