Talk of federal indictments, classified documents and anything related to the president’s predecessor are out. Bridge repair, “junk fees” and prescription drug prices are in.
As President Biden ramps up his re-election campaign, his team is focused not on the various investigations into former President Donald J. Trump but rather on spotlighting the ways, however mundane, his administration can assist Americans in their daily lives.
Such was the case when Mr. Biden visited Philadelphia, where a fiery crash last weekend caused part of a highway used by the area’s commuters to collapse, and reviewed the recycled glass product that he said was needed to ensure the highway’s speedy repair. Mr. Biden then had one of his more public-facing campaign rallies to celebrate the endorsements of more than a dozen unions.
“I’m proud to be the most pro-union president in American history,” Mr. Biden told a crowd of people inside the Philadelphia convention center. “But what I’m really proud about is being re-elected the most pro-union president in American history.”
The Pennsylvania visit capped a week that in many ways will serve as a blueprint for the way the White House will proceed as the nation focuses on the various criminal investigations of the former president. While Republican candidates bicker over the case of Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden hopes to showcase his governing. While his opponents attack — or promise to pardon — Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden would rather discuss infrastructure and cracking down on undisclosed fees.
“He doesn’t need to muscle into news stories or make a big splash,” said Matt Bennett, executive vice president for public affairs at Third Way, a centrist Democratic advocacy group. “He needs to underscore what voters like about him and chip away at any doubts about him by doing what he did this week — showing that he’s making progress on things they feel in their daily lives.”
That’s easier said than done. Polls show many Americans are not satisfied with Mr. Biden and his domestic agenda. Just 33 percent of American adults say they approve of Mr. Biden’s handling of the economy, and just 24 percent say national economic conditions are good, according to a poll conducted in May by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Overall, 40 percent said they approved of the job Mr. Biden was doing.
White House officials involved with Mr. Biden’s campaign are betting they can turn the tide not just by hosting traditional rallies, which have been largely absent thus far in his campaign, but also by organizing events showcasing the president’s legislative accomplishments, such as his $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and his separate health, climate and tax law. They are also ramping up hiring of staff members for the Biden campaign and eyeing the opening of a campaign headquarters in Delaware this summer, according to a White House official.
But it may take time for Americans to feel the effect of those policies, making Mr. Biden’s ability to sell his accomplishments even more important.
“I think you’ll see a combination of events like this, supplementing the majority of his work, which will be the more presidential, official-duty side of it,” said Representative Brendan F. Boyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who was at the rally. “It is important we’re communicating our story back home, especially in the biggest battleground state in the nation.”
Before the Pennsylvania event, Mr. Biden met with the secretary general of NATO to continue to rally the West against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which some in the White House view as Mr. Biden’s primary achievement. He then celebrated the Juneteenth holiday with a reception at the White House before holding a round table to detail efforts to crack down on the additional fees commonly levied by travel and entertainment companies. His advisers also planned meetings with environmental activists as well as business and union leaders to emphasize that he had the support of two factions that in the past have been at odds.
And he tried his best to ignore Mr. Trump. The White House is hoping to stay silent on the multiple cases involving the former president to avoid accusations of meddling in Justice Department affairs. But officials within the White House also believe that the best approach is to focus on the daily issues of Americans, in contrast with Republican opponents who are fielding questions about Mr. Trump’s precarious legal situation.
Quentin James, a co-founder of the Collective PAC, an organization dedicated to electing Black officials, said the success of that plan would largely hinge on whether Mr. Biden could effectively translate sprawling legislation into digestible solutions.
“The challenge isn’t so much cutting through the Trump noise; it’s, will words like investments and federal funding actually hit the pockets and pocketbooks of working families,” Mr. James said. “Will these investments mean anything tangible in people’s take-home pay before the election?”
Zolan Kanno-Youngs is a White House correspondent covering a range of domestic and international issues in the Biden White House, including homeland security and extremism. He joined The Times in 2019 as the homeland security correspondent. @KannoYoungs
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