Bloomberg — President Joe Biden called for new taxes on the wealthy and corporations and warned Republicans would roll back policies he argued had saved the US economy, setting out core themes as he kicked off his reelection campaign.
Biden didn’t mention Donald Trump during a Saturday rally with union members in Philadelphia. Instead, the president contrasted his platform with his twice-indicted Republican rival’s agenda. It’s a sign Biden wants to put populist economic issues — rather than legal controversies — at the center of his pitch for a second term.
“It’s time for millionaires and billionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share. I can get that done, but I need you badly. So are you with me?” Biden told the crowd of cheering union workers inside Philadelphia’s convention center.
The president touted his domestic achievements and argued they’ve fueled economic growth, a hot jobs market and gains for the middle class. He cited laws passed during his first two years in office including a climate, health and tax package and new funding for infrastructure and semiconductor manufacturing.
“Folks, this didn’t just happen. We made it happen,” Biden said, adding that most Republicans “oppose everything I’ve done and most want to get rid of it all. So we got a fight in our hands.”
If Republicans win back power and repeal funding for new roads, bridges and clean energy projects, Biden warned the union workers, it means “they’re coming for your jobs.”
“They’re coming for the future you’re building for your kids and your grandkids,” he said.
The economic focus aims to help Biden frame the election as a choice between himself and the GOP, while skirting the classified documents case against Trump and other controversies that have dominated the headlines.
The president has been careful not to comment on the criminal charges against his predecessor, wary it could play into GOP allegations the prosecution is politically motivated. Biden also faces his own federal investigation into the possession of classified documents.
As part of the buildup, Biden will open his campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, this summer, according to two people familiar with the plan. He also plans to hold more events aimed at framing his economic message, according to one of the people.
“The president talking about his historic investments versus Republicans talking about historic indictments, I think, will play hugely positively for him at the beginning of his campaign and will speak volumes to the American people without him having to say a word about anything that’s going on on the other side,” said Maria Cardona, a strategist and Democratic National Committee member.
As he steps up his campaigning, Biden is enjoying economic tailwinds he is eager to highlight. The Federal Reserve paused interest-rate hikes amid slowing inflation, payrolls surged in May, and the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index rose in June.
The rally was a chance for Biden, who calls himself the most pro-union president in US history, to energize working-class voters who helped him win the White House, while countering Democratic worries about flagging enthusiasm for an 80-year-old president seeking a second term.
Biden started his 2020 campaign at a Pittsburgh union hall. His decision to begin his reelection run with union members 300 miles east shows how much he’ll count on organized labor to deliver in Pennsylvania and other states — such as Wisconsin and Michigan — with large union presences.
“This is not a criticism of them, but if the investment bankers in this country went on a strike tomorrow, no one would much notice,” Biden said. “But if this room didn’t show up for work tomorrow, the whole country would come to a grinding halt. So tell me, who matters more in America?”
The AFL-CIO endorsed Biden on Friday, the earliest the federation has officially backed a presidential candidate in an election cycle. It was joined by other union groups, which will allow organizers to immediately ramp up mobilizing efforts on Biden’s behalf, said Ray Zaccaro, public affairs director for the AFL-CIO.
The president’s message could also resonate with non-college educated voters who don’t belong to a union, said Seth Harris, Biden’s former top White House labor adviser.
Biden is trying to strengthen and grow his votes among union members, Harris said, adding, “But he’s also looking to the larger population of voters who are similar.”
With the debt-ceiling crisis resolved, Biden is ramping up his political activities, which have mostly been conducted behind the scenes since announcing his reelection run in April. The president does not intend to frequently hold rallies this year, but instead he and his team will focus on fundraising and building a campaign organization, advisers said.
Biden raised campaign cash in Greenwich, Connecticut, on Friday at an event hosted by Lone Pine Capital LLC’s Stephen Mandel and his wife, Sue, where tickets ranged from $50,000 to $100,000. It’s the beginning of a stretch of fundraisers for Biden this month in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and suburban Maryland.
Biden’s efforts are bringing in big bucks, according to two people familiar with the matter.
He’s following a strategy similar to one former President Barack Obama pursued after launching his reelection bid — raising money from the most loyal Democratic contributors early, said the people, who did not want to be identified because they’re not authorized to speak for the campaign.
Traveling to major cities with deep-pocketed donors will allow Biden to report a large fundraising haul in the first quarter since launching his campaign.
Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez, her deputy Quentin Fulks and DNC Executive Director Sam Cornale plan to visit half a dozen cities this summer to meet with donors, local officials and community leaders to juice support for Biden’s campaign and get buy-in for their strategy, according to the campaign official.
Biden spent the week before the rally speaking to core constituent groups, part of an effort to remind them of his accomplishments.
“Talk about it a lot more, is what I think they’ve been missing,” said Cardona.
Almost six in 10 Americans disapprove of Biden’s performance, and only one third say he should seek reelection, according to the latest CBS News/YouGov poll. Nearly 90% of Black voters supported Biden in 2020, but just two-thirds of Black Americans approve of his performance in the survey. Among Hispanic Americans, Biden’s disapproval rating is 59%.
Biden staged a Juneteenth concert on the White House South Lawn Tuesday, during which he and Vice President Kamala Harris touted their achievements for Black Americans and urged supporters to fight back against threats to voting and civil rights.
At a Thursday screening of the Eva Longoria-directed film, “Flamin’ Hot,” Biden lauded Latinos and immigrants’ contributions to America.
Biden received endorsements from major environmental groups on Wednesday and plugged the climate provisions of his signature Inflation Reduction Act at a time when some climate activists have been frustrated by his approval of pipeline and drilling projects.
In Connecticut — the site of the deadliest US school shooting — Biden on Friday touted his bipartisan gun-control law and urged Congress to do more to address gun violence.
A day earlier, he held a White House event highlighting his campaign against “junk fees,” an effort designed to appeal to working- and middle-class Americans worried about rising costs.
Read more on Bloomberg.com