- The Washington Times - Friday, January 27, 2023

President Biden on Monday will open a series of visits to Democratic strongholds to highlight his accomplishments, rally the party faithful and attempt to change the subject from the scandal of his mishandling of classified documents.

Mr. Biden will travel to Baltimore on Monday and New York on Tuesday to tout infrastructure projects. On Friday, Mr. Biden will join Vice President Kamala Harris in Philadelphia for a joint appearance at the Democratic National Committee winter meetings.

The president will also attend fundraisers with wealthy Democratic donors in New York and Philadelphia.

“This is a deliberate and smart move,” said Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “He has no choice but to do that. He’s building a campaign for 2024 and the way to do that is to strengthen his base and create positive noise in friendly cities.”

Republican strategist Jimmy Keady sees it differently. He says Mr. Biden is trying to stay in his party’s good graces as his poll numbers drop and he faces criticism from Democrats over the classified documents mess.

“This is a fundraising tour,” Mr. Keady said. “He’s had a tough week and there are rumblings from Democrats and Biden‘s trying to make them some money. All Biden can really do for Democrats is raise money because he’s been an ineffective president.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre disputed that Mr. Biden is visiting the cities because they are Democratic bastions. She pointed to his trip earlier this month to Kentucky, a state he did not carry in the 2020 election. 

“He is the president for everyone and you see that in these pieces of legislation because they will benefit people in New York, they will benefit people in New Jersey, they will benefit people in Kentucky and Ohio — urban, rural, red states, blue states,” she said. 

Mr. Biden has not announced that he is running for reelection, but he is expected to make it official around the same time as his State of the Union speech on Feb. 7.

The president’s approval ratings remain uncomfortably low at 41% in a Gallup Poll this week. While that’s an improvement from his 37.5% in July, it’s still the lowest second-year approval rating of any president except former President Donald Trump. Some polls show that Mr. Biden‘s approval rating has dropped slightly since Obama-era classified documents were found at his home and former office.

The discovery that Mr. Biden was storing government secrets spurred Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint Robert Hur as a special counsel to investigate the matter. Congressional Republicans have also launched an investigation.

It has also sparked criticism from within Mr. Biden‘s Democratic Party, with Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard Durbin of Illinois calling it “outrageous” and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia saying the president should have “a lot of regrets.”

Mr. Biden is in a standoff with House Republicans over raising the U.S. debt ceiling and the global economy is facing a bumpy 2023 as the war in Ukraine drags on, Pakistan faces a debt crisis and exports slow from Asian countries.

The White House recently announced it will send M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, but acknowledged that the vehicles may not arrive for 12 months — a tacit admission that the war isn’t ending in the near future.

The events in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia give Mr. Biden a chance to redirect Americans’ focus away from the story of the classified documents and cast himself as a defender of the middle class while savaging Republican economic proposals.

The first stop in Baltimore will focus on how funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law will replace the 150-year-old Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel. The Civil War-era railroad tunnel is a massive bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and New Jersey.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden will travel to New York and talk about how the law will help build the Hudson River Tunnel project, a series of rail lines that will connect New York City and North Jersey.

Mr. Biden signed the $1 trillion funding package into law in November 2021.

In Philadelphia, the president will give a speech touting the successes of his administration.

At the fundraisers in New York and Philadelphia, Democrats are hopeful wealthy donors will pay to mingle with Mr. Biden as they seek to build a billion-dollar war chest. The 2024 presidential campaign is expected to be the most expensive in history.

In 2020, Mr. Biden became the first presidential candidate to raise over $1 billion. In 2024, Democrats will not only need help to protect the White House but also to defend Senate seats in Ohio, West Virginia, Arizona and Montana.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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