Fresh off a State of the Union speech to Congress that challenged opposition Republicans to help unite the country, President Joe Biden heads to two U.S. states crucial to his expected 2024 re-election bid.
The Democratic president told Republicans in Congress who have questioned his legitimacy and threatened to block his policies that “there’s no reason we can’t work together.”
Now, reviving a tradition of U.S. presidents a day after the big speech, he is taking the message on the road, with stops in Wisconsin and Florida in the coming days, while his wife Jill Biden attends the NFL Super Bowl in Arizona.
Biden’s travel this week will focus on the handful of competitive states that his political aides believe will determine whether he can win a second four-year term.
The president’s public approval rating was 41% in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll that closed on Sunday, close to the lowest level of his presidency, a possible hurdle to any re-election bid. White House aides have cast doubt on the relevance of the figures more than a year before any ballots are cast.
Biden travels first on Wednesday to DeForest in Wisconsin, a state that flipped from supporting Republican former President Donald Trump in 2016 to favoring Biden in 2020.
There, Biden is expected to laud the economic progress he touted in his State of the Union speech on the strength of the U.S. labor market. Democrats hope Biden can turn the economy – a perceived weakness among some independent voters despite record-setting job creation – into a selling point during the campaign.
Biden also plans a rare interview with a television news channel when he speaks with the PBS “NewsHour” on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Biden heads to Tampa, Florida, to hammer Republican lawmakers on what the White House characterizes as their desire to shrink Social Security and Medicare benefits. The old-age and healthcare programs are popular among voters, especially in a state with one of the largest elderly populations.
Democratic Party leaders fear that Florida, a political battleground for the better part of 70 years, is slipping out of its grasp entirely.
In Arizona, where Biden in 2020 pulled off Democrats’ first victory in a presidential race in more than two decades, Jill Biden is expected to appear at the Super Bowl on Sunday.
The travel spree will test the endurance of Biden, 80, who will travel more intensively after spending the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic conducting most campaign events from his Wilmington, Delaware, home.
Biden has indicated that he plans to run and an announcement is expected in coming weeks. Tuesday’s speech was widely considered among officials as a test run of the message he will use in his campaign.