Biden’s quiet campaign season takes him back to familiar territory in Pennsylvania



CNN

When President Joe Biden traveled to Pennsylvania on Thursday, he touted infrastructure investments that helped rebuild a collapsed bridge and raise campaign funds away from the cameras with the state’s Democratic Senate candidate.

where he has not to appear was a campaign rally stage.

Three weeks before the November election, Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia clearly demonstrated a political strategy focused on promoting his agenda and engaging with donors rather than headlining stump speeches alongside Democrats. vulnerable.

He has traveled frequently to Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lt. Governor John Fetterman holds a narrow lead in his race against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in the U.S. Senate race. Swapping out his sweatshirt and basketball shorts for a dark suit and tie, Fetterman greeted Biden at the airport alongside his wife.

“You will win !” Biden said while shaking hands with the candidate.

Biden has visited the Commonwealth nine times this year, including Thursday’s visit, and 18 times since becoming president.

“I’m a proud Delawarean, but Pennsylvania is my home state. It’s in my heart. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be part of rebuilding this beautiful state,” Biden said. “My grandfather Finnegan from Scranton would be really proud of me now.”

Yet despite the penchant, Biden’s visit was relatively low-key for a presidential stoppage weeks before a critical midterm contest. He did not hold an exuberant campaign rally, opting for a smaller event with several dozen civil servants and bridge project workers.

Biden’s approach was born out of political reality: While many of Biden’s accomplishments were welcomed by voters — and, in some cases, embraced by Republicans who voted against them — Biden himself remains unpopular and some Democrats continue to keep their distance as the midterm contests draw closer.

As he left the White House on Thursday, Biden bristled when asked why more Democrats weren’t joining him for political events.

“That’s not true,” Biden said. “There were 15. Count, kid, count.”

Later, as he and Fetterman walked past a Primanti Bros. near Pittsburgh, he told reporters he had been invited to visit Nevada and Georgia, two states with tight Senate races.

“We’re trying to sort it out now,” he said. “I don’t know where I’m going. I have about 16, 18 requests across the country.

Over the past few weeks, Biden has worked to expand his list of accomplishments using executive power, including pardoning low-level marijuana offenders, canceling some student loan debt, lowering the cost of hearing aids, and declaring a national monument World War II training site.

Just this week, he promised to sign a bill making abortion rights into law if Democrats win seats, described billions of dollars to be invested in home battery manufacturing and released an additional 15 million barrels of oil from the country’s strategic reserves as it strives to drive down gas prices.

Biden denied that the oil announcement was politically motivated.

“How long have I been doing this now?” It’s not politically motivated at all,” he said. “It’s motivated to make sure I keep pushing what I’ve been pushing.”

Yet the time for release nonetheless comes as Biden’s party watches with growing concern the prospect of losing its congressional majorities next year, and the White House seeks action to appeal to Americans.

In Pittsburgh, the president spoke at the Fern Hollow Bridge, a four-lane steel span that collapsed into a snow-covered ravine in January. Biden happened to be visiting the city that day to talk about infrastructure, and the presidential motorcade made a detour to view the damage.

“A complete disaster was averted but it should never have come to this,” Biden said Thursday. The president noted how quickly the bridge was rebuilt and said that while it was not funded by his bipartisan Infrastructure Act, it was funded entirely by the federal government.

Biden said “God willing” the bridge will be fully open in December, telling the public, “I’m coming back to walk on this sucker.”

Biden was joined by a slew of Pennsylvania’s top elected officials, including Fetterman, who is locked in one of the most closely watched midterm contests. Biden is also expected to join Fetterman later Thursday for a fundraiser in Philadelphia.

Although the reconstruction of the bridge was not directly funded by the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, a White House official said funding from the act allows the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation “to quickly move funds to support this project, without having to slow down or interfere with other projects in the pipeline.”

The reconstruction was funded by $25.3 million in federal funding allocated to Pennsylvania in fiscal year 2021, the White House official said.

The law allocated $40 billion for bridge projects over five years. Since last October, repairs or replacements have begun on more than 2,400 bridges with Infrastructure Act funding, according to the White House.

This measure has become a central talking point for Biden during the midterms of this year. Candidates who might think twice about holding a political rally with Biden have seemed eager to show up alongside him at official events announcing improvements to rail lines, airport terminals or bridges. The president hammered Republicans who voted against the bill but nevertheless took credit for the projects made possible by the $1.2 trillion law.

In planning Biden’s recent trip, including political events and official White House functions, his advisers took into account the sensitive political reality that some Democratic candidates in tough races would rather he not visit their district. or their state in the home stretch towards the midterms.

But a Democratic official familiar with White House thinking said an important overarching dynamic is that even candidates who would rather not appear alongside Biden are still keen to come forward on his legislative accomplishments, describing it as a predicament. of “half-sisters”.

“Some campaigns don’t want him physically campaigning in his state,” the official said. “But – people are running on his program.”

Given the string of legislative victories that Biden’s party won in the first half of the Biden administration — including the bipartisan infrastructure bill — even events that are technically billed as official business White House are actually no different from political events these days, the official noted.

“Every event is political now,” they said.

Biden remains eager to visit key battlegrounds, his aides say. Earlier this year, he expressed frustration that more Democrats weren’t lining up to use it on the campaign trail.

Now Biden has settled into a midterm spurt that sees him travel mostly to states he won in 2020 while avoiding some marquee races where his presence could be a drag on Democratic candidates.

Other Democrats seem more welcome. Former President Barack Obama will hold campaign rallies for Democrats in Atlanta, Detroit and Milwaukee in the days leading up to the election. Senator Bernie Sanders, the Independent Democratic Socialist from Vermont, will visit battleground states on a tour aimed at young voters.

The White House is working closely with the Senate and House campaign committees and will send the president where he could be of use, aides said, and will avoid traveling to areas where nationalizing the race would be considered as detrimental to candidates.

Presidential travel logistics also complicate some trips, aides said, as campaigns must help pay the high costs of Air Force One.

Yet at similar points in their terms, Obama and former President Donald Trump were engaging in more traditional campaign-style events for candidates ahead of the midterm elections, despite questions about candidate cuts.

Both saw their party lose unified control of Congress in their first midterm elections, a historic precedent that Biden hopes to break — even if he avoids major political events.

The White House has defended Biden’s travel plans, insisting he travels “nonstop” and intends to visit states “where necessary” as the vote nears.

Still, in the weeks leading up to the midterms, Biden continues to spend most weekends at his home in Delaware, including last weekend in Wilmington and this weekend in Rehoboth Beach.

On Friday, he will stop at Delaware State University to tout his student debt forgiveness efforts, before heading to his beach house. This week, the debt relief package Biden announced earlier this year went live, with millions asking for some or all of their loans to be forgiven.

On one of his previous trips to campaign in Pennsylvania, on Labor Day, Biden appeared before a small crowd with Fetterman at a union picnic in Pittsburgh. When the two men emerged from the union hall together, Fetterman raised his arms and raised his fists.

But when Fetterman spoke before Biden, he took the opportunity to castigate his Republican opponent for owning multiple homes — without mentioning the president at all.

During a 15-minute private meeting beforehand, Fetterman pushed Biden to begin the process of rescheduling marijuana, one of his main issues.

Weeks later, the White House said Biden would grant pardons for simple federal marijuana possession offenses and instruct members of his administration to “promptly” review how marijuana is provided for under federal law. , the first step toward a possible relaxation of a federal classification that currently places marijuana in the same category as heroin and LSD.

Biden himself only mentioned the decision in passing. But Fetterman welcomed the move and was quick to quote his conversation with Biden after the White House announcement.

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