President Biden traveled to New Hampshire Tuesday to make the case that new spending in the bipartisan infrastructure law will create jobs and reduce costs on consumers at a time when Americans are reeling from inflation.
Mr. Biden said billions of dollars are going toward upgrading the nation’s port infrastructure, including to dredge Portsmouth Harbor, a critical way station for home heating oil, fiber optic cables and rock gypsum, which is used to produce drywall.
“Without that dredging project, the port might need more restrictions on what ships can and cannot do to pass through this harbor,” Mr. Biden said in Portsmouth. “Instead of turning away business, we are sending a message that this port is open for business and will be for a long time, and we are sending the same message with our investments in roads and bridges here in New Hampshire.”
Mr. Biden also took a shot at former President Donald Trump.
“The last fella who had this job kept talking about infrastructure week for four years. We have an infrastructure decade,” Mr. Biden said. “Folks, this matters.”
The trip doubled as a chance for Mr. Biden, whose job-approval rating has hit a new low, to assure voters he is doing all he can to address rising inflation. He blamed soaring costs on coronavirus-related supply chain issues and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.
“Not a joke: Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up gas prices and food prices all over the world,” he said.
Mr. Biden has been ramping up his travel schedule in an attempt to draw attention away from his lagging poll numbers and inflation, and toward the port, road, bridge and rail projects that are set to benefit from the new infrastructure spending.
His visit in the nation’s first primary state follows recent stops in Iowa and North Carolina, and comes ahead of a scheduled trip this week to Oregon and Washington state.
Mr. Biden is hoping the trips will help to instill more public confidence in his administration and strengthen vulnerable Democrats, including New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, facing tough reelection battles this fall.
Republicans, though, said Mr. Biden is running from reality and cannot protect the likes of Ms. Hassan and Democratic Rep. Chris Pappas in the midterms.
“Joe Biden can run from his dismal poll numbers, but he can’t hide – Americans know he is responsible for skyrocketing prices and the crisis at the southern border,” said Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee. “Crisis after crisis, Democrats like Chris Pappas and Maggie Hassan have stood with Biden’s disastrous agenda.”
“Come November, Granite State voters will hold Biden and Democrats accountable for the harm they have caused the American people,” she said.
Mr. Biden has scored political wins that range from the passage of the coronavirus relief package to the infrastructure deal and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Still, it has been hard for the president’s message to break through the Russia-Ukraine war, the unprecedented chaos at the U.S.-Mexico border and inflation.
Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Mr. Biden faces an uphill battle on the messaging front.
“People like bridges and tunnels and ports and all of that, but compared to inflation, which is hitting people every time they go to fill up their car or go to the grocery stores — it just pales in comparison,” Mr. Scala said. “Sure, people understand that these kinds of investments will help down the road, but they are more concerned about the stretch of road they are on right now and they are not happy with it.”
“I think inflation, in particular, makes people take a very short-term view of things,” he said.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Mr. Biden‘s approval rating went underwater in August 2021, and that by a 52% to 41% margin voters disapprove of his performance.
It is a similar story in New Hampshire.
A Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll released last month showed Mr. Biden had a 43%-57% negative job approval rating. Ms. Hassan, who is one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for reelection, was slightly better, coming in at 46%-49%.
Looking to regain his political footing, Mr. Biden said Tuesday the federal government must do more to lower the costs families are facing in other areas of their lives, including when it comes to prescription drugs and utility bills.
“I’m so tired of trickle-down economics,” Mr. Biden said. “An awful lot of people are hurting.”