Biden takes sales blitz to swing-state Ohio
President Biden traveled to Ohio on Tuesday, the latest stop in a publicity blitz to sell a recently signed $1.9 trillion economic relief package that has been tailored toward the 2022 Senate map, where Democrats will be trying to cling to or build on a narrow majority.
Top administration officials have been dispatched in recent weeks to Pennsylvania, Nevada, Iowa, New Hampshire, Georgia and Florida to discuss the American Rescue Plan. Each of those states has a competitive Senate race on the ballot in 2022. Strategists said presidential travel is often shaped by politics, and the Biden administration’s publicity blitz for the relief package has put that on display even with the midterms 20 months out.
“These are by definition places where there are lots of potentially skeptical and hopefully persuadable Americans,” said Lynda Tran, a founding partner at 270 Strategies. “So it’s super important that the president, the vice president, the first lady and the second gentleman are out there encouraging people to get vaccinated and just to restore their faith that government can and should work for the people.”
A White House official downplayed that the travel to promote the relief law is being specifically plotted out with the 2022 midterm map in mind, pointing to first lady Jill Biden’s stop in New Jersey last week and the vice president’s upcoming travel to Connecticut, both solidly blue states. Officials did acknowledge Biden was making a concerted effort to visit red states to boost the law, however.
“The president has always said he’s going to be a president for people in red states and people in blue states and people who voted for him and people who didn’t vote for him,” the White House official said.
The White House has catered its messaging in each state to highlight how the American Rescue Plan benefits voters there thus far. Second gentleman Doug Emhoff highlighted the aid it provides to farmers during a Monday trip to Iowa, where Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is up for reelection in 2022 and has not yet said whether he will run again.
Vice President Harris emphasized vaccine distribution during a Monday trip to Jacksonville, Fla., a state where Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) are both up for reelection in November 2022.
Biden on Tuesday traveled to Columbus, Ohio. The state has been elusive for Democrats since former President Obama won it in 2012. Biden lost the state to Trump by 8 percentage points in 2020. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is retiring when his term expires after the 2022 elections, and his seat will play a pivotal role in determining control of the Senate after the midterms.
The president’s message while in Columbus was focused on health care, a message timed with the 11-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act. He toured a new cancer center at The Ohio State University campus that received a grant through the ACA in 2010, and he later delivered remarks noting how the relief law would help lower health care costs.
Strategists said the success of the American Rescue Plan, and ensuring the public is aware of its benefits, will be key to Democrats’ success in the midterms, and the White House official said the law will be something the administration continues to talk about beyond the formal “Help is Here” tour to sell the law.
“The American Rescue Plan already has broad bipartisan support from the American people,” the official said. “It’s our job to make sure they know how exactly this plan will make their lives better and ensure they take advantage of the benefits of the package.”