Skip to content

Biden to Wisconsin, Michigan amid mixed signals about prospects there

President tries to keep Rust Belt out of Trump's grip

President Joe Biden speaks with Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., after his State of the Union address March 7.
President Joe Biden speaks with Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa., after his State of the Union address March 7. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Eager to hold onto a pair of key swing states, President Joe Biden this week will continue his post-State of the Union roadshow in Wisconsin and Michigan as he tries to keep them out of Donald Trump’s grip.

Biden has used campaign fundraisers to deliver some of his sharpest critiques of the former president, whom he often in official White House settings has called “my predecessor.” He flashed his usual candor with donors Monday in New Hampshire, saying the presidential election is a battle for the “soul of the country.” 

“He was with Viktor Orban, who talked about democracy being the problem, and telling how much he understood and agreed with him,” Biden said of Trump’s recent meeting with the hard-line prime minister of Hungary, according to a pool reporter allowed inside the event for a few minutes. “Come on. I mean, this is not who we are. And we’ve got to make sure that we communicate that.”

As Biden heads to the upper Midwest on Wednesday and Thursday, there are mixed signals clouding his prospects there. 

The polls show an uphill climb. The latest RealClearPolitics average of several polls put Trump up in Wisconsin by 1 percentage point, and by 3.6 points in Michigan. By comparison, Trump was leading Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point at the same time in 2020, while Biden led him by 5 points in Michigan. Nathan L. Gonzales of Inside Elections on Tuesday shifted the rating for Michigan from “Tilt Democratic” to “Toss-Up.”

But reactions to his State of the Union last week suggest some Democratic members in the Rust Belt region believe he has political coattails. For instance, Jacob Rubashkin, also of Inside Elections, noted on X, formerly Twitter, microphones in the House chamber caught Michigan Democratic Rep. Hillary Scholten and Pennsylvania Democratic Rep. Susan Wild urging Biden to campaign in their districts.

What’s more, Republican presidential primary results in most states so far have shown the GOP electorate engaged in an internal battle, with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley winning 20 percent or better in 14 states, and netting 19 percent in Iowa and 18 percent in Arkansas. Haley was the choice of more than 30 percent of GOP primary voters in eight of those states and the District of Columbia.

Still, there are warning signs for Biden in the states he will visit Wednesday and Thursday. He won Wisconsin by 20,682 votes over Trump in 2020, and took Michigan by 154,188 votes. He has run into trouble in Michigan with its large Arab American population over Israel’s brutal military offensive in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

More than 100,000 Michigan Democrats voted for “uncommitted” in last month’s presidential primary. Biden still won with over 80 percent — but the 13 percent that went for “uncommitted” left some Democrats worrying about November.

The Arab American voting bloc could be key in several swing states in November, especially in Michigan. The groups and their allies have been angry at Biden for his handling of the Israel-Hamas war, including the nearly 30,000 Palestinians who have died thus far inside Gaza, according to a Hamas-run health agency.

The groups far exceeded their 10,000-vote objective in Michigan, which was a nod to 2016, when the state went to Trump by 10,700 votes in the general election when he defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Arab American groups and pro-Palestinian voters sent a signal to the incumbent president: If the race in November is again a photo finish, they have the numbers to possibly prevent a Biden win.

“Most Americans who think Israeli actions were not justified say the United States is at least partly responsible for Israeli military actions in Gaza, and that more Democrats and independents say Israel has gone too far in Gaza, while more Republicans say Israel is simply defending itself,” according to Shibley Telhami of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

As is standard for incumbent presidents, Biden’s two-state trip will be a mix of official White House events and campaign fundraisers.

During an official White House event Wednesday in Milwaukee — which will be followed by a campaign fundraiser — Biden will announce a $36 million federal grant to create a “greener, safer and more welcoming street for the largely Black and Latino populations” around Interstates 94 and 43, an area that was significantly altered by construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1960s, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

The Milwaukee grant is part of a broader $3.3 billion program Biden will announce Wednesday, funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law and 2022 climate, tax and health care law to “reconnect and rebuild communities in more than 40 states, including those that were divided by transportation infrastructure decades ago and have long been overlooked,” according to a White House fact sheet.

New Hampshire, Ohio

The official event-fundraiser format also was used on Monday, when the president traveled to New Hampshire.

Biden’s first stop that day — after delivering remarks at a League of Cities event in Washington, D.C. — was at a YMCA in Goffstown, N.H. He later headlined a campaign event in Manchester, N.H.

In the Granite State, Biden touted his administration’s efforts to slash the costs of insulin for Medicare recipients and to bring down some health care costs. He also repeated a State of the Union theme by proposing tax code changes so major corporations “pay their fair share.”

He also criticized Trump, the likely 2024 GOP presidential nominee, for proposing what Biden described as “another $2 trillion tax cut” for wealthy individuals and corporations. “Well, I’m going to keep fighting like hell to make it fair,” Biden said of the tax code, to applause.

Trump, who has a rally scheduled in Ohio on Saturday ahead of that state’s primary, began his week defending his own proposals and lashing out at Biden during a CNBC interview.

Asked about estimates that his proposals to slap tariffs on foreign-made items would possibly drive up costs for families by $2,000 annually, the former president replied he thinks “taxes could be cut” before defending import fees. He also criticized Biden’s more aggressive State of the Union message and tone.

“I heard a very angry man who’s losing badly in the polls, who’s willing to weaponize government like has never taken place in this country,” Trump said. “I saw a very angry and confused man. I assume he’s going to be the candidate. I think it probably, maybe it was a terrible performance, but I think it was probably good enough to get him over the heap … as to whether or not he’s going to be their nominee.”

Recent Stories

Five races to watch in Pennsylvania primaries on Tuesday

‘You talk too much’— Congressional Hits and Misses

Senators seek changes to spy program reauthorization bill

Editor’s Note: Congress and the coalition-curious

Photos of the week ending April 19, 2024

Rule for emergency aid bill adopted with Democratic support