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Biden getting air cover as he seeks more time away from DC to sell first-year achievements

President battling lowest approval at the end of the first year, other than Trump

President Joe Biden met with members of his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force on Thursday.
President Joe Biden met with members of his Infrastructure Implementation Task Force on Thursday. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden is eager to spend more time away from the White House as his administration enters its second year, and a lot of that will be an effort to sell the parts of his agenda that actually did get enacted into law in Year One.

And supporters of the president are taking to the airwaves in support of that message.

In one new ad campaign shared first with CQ Roll Call, Building Back Together, a nonprofit group backing the president’s policy agenda, is spending $1.5 million across a variety of platforms to tout the administration’s first year achievements.

The spending includes TV and radio spots, as well as billboards and both digital and print ads, according to a release from the group. In particular, Building Back Together is seeking to reach an array of audiences, including Black, Latino and AAPI voters.

“From taking on the pandemic and jumpstarting the economic recovery, to proving that government can work for the people by passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and American Rescue Plan, we’re wasting no time in 2022 to communicate to Americans across the country about the enormous successes of the Biden-Harris Administration,” executive director Danielle Melfi said in a statement.

The ads are scheduled to run in several languages, including English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hindi and Korean.

Biden said during his extended news conference Wednesday that he wanted to spend more time away from Washington, after a year in which some travel was curtailed both by the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision to be around for a series of legislative negotiations.

“I’m going to be out on the road a lot, making the case around the country, with my colleagues who are up for reelection and others, making the case of what we did do and what we want to do, what we need to do,” the president said. “And so, I don’t think I’ve overpromised at all.  And I’m going to stay on this track.”

On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the president would continue to engage with members of Congress, including phone calls with lawmakers he has known for a long time, but she also anticipated more Air Force One invites. She said Biden was expressing publicly a desire to spend more time on the road, which he has also made clear to his team.

“I think what you heard him say a lot last night is reflective of what he’s been telling us for some time now, which is that he wants to do a lot more of that. What that looks like on the schedule, we’re still determining that, but it certainly means you’ll see him out on the road more,” Psaki told reporters.

Getting out of D.C. more may mean more leaning on the “talented, experienced legislative team” for day-to-day interactions with Congress, the press secretary said.

With the midterm election approaching, the president’s approval rating is sitting at 43 percent, according to a new NBC News poll, which the pollsters said was the lowest other than President Donald Trump at the end of a first year in office.

Democrats are picking up the president’s message from Wednesday that heading into the midterms they should be asking what policies the Republicans are for, even as GOP leaders suggest the upcoming elections will effectively be a referendum on the Biden administration.

“Joe Biden came into office and he promised he was going to unite the country. He said he was going to put COVID behind us. So what happened? The country is massively divided as a result of President Biden and he’s left behind all of the major issues that the American people care about,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso, R-Wyo., said Thursday.

Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell is among the Democratic lawmakers saying Democrats should be highlighting the extent of GOP opposition to Biden’s priorities, including his successes like the bipartisan infrastructure deal that had minimal Republican support in the House, and for which Republicans are touting the benefits of to their constituents.

“Most of the Republicans in our delegation did not vote for the infrastructure bill. They did not support fixing our roads and bridges. They did not support getting high speed internet to our communities. They did not support getting the lead out of water,” Dingell said on a conference call with reporters. “And we have every intention about defining what the issues are and what is at stake as we go into this election.”

Brooke Goren, the Democratic National Committee’s states communications director, pointed to a similar emphasis.

“Over the last year, President Biden, Vice President Harris and Democrats in Congress have delivered historic wins for working families, from shots in arms to getting people back to work to passing job-creating legislation that will rebuild our crumbling infrastructure,” Goren said in a statement. “We look forward to spending the next 10 months drawing the contrast for voters between our strong record and Republicans’ failure to articulate any meaningful agenda.”

House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana said Thursday that the House GOP did plan to unveil an alternative agenda.

Scalise said the House Republican plans would focus on, “How to restore freedom, how to restore opportunity, how to restore hope for people who have given up.”

“That’s what we stand for. That’s what we’re going to be fighting for. And we’re going to be rolling that agenda out,” Scalise said at a news conference.

Republicans and Democrats will be making opposite cases about the effects of the first reconciliation law, dubbed the American Rescue Plan, with members of the GOP eager to decry much of that spending and its inflationary effects.

But Democrats like Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, an early Biden supporter, told CQ Roll Call about the importance of those relief dollars, as well as the effort to get the COVID-19 vaccines that were largely developed during Trump’s administration actually to become shots in arms.

“If you look at the nation, overall, reducing child poverty by 40 percent is a huge accomplishment that no one thought was possible. That includes reducing poverty for 2.2 million Pennsylvania children, and getting direct help to people that needed to help especially in a pandemic,” Casey said. “And then I haven’t even mentioned the infrastructure dollars, which are coming to Pennsylvania and so many other states.”

The Pennsylvania senator said it will not just be visits by the president that he and other Democratic lawmakers should be looking forward to, but also members of the Cabinet when they have specific funding announcements for local projects.

“It’s even better when they’re coming, not just to make a presentation or talk about an issue, that alone would be helpful, but when they’re coming, and they’re able to report what’s being delivered, what’s happening,” Casey said. “And that usually means an injection of resources into a community that badly needs it. So that’s of great benefit to us, and I think people appreciate it.”

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