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Biden returns to battleground Pennsylvania for the 27th time since taking office selling ‘Bidenomics’

<i>Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>President Joe Biden
Alessandro Rampazzo/AFP/Getty Images
President Joe Biden

By Kevin Liptak and Betsy Klein, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s Thursday trip to a Philadelphia shipyard came at the intersection of key planks of his reelection argument: union jobs, clean energy, and his economic policies – and all in battleground Pennsylvania, where he’s visited 27 times since taking office.

Biden’s economic message is now branded under the name “Bidenomics.” But the push to remind voters of his achievements on infrastructure, jobs and manufacturing has been underway for much of his presidency, particularly in the battlegrounds like Pennsylvania that will decide next year’s election.

Biden pointed to lowering inflation, rising wages, and high job satisfaction as a direct result of his policies: “We got more work to do. But people are coming off the sidelines to work … and folks, it’s not an accident: It’s my economic plan in action. It’s Bidenomics.”

Biden’s Thursday trip was aimed at highlighting where his clean energy agenda intersects with his push for new blue-collar jobs, highlighting private sector engagement the White House says wouldn’t be possible without the administration’s efforts.

At Philly Shipyard, Biden toured the shipyard that will build the Acadia, a ship that will help support offshore wind projects. He also announced the first-ever offshore wind sale in the Gulf of Mexico during a steel-cutting ceremony. He took a stab at his predecessor, who opposed wind energy on dubious grounds.

“Notwithstanding what the other guy said, windmills do not cause cancer,” he said.

His event Thursday underscored the type of jobs he has repeatedly said are a priority: Manufacturing positions that don’t require a college degree.

In focusing on a wind energy facility, Biden argued that transitioning away from carbon-intensive fossil fuels doesn’t have to mean a loss of well-paying jobs – a message he hopes will resonate in places like Pennsylvania, where coal mining has long been a source of employment.

“When I think climate, I think jobs. I think union jobs,” he said.

Pennsylvania has emerged as central to Biden’s strategy of selling his accomplishments to the types of voters he’ll need in order to earn a second term. The state is convenient to Washington, making it easy to schedule day trips to factories, construction sites and shipyards.

It also holds a central place in Biden’s political identity and has plenty of communities of blue-collar workers Biden hopes to win over with his economic agenda.

Biden recently announced he would headquarter his reelection campaign in Wilmington, Delaware, where he moved when he was young and frequently returns to on weekends. The city’s proximity to Pennsylvania has led Biden to claim he was the commonwealth’s “third senator” while serving on Capitol Hill.

Still, despite his frequent returns and hometown credentials, Biden hasn’t found a wellspring of support in Pennsylvania after winning by a narrow margin in 2020.

A Quinnipiac University poll among Pennsylvania registered voters in June found in a hypothetical rematch with former President Donald Trump, Biden and his predecessor were statistically tied – 47% supporting Trump and 46% supporting Biden.

Like in nationwide polls, voters in Pennsylvania rank the economy high on their list of most important issues. But close behind, according to the Quinnipiac Poll, was “preserving democracy,” an issue that’s taken enhanced importance as the special counsel investigation into Trump’s role in the January 6 riot appears to be nearing an indictment.

After a long stretch of economic gloom, there are some indicators that Americans are starting to feel better about the economy.

Consumer sentiment tracked by the University of Michigan rose 13% in July, the second straight month of improvement and the biggest over-month gain since 2006, according to a preliminary reading released Friday morning. The index reached its highest level since September 2021.

Last week, government figures showed US annual inflation slowed to 3% in June, a sharp cooldown from June of last year, when surging energy costs helped inflation spike.

And for the first time in 26 months, US workers’ real weekly earnings (a week’s worth of wages adjusted for inflation) grew on an annual basis last month, according to data released this week from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yet a rash of positive economic signs – which also include a strong job market, solid growth and easing fears of a recession – haven’t yet translated into improved voter sentiment for Biden.

The president still gets mostly negative marks for his handling of the economy, even after beginning the concerted Bidenomics push last month.

A Monmouth University poll released Wednesday, a day ahead of Biden’s visit to Philadelphia, showed Americans split on Biden’s handling of jobs and unemployment: 47% said they approved and 48% disapproved.

Biden scored lower on other economic issues. Fifty-one percent of the poll’s respondents said they disapproved of his handling of transportation and energy infrastructure – despite projects funded by the bipartisan infrastructure law Biden has championed starting to take effect.

And 62% said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of inflation, even as price increases begin to ease.

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