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Biden turns his focus to governors ahead of midterm elections

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

President Joe Biden on Wednesday is turning his focus to making new commitments to elect more Democratic governors, a Biden adviser told CNN, following on his pledge to be deeply involved in this year’s midterm elections.

Democrats are defending 16 governors’ seats and Republicans are defending 20. Not all of these races will be competitive, but many Democrats are in difficult positions heading into campaign season because the President’s approval rating has taken a significant hit in recent months.

Biden will provide funding through the Democratic National Committee for communications staff for gubernatorial races in Connecticut, Maryland, Kansas and New Mexico. All these states have Democratic governors up for reelection except Maryland, which is led by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The President is also pledging to headline a fundraising event for the Democratic Governors Association and have his signature appear on quarterly email and text messages to supporters.

Much of the focus in midterm election years tends to be on the congressional races and which party will control Congress. But with 36 states electing governors this year, these state-level races could have enormous implications for Americans in their day-to-day lives.

Governors have been on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic, making decisions about health policies in their states, including on mask mandates. The states’ chief executives also have the power to approve or veto election law changes, including legislation currently being pushed by Republicans in some statehouses to make it more difficult for Americans to vote.

These election laws could have implications for the 2024 election, and the DNC says it is spending $25 million on efforts to protect the right to vote.

Many of the governors’ races this year are happening in states that are key to winning back the White House in 2024, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Georgia and Nevada, the Biden adviser noted. The adviser said the White House is focused on building up the campaigning infrastructure in those states now, and that the President would be hitting the road for Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates across the country. The adviser also stressed the importance of having partners leading states as the nation works to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and contain the virus.

“This investment will help the DGA hold our seven-year record of defending incumbents, protect our three open seats and expand our map in November to build on this progress. Democratic governors are integral to the success of our party and the future of our country, and we look forward to this partnership to ensure we can support them through November and beyond,” DGA Executive Director Noam Lee told CNN.

Lee said: “Democratic governors have been the strongest line of defense for Democratic priorities across the country. Because of our 23 Democratic governors, affordable health care is more accessible, voting rights are stronger, women’s reproductive rights are protected, we are combating climate change and our economy is growing. Democratic governors are moving this country forward at the state and national level.”

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison told CNN, “We need partners in the states that are committed to addressing Covid, creating new jobs, investing in infrastructure, securing voting rights and protecting the climate for generations to come.”

“That’s why we are committed to helping the DGA continue to successfully protect our incumbent governors and make sure we add even more governors to their ranks. We have already made this commitment clear with unprecedented investments last year and plan to keep our foot on the gas with key commitments that will help our governors compete across the board in the upcoming midterm elections,” Harrison continued.

These efforts come as the White House and Democratic leadership make moves to protect their majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Whether Democrats continue to control Congress after 2022 will dictate how much of Biden’s agenda he can get enacted. The DNC says it is spending $20 million in battleground states, voter protection efforts, data and tech infrastructure and state party building.

Biden said at a news conference last month he would be “deeply involved” in the midterm elections.

“Scores of them have already asked me to come in and campaign with them, to go out and make the case in plain, simple language as to what it is we’ve done, what we want to do, and why we think it’s important,” Biden told reporters.

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