President Biden’s three-state swing west this week captures, in a nutshell, the White House’s midterm strategy for a president who remains deeply unpopular: tout his administration’s accomplishments and perform where he can effectively rally loyalists — all while continuing to rake . in cash for the campaign.
Mr. Biden’s first stop on Wednesday is near the town of Vail, Colorado, where he is to mark the first national monument of his administration at the behest of Democratic Senator Michael Bennet, the state’s top senator facing a competitive re-election bid. Afterward, the president will head to California to hold a pair of events promoting two of his most significant legislative accomplishments and launch a fundraiser for the House Democrats’ campaign.
Finally, the president will stop in Oregon, where the Democrats’ grip on the governor’s seat in Salem is threatened by an unaffiliated candidate who has won double-digit support in the polls, giving the Republican an opportunity to win the race in November. Early voting begins in Oregon and Colorado next week and is already underway in California.
“We’ve been told very clearly that the president is going to go, the vice president is going to go,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. “They’re going to talk about the accomplishments that we’ve seen in this administration over the last 19 months.”
In particular, he stays away from states where his presence might hurt Democrats; along the way, he skips Nevada and Arizona, where incumbent Democratic senators are fighting tough re-election bids.
It’s all part of a campaign plan fine-tuned in the past few months for Mr. Biden, who is eager to tour the country but faces traditional midterm headwinds against the political party in power, a patchy economic outlook and the president’s approval rating. which remained stubbornly underwater.
To counter Republican criticism about the economy and inflation, Democratic candidates have highlighted accomplishments such as bipartisan infrastructure, manufacturing bills and a sweeping climate, tax and health care package. These successes also helped spur a late summer rise in an evaluation of Mr. Biden’s own job performance earlier this year.
Democratic candidates are also much more likely to show up with Mr. Biden if it’s an official White House event highlighting their accomplishments, such as a groundbreaking for a computer chip manufacturing facility in suburban Ohio that was helped tremendously by a law that boosts domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
That’s the approach in Colorado, where the White House says the president will talk about his administration’s efforts to “protect, preserve and restore some of America’s most precious lands and waters for the benefit of future generations.”
The president is set to designate Camp Hale — the alpine training site where American soldiers prepared for battle in the Italian Alps during World War II — as the first national monument of his administration. Many of the soldiers who trained at Camp Hale returned to Colorado after the war and helped create a lucrative ski industry in the state. While most national monuments protect outstanding natural landscapes, there are at least 12 other military sites designated as national monuments by other presidents.
“I am grateful to President Biden for answering Colorado’s call to honor our veterans, protect our wildlife and public lands, and strengthen our outdoor recreation economy,” Bennet said in a statement Wednesday morning.
Bennet will stand alongside Mr. Biden for the announcement, which comes after years of advocacy by the senator and other Democrats in the state. Bennet, who has been in office since 2009, faces a challenge from GOP candidate Joe O’Dea, a businessman with a moderate profile who Republicans believe is among the party’s top recruits this cycle. O’Dea dismissed the trip as a stunt.
“It doesn’t change our economy. It doesn’t change the price of gas,” O’Dea said of the Camp Hale designation in an interview. He added that while Camp Hale is a “special place”, Mr Biden’s unilateral action was a “usurpation of power”.
The political climate in Colorado prompted the Senate Leadership Fund, the primary super PAC dedicated to electing Republicans to the Senate, to make its first investment of the cycle in Colorado last week by sending $1.25 million to O’Dea’s super PAC.
“We’ve been monitoring Colorado and we like what we’re seeing there,” said Steven Law, the group’s president.
The president will return to his standard midterm vote in California, where he intends to highlight the Democrats’ climate and health care package, which the party hopes is its political panacea for voters’ fears about inflation, despite the bill’s unseen impact on prices in the short term. .
Democrats also believe a referendum vote to enshrine access to abortion and contraception in the state constitution will keep the issue front and center for their California candidates, even as the issue fades elsewhere. But rising gas prices— California has the highest in the nation at about $6.20 a gallon—will be an unwelcome political backdrop for Mr. Biden.
Republicans think they can cash in on gas prices, inflation and the economy as they look to defend and pick up five statewide House seats. Both parties are eyeing at least two offensive opportunities in the Orange County area, where Biden will talk about spending cuts on Friday, one day after the federal government releases its final inflation report ahead of Election Day.
Mr. Biden will also talk about the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed last fall in a separate speech in Los Angeles and hold his first fundraiser of the cycle, directly benefiting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The president has hosted a dozen receptions for the Democratic National Committee this year, bringing in more than $20 million.
It is in Oregon that Mr. Biden’s political appeal will be tested among Democratic voters.
The party is in danger of losing the governor’s race in the traditionally blue state, as Betsy Johnson — a former Republican and Democrat who has since left both parties — launched a well-funded bid against both Democratic candidate Tina Kotek and the GOP candidate. Christine Drazan. Democratic officials hope that in Oregon, Mr. Biden can help solidify the party’s support behind Kotko.
“That’s a huge factor in this race,” David Turner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, said of Johnson’s candidacy. “I don’t think we’d be talking about this race if Betsy Johnson wasn’t in it.”
For months, Republicans have sensed an opportunity in the Oregon race, not just from Johnson’s bid but also from a message about homelessness and crime, which have been top concerns for the state’s voters.
“Democrats are panicking, their multi-year grip on the governor’s office slipping away as Christine Drazan connects with a majority of Oregon voters who want change,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. “The Democratic regime of Joe Biden, Kate Brown, Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson has done nothing to make Oregon safer or more prosperous.”
Associated Press writers Nicholas Riccardi and Jesse Bedayn in Denver contributed to this report.