Inflation, China competition bill will headline Biden’s stop in battleground North Carolina

President’s disapproval rating in Tar Heel State is 53 percent, according to a High Point University poll

President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a visit to POET Bioprocessing in Menlo, Iowa, on Tuesday. He will be in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden speaks to guests during a visit to POET Bioprocessing in Menlo, Iowa, on Tuesday. He will be in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Posted April 13, 2022 at 5:59pm

President Joe Biden will continue his travels to promote efforts to combat inflation with a visit to Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday to urge congressional action to finalize work on a bipartisan competitiveness bill as Democrats seek to hold both chambers of Congress.

The president plans to tour the Harold L. Martin Sr. engineering research and innovation complex at North Carolina A&T State University, a historically Black institution.

“Throughout his visit, the president will highlight the domestic manufacturing strategy and regional investments in areas such as advanced manufacturing and clean technology. He will discuss how Greensboro’s economy and educational institutions are reinventing themselves for … 21st-century industries and will benefit from the package of the Bipartisan Innovation Act,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.

Congress is convening a rare formal conference committee to work out differences in House- and Senate-passed versions of the sprawling legislation, which has gone by various names in both chambers over the past year. Among the objectives are improving supply chains for essential products and better competing with China in technological innovation.

Psaki indicated Wednesday that the president will likely focus on how the bill could help rein in inflation, which remains perhaps the dominant political issue and Democrats’ biggest challenge with voters, with a little less than seven months to go until November’s midterm elections.

Improving American innovation and manufacturing “means stronger supply chains, more manufacturing jobs and lower prices for consumers as we break up the bottlenecks like semiconductor chips that have driven inflation over the last year,” Psaki added.

Rep. Deborah K. Ross, who represents the Tar Heel State’s neighboring 2nd District and will join Biden on Thursday, said she expects him to address high prices and to try to assuage anxieties around the pandemic and rising prices. She said the competitiveness measure would address immediate issues, “most of which are clearly not the making of this administration.”

“We need to diversify where we get important components for things that we use every day, and that includes a component of domestic manufacturing,” she said, pointing to microchips. “I don’t think in a global economy we can produce everything here and stop having trading with other people, but we can identify things that strategically we should be producing here so that we can have a diversity of suppliers.”

Former President Donald Trump carried the state in 2020 by 1.2 percent in 2020, but Gov. Roy Cooper is a Democrat and the state will have several closely watched House races.

Trump held a rally in North Carolina on Saturday to tout his endorsements of Republican candidates, including Rep. Ted Budd for the Senate seat that is being opened by the retirement of GOP Sen. Richard M. Burr.

Ahead of Biden’s trip to North Carolina, the Democratic National Committee launched a new set of digital ads focused on tax proposals from Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who is the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. One of those ads is targeted to North Carolina voters, with a focus on the state’s Senate campaign.

Biden’s trip to the state comes after a High Point University poll released last week showed a 35 percent approval rating in the state, with 53 percent of North Carolinians saying they disapprove of his job performance.

Still, Democrats say voters don’t know enough about a COVID-19 relief package they passed last year that they contend has helped people, as well as other steps their party has taken to lower costs. Most recently, Biden announced a plan to allow the summer sale of E15 gasoline, a higher-ethanol blend that could ease prices at the pump. The Democrat-controlled House on March 31 passed legislation aimed at reducing the cost of insulin, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats on the final vote.

“I’m hoping that he restores confidence in the American people, shares with them a vision for some short-term solutions, but ultimately lets them know that things are going to be better,” Ross said.

Democrats also argue that the trip can draw a comparison with Republicans, including Trump’s visit last week and the brawl among Republican candidates for the Senate nomination, which has been more tame on their side.

“President Biden’s visit to Greensboro serves as a reminder that Democrats are working around the clock to lower costs and deliver wins for North Carolina families,” said Ellie Dougherty, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party. “Meanwhile, Republicans are calling inflation a ‘gold mine,’ voting against legislation to bring down insulin prices, and proposing tax plans to raise taxes on nearly 40 percent of North Carolinians.”

The North Carolina Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment about the president’s stop in Greensboro.