SUPERIOR, Wis. — President Joe Biden on Wednesday used an aging bridge spanning a corner of iced-over Lake Superior to promote billions of dollars that will flow to communities across the U.S. in coming years to fix roads, bridges and other infrastructure, a day after highlighting the spending in his State of the Union address.
Biden is trying to regain his political footing by rallying support for his domestic agenda even as he confronts the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When he stepped out of his motorcade with first lady Jill Biden, they shook hands with workers in hard hats and neon vests.
The John A. Blatnik Memorial Bridge, which connects Wisconsin and Minnesota, is too old to support large trucks, undermining its ability to serve as an economic lifeline in the region. Wisconsin is also a crucial political battleground that helped secure Biden’s presidential victory.
Vice President Kamala Harris and other top Biden administration officials also fanned out across the country as part of the customary post-State of the Union blitz, with each calibrated for maximum political impact as Democrats try to build momentum ahead of November’s midterm elections.
Harris was in North Carolina, a swing state that remained out of reach for Democrats in the last election, to visit an apprentice training program for union electrical workers. She was joined by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, one of several Cabinet officials who were traveling on Wednesday.
One of the most notable trips was made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who rarely makes appearances with political undertones. She touched down in Chicago, where she was expected to speak at the University of Illinois’ campus in the city.
Biden’s proposals to expand educational opportunities, enact financial incentives for fighting climate change and limit the cost of prescription drugs failed to advance in Congress last year.
Although many of his goals remain the same this year, Biden appears to be rebranding his initiatives. He didn’t use the phrase “Build Back Better,” the name of his stalled legislation, in his State of the Union address, and the White House said Biden would be talking about “Building a Better America” on Wednesday.
He’s also looking to salvage his sagging approval ratings and lift Democrats’ spirits as they try to limit their losses in November, when Republicans are poised to retake control of Congress. The White House has said that Biden plans to spend more time traveling this year to promote his administration’s plans.
“He’s got to take his message above and beyond the national press, and the chattering class of the northeastern corridor,” said Cornell Belcher, a Democratic pollster. “He’s got to hit the local television networks, he’s got to get into the local paper.”
Belcher encouraged Biden to take a page from President Ronald Reagan, who promised “morning in America,” at a time when polls show voters are pessimistic about the future.
“He’s got to be cheerleader in chief,” he said. “He’s got to make Americans feel better.”
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