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Biden touts building economy for ‘forgotten’ Americans

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US President Joe Biden touts a plan to rebuild the blue collar economy in the United States during a visit to Wisconsin./AFP
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Feb 09, 2023 - 02:19 AM

DEFOREST, UNITED STATES — US President Joe Biden hit the road Wednesday in Wisconsin, touting his plan to rebuild the blue-collar economy a day after a rousing State of the Union speech that reinforced expectations the 80-year-old will declare he’s seeking a second term.

Biden hasn’t yet announced a reelection bid and given his age, many — even from his own party — feel he should step aside in 2024.

Asked about running in an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, he said he had yet to decide.

“I haven’t made that decision,” he said. “That’s my intention, I think, but I haven’t made that decision firmly yet.”

But his Tuesday night address to Congress laid out what amounted to a campaign platform, which he returned to during a visit with union labor apprentices in DeForest, a small town in Wisconsin — the crucial swing state that Biden narrowly won in 2020.

“For decades, the backbone of America, the middle class, has been hollowed out. It’s been hollowed out. Good paying manufacturing jobs moved (to) overseas production because it was cheaper,” Biden told the workers, who wore hard hats and high-visibility safety vests.

“Now we’re going to turn that around, we’re building an economy where no one’s going to be left behind. My economic plan is about investing in places, people that have been forgotten,” he said at the union training center.

It’s a message he’ll repeat on Thursday on a trip to the increasingly Republican stronghold of Florida.

And it’s a message he hammered, over and over, during his State of the Union before a packed chamber on Capitol Hill and a television audience of millions.

Casting himself as a centrist in an era where partisan politics has become something of a blood sport, his sunny optimism, complete with jokes and frequent pauses to smile, contrasted strongly with aggressive jeering from the ranks of Republican lawmakers.

On multiple occasions, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the Republican heading the party’s narrow new majority in the House of Representatives, stood to applaud Biden — and appeared to try to quiet his more radical members.

But the raucous far-right wing that effectively has a stranglehold on the party’s congressional leadership broke with convention to hurl boos and insults.

Biden emphasizes contrast 

“Liar!” erupted Representative Marjorie Taylor Green, a conspiracy-theory peddling acolyte of Donald Trump, the man Biden defeated in 2020 and who has already opened a bid to stage a rematch and win back the White House in 2024.

The Biden team quickly sought to profit from the Republicans’ behavior, seeing it as a way to highlight the president’s message of normalcy and seriousness that worked against Trump in 2020 — and which Biden evidently hopes to use again in a reelection bid.

Biden spokesman Ian Sams went on Fox News — the network that was crucial to Trump’s rise — to castigate Republicans in Congress for holding a hearing Wednesday on their allegations that Twitter and the Democrats colluded to suppress damaging news about the president’s son, Hunter, during the 2020 campaign.

The hearing, Sams said, showed Republicans out of touch, staging a “bizarre political stunt” while Biden addressed “Americans’ top priorities like tackling inflation, raising wages, and investing in manufacturing and infrastructure jobs.”

Tuesday’s speech, clocking in at 72 minutes, was remarkable for the granular focus on kitchen table issues, rather than soaring rhetoric or foreign affairs.

The first mention of Ukraine, which Biden vowed would get US support against Russia for “as long as it takes,” came nearly an hour in. And China — which Biden warned would face a US response whenever it “threatens our sovereignty,” as in last week’s shooting down of an intruding high-tech Chinese balloon — came even later.

The Republican rebuttal was jarring for its different tone, choosing to focus on culture war issues that have inflamed the right and currently look set to dominate the party’s 2024 agenda.

Speaking for the Republicans, Arkansas governor and former Trump White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders lashed out at the “radical left” and what she said was an attack against the “freedom and peace” of patriotic Americans.

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