President Joe Biden went to battleground North Carolina to highlight bipartisan economic competitiveness legislation as a means to counter inflation, but it was a yellow robotic dog named "Spot" that stole the show.
"Spot, I tell you what, be nice to me on the way out," said Biden after being introduced to the four-legged robot, pointing to the journalists traveling with him. "There's a couple of press people I want you to look at."
The president was touring facilities at the Harold L. Martin Sr. Engineering Research and Innovation Complex at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University ahead of more formal remarks on innovation.
"More changes are going to take place in the next 10 years than took place in the past 50 years. Technology's moving so rapidly," he said after the introduction to Spot, who did some showing off for the president by walking around a bit.
EPA Administrator Michael Regan, an alum of North Carolina A&T, was among those introducing Biden in Greensboro.
"To the students here, know that you have education, know that you happen to know that you have the ability, not just to excel, but to be extraordinary," Biden said. "You have everything you need to soar, and the world has never needed you more. So never forget that, yes, indeed, your degree from a historically Black university can take you anywhere, including the White House."
Biden highlighted administration initiatives supporting historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, and efforts to increase access to Pell grants, especially for Black students.
"It's the fastest decline in unemployment to start a president's term that's ever recorded," Biden said, highlighting a decline of more than 30 percent in Black unemployment.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who has opposed much of the rest of the spending agenda of the Biden administration but supported both the bipartisan infrastructure law and a Senate-passed version of the competitiveness bill, was among the Republicans focused on the increasing costs for families caused by high inflation.
"The worst inflation in more than 40 years has been fueled by Congressional Democrats and the Biden-Harris administration recklessly spending and wasting trillions over the last 15 months," Tillis said in a statement Thursday. "President Biden’s only answer to date is blaming everyone else for his decisions and pushing a multi-trillion dollar tax and spending spree that would make inflation even worse."
Biden once again pointed to the effect of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on the rate of inflation, especially when it comes to gas and food prices.
"I grew up in a family where when the price of gasoline went up at the pump, there was a conversation at the kitchen table with my dad. Putin's invasion of Ukraine has driven gas prices and food prices all over the world. Ukraine and Russia — they're the one and two largest wheat producers in the world," Biden said in his formal remarks.
The president used inflation and supply chain issues, as well as national security considerations, in touting the importance of the innovation act moving from a conference committee to becoming law: "So Congress, get this bipartisan bill to my desk."
"The United States of America used to be ranked No. 1 in the world in investing in the future. Now we're ranked No. 9, No. 9 in research and development," he said. "China was No. 8 three decades ago, now it's No. 2. Other countries are closing in fast. We can and we must change that, not by hurting other countries, but by developing ourselves."
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, however, echoed conservative opinion-makers in a statement issues shortly after Biden wrapped up, alleging the president and other Democrats do not feel Americans' economic pain.
“Families in North Carolina and across the country are struggling to keep up with skyrocketing inflation, falling real wages, and Biden’s gas hike," McDaniel said, appearing to absolve Putin of any role in driving up fuel prices. "Joe Biden’s empty rhetoric and broken promises prove just how little he and Democrats care."