Consumer confidence has increased. Fears of a recession are receding. The economy is growing. And a corroded bridge in Wisconsin is getting more funding.
It’s a wintry mix of positive news for President Biden, who traveled to the shores of a bay near Lake Superior on Thursday to stand at the foot of the Blatnik Bridge, a structure his administration says would have failed by 2030 without help from billion dollars. infusion provided by the bipartisan infrastructure bill that Biden championed.
The president was there to talk infrastructure and the economy, and to contrast his performance with that of his predecessor and likely rival in the general election, former President Donald J. Trump.
“Economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Biden said, dressed in a casual sweater, as he addressed Wisconsinites gathered at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin. “We obviously have more work to do, but we are making real progress.”
As the president spoke, Trump was taking the stand in a defamation trial in New York, offering a striking split-screen comparison that the Biden campaign has welcomed.
Biden and his advisers believe that projects like Blatnik, taking place in the backyards of Americans living in battleground states like Wisconsin, could be enough to bolster optimism and overcome widespread skepticism about the state of the economy.
At his event, Biden spoke of the $6.1 billion that had been invested in Wisconsin and the $5.7 billion in Minnesota, located just across the bridge, which supports the farming, shipping and forestry industries in the Upper Midwest. West. The Blatnik, which crosses St. Louis Bay and connects the ports of Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, had become corroded and clogged by construction and diversions.
“For decades people talked about replacing this bridge, but it was never done,” Biden said. “Until today.”
Bipartisan law or not, no Republican legislators gathered to greet Biden. (“I’m sorry to say the vast majority voted against it,” Biden said, a number that includes Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican who represents the district where the bridge is located.)
The Democratic governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota appeared. “This would not have happened without Biden,” Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin told attendees.
Several other Democrats, including Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, accompanied the president as he viewed the bridge and later met with people at a tavern next to the brewery. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sipped a glass of beer as she socialized alongside Biden.
Even without the absent Republicans, who are quickly closing ranks around Trump, there are other headwinds to overcome.
Biden has faced low approval ratings on the economy. And other Democrats have criticized him for whether it was smart of him to embrace Bidenomics as a self-titled effort to take credit for an economy that Americans have repeatedly signaled they are not enthusiastic about.
On Thursday, Biden did not seem to feel any qualms. At the brewery, she stood in front of a pole with letters spelling “Bidenomy” and attacked Trump for “empty communities, closing factories and leaving Americans behind.”
For his part, Trump has attacked Biden on almost everything, but he has also falsely claimed that the low employment numbers under the Biden administration are not real.
Elsewhere in the Midwest, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took unusual aim at Trump during a speech in Chicago.
“Our country’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for decades,” Yellen said Thursday. “In the Trump administration, the idea of doing anything to fix it was a punchline.”
There was truth in his comment. During Trump’s presidency, he often deviated from infrastructure-related speeches to attack his enemies. At his first Infrastructure Week-themed event in 2017, he accused James B. Comey, whom he had fired as FBI director, of committing perjury and leaking information to the media. He later proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package without details on how he would get the money. The phrase “Infrastructure Week” became a running joke in Washington.
In November 2021, Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law.
“Instead of a week of infrastructure, America is having a decade of infrastructure,” Biden said Thursday, referring to the work his administration has done.
In a sign of how important Wisconsin will be ahead of the November election, Biden traveled there just three days after Vice President Kamala Harris began a national tour for reproductive rights at an event outside Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a battleground state where his campaign is focused on courting black voters, young voters and any voters who can help him take the state’s 10 electoral votes from Trump.
Although Trump was in court, the Republican National Committee issued a statement criticizing Biden for making the trip and blaming Bidenomics for the economic woes.
“With staggering inflation and negative economic growth“Wisconsinians are feeling the brunt of Joe Biden’s failures,” the group’s president, Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement. “Try as you might, it’s too little, too late to impress the workers and families living paycheck to paycheck thanks to Bidenomics.”
Alan Rappeport contributed reporting from Washington.