President Biden is scheduled for back-to-back stops in battleground Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on Labor Day to showcase his pro-union bona fides as Democrats launch their make-or-break bid to hold on to majorities in Congress.
Mr. Biden is expected to tout the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Democrats’ $740 billion tax-and-spending bill during stopovers in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.
He will attend large-scale Labor Day celebrations in those two union strongholds.
Mr. Biden, who attended Pittsburgh’s annual Labor Day parade in 2015 and 2018 and kicked off his 2020 presidential bid at a Teamsters banquet hall in the city, has billed his upcoming trip as a celebration of “the dignity of American workers.”
Milwaukee will host its Labor Day parade on Monday followed by its day-long Laborfest, which has been attended by presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
The stops mark an important launch point as President Biden begins campaigning for Democrats ahead of the November elections.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is facing a closely-watched race against Trump-backed Mehmet Oz to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Senate hopeful Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is facing off against Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson.
Democratic candidates in Republican-leaning states have been apprehensive about campaigning alongside Mr. Biden, who has faced months of low approval ratings.
Democrat Senate hopeful Tim Ryan who is running against Trump-backed J.D. Vance in Ohio gave a high-profile snub to Mr. Biden during the president’s July visit to the Buckeye State where he lost by more than 8 percentage points in 2020. Mr. Ryan has since said he plans to join the president on his stop in Ohio later this month for the groundbreaking of Intel’s new semiconductor facility.
Mr. Fetterman also steered clear of the president on multiple visits, including Tuesday in Wilkes-Barre where Mr. Biden unveiled his $37 billion plan to crack down on crime rates, and Thursday in Philadelphia where Mr. Biden gave a major speech attacking “MAGA Republicans” as a threat to democracy.
Mr. Biden’s Labor Day trip will offer insight into whether Mr. Biden will be able to reverse the trend.
So far, Mr. Fetterman has said he plans to join Mr. Biden on his Labor Day stopover, but Mr. Barnes has yet to commit.
“The reality is people like Fetterman and Ryan and Barnes read polls,” said Brad Bannon, a political strategist for Democrats and labor unions. “Biden’s job rating, which was once in the low 30s is now in the mid-40s. And that’s why I think Fetterman and Ryan have turned around. And my guess is Barnes will too.”
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed a 9-point spike in Mr. Biden’s nationwide approval rating which surged to 40%, its highest point in more than a year, following a series of legislative wins.
Throughout his long political career, Mr. Biden has enjoyed strong standing among union leaders, and Mr. Bannon says the president will have several key accomplishments to tout during his Labor Day stopovers.
“Labor has done very well, under Joe Biden and I think he’s going to emphasize that,” Mr. Bannon said, noting that Mr. Biden will likely talk about the expansion of clean energy jobs under the Democrats’ tax-and-spend bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act.
While Mr. Biden is gaining steam, his approval numbers are still underwater. The Quinnipiac poll found that 52% of those surveyed disapproved of Mr. Biden’s handling of his job.
Mr. Biden has also faced criticism for his campaign rhetoric tearing into pro-Trump Republicans as extremists and a threat to democracy.
His stops in Milwaukee and Pittsburgh come on the heels of his prime-time speech in Philadelphia where he framed the upcoming midterm elections as a battle for “the soul of America.”
Mr. Biden, who has often cited the violence surrounding the 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, as spurring his run for president in 2020, pledged during his campaign to be a unifying force and heal the nation’s beleaguered soul.
Critics say Mr. Biden’s presidency has done little to unite the country, and many within the GOP warn that his rhetoric has become decidedly more divisive.
Despite the criticism, Mr. Bannon does not expect Mr. Biden to pull back as he makes his Labor Day rounds.
“As Biden’s numbers are going up, Trump’s numbers are going down,” he said. “Voters are now as concerned about threats to democracy as they are about the economy. I think that’s why you see Biden lashing out. Americans are getting worried about the state of our democracy.”
• Joseph Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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