President Joe Biden stepped up his effort to paint Republicans as a threat to Americans’ pocketbooks in a speech from upstate New York on Thursday, a closing argument that focuses less on his own accomplishments and more on what the GOP might do if they take control of Congress.
Biden’s visit to a Syracuse, New York, community college was meant to tout Micron’s pledge to invest $100 billion in semiconductor manufacturing, in part because of recent legislation that strengthened domestic chip production. But in his remarks, Biden also went after Republican plans that he argued would strip away some cost-lowering programs he’s enacted while rewarding the rich with new tax cuts.
“Republicans always used to have platforms,” Biden said. “Well, I can’t tell you what they’re for. But they’ll make sure to tell you what they’re against.”
“Then they’re coming after Social Security,” Biden added. “They’re going to shut down the government, refuse to pay America’s bills for the first time in American history to put America in default … unless we yield to their demands to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
“Nothing will create more chaos or do more damage to the American economy … than if it were to happen,” Biden said.
The event served as a real-time demonstration of a cold political reality. Despite shepherding one of the fastest economic recoveries in modern history, and securing four major cornerstone legislative wins tied to his economic agenda, economic discontent, particularly over high inflation, is still imperiling Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.
“We can talk about what we’ve done, all these huge legislative wins, ‘til we’re blue in the face,” one Democratic campaign official said. “If people can’t feel it, it doesn’t matter at this point.”
The President has focused on drawing a contrast between the two parties for weeks, but his sharpened message comes as Democrats grow increasingly concerned about the possibility the narrow universe of undecided voters could break sharply against their party in the closing days of the campaign.
Syracuse, in particular, stands to benefit from a key Biden priority – semiconductor manufacturing – but it is also the center of a competitive House race, where a conservative Trump-aligned Republican is running against a moderate Democrat in a contest that’s currently a toss-up. The seat is being vacated by retiring incumbent Republican Rep. John Katko.
New York State’s gubernatorial election has also tightened in recent weeks, with the Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul battling Rep. Lee Zeldin in a race that’s focused heavily on increasing crime rates.
While Biden has spent much of this year’s midterm contests highlighting the steps he’s taken to reduce costs for Americans and boost American manufacturing, polls show Americans giving him poor marks on his handling of the economy. He’s attempting to use Thursday as a moment to bridge the pervasive disconnect between an economy he’s called “strong as hell” and voters who believe the exact opposite.
The President received some good news Thursday morning: Gross domestic product — the broadest measure of economic activity — rose by an annualized rate of 2.6% during the third quarter, according to initial estimates released Thursday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It represents a sharp bounce back after two quarters of negative growth that became a magnet for GOP attacks.
But in a demonstration of the political reality, Biden’s political advisers framed the day around an aggressive attack on Republican economic proposals.
At the heart of the political message is something that has appeared prominently in Biden’s own remarks in recent days.
“Everybody wants to make it a referendum, but it’s a choice,” Biden said in a speech earlier this week, detailing his view that Republican congressional majorities “are going to crash the economy.”
Biden, who has mostly avoided large campaign rallies in favor of official events meant to promote his agenda, has sharpened his attacks recently on Republicans for threatening to undo the steps he says have lowered costs for Americans.
“There are two very different ways of looking at our country. One is, as I’ve said before, the view from Park Avenue, which says help the wealthy and maybe that’ll trickle down to everyone in the country. The other is from Scranton or Claymont or thousands of cities across the country like the place I grew up,” he said at the White House on Wednesday, referencing towns in which he lived as a child in Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Still, he acknowledged that many Americans had yet to feel the benefit of an improving economy.
“I’m optimistic. It’s going to take some time. And I appreciate the frustration of the American people,” he said.
Democratic officials hope Biden’s message will resonate in the final stretch of the campaign as Republican appear to be gaining momentum. Biden himself is expected to continue traveling in the days ahead of the election, along with members of his Cabinet.
A White House official said members of the Cabinet had traveled to 29 states since October 1 on 77 different trips to amplify Biden’s message.
“We are entering a period here where the choice before the American people is incredibly stark, and the President’s going to continue to illustrate exactly the impact that the mega MAGA trickle-down agenda the congressional Republicans have put forward is going to have on families, and he’s going to continue pressing that case from now and for the weeks to come,” the official said.
Biden’s midterm campaign schedule so far has focused mostly on states he won in the 2020 election that nonetheless feature closer-than-expected races.