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Biden touts (real and figurative) bridge over troubled US

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US President Joe Biden has not yet announced his re-election bid but a visit to a bridge will lay out his platform./AFP
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Jan 04, 2023 - 10:44 AM

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden has yet to formally announce his re-election bid, but a trip to Kentucky on Wednesday will neatly encapsulate the expected pitch: a Democratic president building bridges — literal and figurative — at a time when Republicans can’t even agree among themselves.

Biden will cut a relatively serene figure when he flies into Covington, Kentucky, leaving behind the mess of a right-wing rebellion in Republican ranks as the opposition party takes over the House of Representatives and struggles to agree on a speaker.

The Democrat is not just visiting enemy political territory. He will be spending the day with the most senior Republican senator, Mitch McConnell — a gesture near unheard of in today’s super-partisan Washington politics.

The reason for their get-together has the kind of symbolism that would not look out of place in a political love story: celebrating the $1.6 billion replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge — funded in a historic infrastructure spending package that passed with rare Republican support.

McConnell is despised by more liberal Democrats, but his work in getting those Republican votes to join the other side in the Senate showed that bipartisanship is not entirely dead.

And that is fuel for Biden’s message that as a veteran former senator and natural centrist he remains the right leader for a country driven to extremes by Donald Trump and his current congressional acolytes.

That message got Biden elected in 2020 and will be at the center of a re-election campaign if he does run — something he is widely expected to announce in the coming weeks.

Bridge over troubled country 

Asked about the Kentucky trip, Biden played down the aspect of his frenemy relationship with McConnell.

“Everybody is talking about how significant it is. It has nothing to do about our relationship,” Biden said this week.

He is well aware, though, of the power in reaching out publicly to someone he has debated across the aisle over a decades-long career. As he said at another event they both attended in February, “Mitch, I don’t want to hurt your reputation, but we really are friends.”

As for the bridge, that and other big projects sprouting around the country thanks to the infrastructure package, will be exhibit number one in the expected re-election effort.

Biden wants Americans to see him as a president who gets things done.

“It’s a giant bridge, man. It’s a lot of money,” he said, when asked why he was visiting Covington.

And bridges, of course, cross divides.

“When we think about infrastructure, it is connecting communities,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

“He was clear on the campaign trail that… he’s willing to work with Republicans who are willing to continue to deliver for the American people,” she said. “It can highlight that we do big, profound things for the country when we work together.”

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