Why Joe Biden Launched an Infrastructure Roadshow

Standing inside the cinder-block walls of the New Hampshire Port Authority in Portsmouth on Tuesday, Joe Biden had just praised the state’s politicians for helping pass last year’s infrastructure bill. Biden was just about to start explaining how the bipartisan legislation invested in ports, bridges and clean water and increased access to the Internet when a child in the crowd let loose a series of screaming sounds.

The President turned to the interrupting infant and joked, “I agree. I agree completely.”

Biden is having trouble navigating the noise in the news media these past months. Rising inflation has cut into American budgets, and the war in Ukraine has filled Biden’s schedule. Allies are concerned that Biden is reacting to news rather than shaping them. Hoping to build some momentum outside Washington, the White House has launched Biden on a road show to key cities around the country to tout his Administration’s investments in infrastructure.

Biden’s political strategists see many global issues that are driving dissatisfaction among voters. They believe Biden lacks the ability to make an impact on these issues. Americans are tired of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Although unemployment is very low, American frustrations about the economy reflect high levels of inflation as well as rising grocery and gas prices. This can be attributed to global supply chain issues and hangovers. Last year Biden signed the infrastructure bill and a nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill, but with Congress blocking the rest of his domestic agenda, Biden allies don’t see much room for any more big things to get done. The President’s circle has felt resigned. “All he can do is keep his head down and keep fighting,” says an advisor close to Biden.

With few other wins to trumpet, the White House’s current strategy leans heavily on Biden’s success six months ago at ushering through the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law in November. Biden has been traveling to Menlo (Iowa) and Greensboro (North Carolina), to spread the word about the law over the last two weeks. Biden also flew to Oregon on Thursday to promote the law to Menlo, Iowa and Greensboro, North Carolina. Federal dollars will be used to refurbish the runway so it can withstand earthquakes.

“The United States is in a position to outcompete the world once again,” Biden said on April 14 during a speech on the campus of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Let’s continue giving working families a fighting chance. Let’s keep investing in the future of this country, of every community.”

The midterm elections in November will be the first major referendum on Biden and the Democrats’ performance holding the White House and control of both chambers of Congress. The current polling data suggests a grim reckoning. Biden’s approval ratings for job performance were consistently around 60% in the first election. But that group has soured most on Biden’s performance in recent months, according to Gallup poll data released April 14. Biden’s approval rating has dropped 21 percentage points among Americans ages 18 to 25, and 19 points with Americans 26 to 41 years old since he took office, according to Gallup. Among all American adults, Biden’s job approval has dropped 14 points from 56% approval when he was elected to 42% in March.

Working to reach those who seem to be losing faith, Biden’s White House this week has promoted the release of U.S. oil reserves as a way to combat rising gas prices. The White House has tried to deflect blame on rising prices at the pump by calling it “Putin’s price hike,” even though gas prices were rising before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his latest invasion of Ukraine. Trying to address frustration among supporters that Biden hasn’t done enough to eliminate student loan debt, Biden’s Department of Education released details this week about how it was expanding the definition of who is eligible for student loan relief. Biden this week also highlighted low unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for veterans in America is now at 2.4%. This compares to 6.5% in 2020.

But those messages haven’t yet shown success in breaking through or lifting his sagging approval ratings. That’s left Biden turning back to a classic Presidential playbook: get out into the country and talk about tangible wins. “America loves to see its Presidents,” says John Anzalone, a Democratic pollster and strategist who advised Biden’s presidential campaign. “What he’s showcasing is very important. If you believe all politics is local, this is important stuff that impacts people’s lives.”

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