In his first rally since announcing his reelection campaign nearly two months ago, President Joe Biden went to his happy place: a union event in Philadelphia.
“Folks, it feels good to be home,” Joe Biden told about 2,000 union members Saturday at an endorsement rally in his 13th trip to Philadelphia as president. “I look out in this crowd and I see a lot of old friends, a lot of folks, as they say in Claymont, Delaware, who brung me to the dance.”
Biden has essentially built his political identity around his connection to the labor movement as proof of his focus on middle-class families. He’s also leaned on unions for their organization and mobilization skills in the past. Those in Biden world say this reelection campaign will be no different.
“I’m more honored by your endorsement than you can imagine, coming this early. It’s going to make a gigantic difference in this campaign,” Biden said at the rally.
The campaign event comes just a day after the AFL-CIO endorsed Biden. The president’s address was similar in tone and content as earlier speeches on the economy: touting his reputation as the most “pro-union president in American history,” knocking Republicans for tax cuts and laying out his own economic accomplishments over the last two-and-a-half years.
“We’ve created 13 million new jobs since I became president. The unemployment rate is down to nearly a 50-year low. I’ve seen record lows for Black employment and Hispanic employment as well. We’ve created 800,000 manufacturing jobs,” Biden said. “Inflation has come down 11 months in a row and is going to continue to come down. Today it’s less than half of what it was a year ago. This didn’t just happen. We made it happen.”
But both administration and campaign officials know they still have a tightrope to walk on the economy and acknowledge it’s something they’ve struggled with in the past: touting what they’ve done without seeming out of touch or being accused of painting too rosy of a picture.
And for Democrats, who were getting antsy that the campaign wasn’t kicking into high gear, the event couldn’t come fast enough. It also showcased how the campaign plans to operate for the foreseeable future: keeping a heads-down approach with tentpole events to contrast with what is shaping up to be a chaotic and rhetorically nasty Republican presidential primary.
The rally is also the first of a slate of new campaign activity over the next weeks: Biden will head to California, Maryland and Chicago for big money events, Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been doing most of the heavy lifting for fundraising, will be in New York City, Dallas and Maryland while the first lady is headed to Tennessee and Minnesota.
The events come as it gets closer to the end of the fundraising quarter, where campaigns will have to disclose how much money they have raised. Some Democrats have grumbled that the Biden campaign has yet to release fundraising numbers, giving the sense that the numbers aren’t impressive enough and continuing to fuel the narrative that there’s little excitement on the left for Biden’s reelection.
But those waiting for the Biden reelection shouldn’t hold their breath. Some familiar with the effort said big campaign rallies may not begin in earnest until late this year or early 2024. What’s more likely are events like these tied to particular issues: gun control, abortion and the economy.
“I truly believe this country is about to take off. The investments we’ve made these past three years have the power to transform this country for the next five decades. And guess who’s going to be at the center of the transformation? You. Unions, working people in this country,” Biden said.
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