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In Wisconsin, Biden offers preview of 2024 campaign


President Joe Biden talks with people after the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/Pool via REUTERS

Fresh off a State of the Union speech to Congress that challenged opposition Republicans to help unite the country, President Joe Biden embarked on a tour of U.S. states crucial to his expected 2024 re-election bid.

Biden headed to Wisconsin on Wednesday in a revival of U.S. presidents’ tradition of taking their State of the Union message on the road, telling workers at a union training facility that his policies are building “an economy that works for working people.”

Democrats hope Biden can turn the economy – a perceived weakness among some independent voters despite record-setting job creation – into a selling point during the campaign.

The president’s public approval rating was 41% in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll that closed on Sunday, close to the lowest level of his presidency, a possible hurdle to any re-election bid. White House aides have cast doubt on the relevance of the figures more than a year before any ballots are cast.

Biden’s travel will focus heavily on the handful of competitive states that his political aides believe will determine whether he can win a second four-year term.

Wisconsin is a closely contested state that flipped from supporting Republican former President Donald Trump in 2016 to favoring Biden in 2020.

There, Biden also plans a rare interview with a television news channel when he speaks with the PBS “NewsHour.”

On Thursday, Biden heads to Tampa, Florida, to hammer Republican lawmakers on what the White House characterizes as their desire to shrink Social Security and Medicare benefits. The old-age and healthcare programs are popular among voters, especially in a state with one of the largest elderly populations.

Biden doubled down on the criticism on Wednesday even after some Republicans jeered him at the State of the Union for suggesting they wanted to cut benefits. He offered specific examples of Republicans who have proposed across-the-board cuts to government spending programs, threatened to veto such efforts and joked that “it looks like we negotiated a deal last night” because Republicans rose to say they would maintain the programs.

Democratic Party leaders fear that Florida, a political battleground for the better part of seven decades, is slipping out of its grasp entirely.

In Arizona, where Biden in 2020 pulled off Democrats’ first victory in a presidential race in more than two decades, his wife Jill Biden is expected to appear at the Super Bowl on Sunday.

It is not yet clear whether Biden will engage in another presidential tradition of an interview during the game. His spokesperson, Karine Jean-Pierre, declined to comment.

The travel spree will test the endurance of Biden, 80, who will travel more intensively after spending the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic conducting most campaign events from his Wilmington, Delaware, home.

Biden has indicated that he plans to run and an announcement is expected in coming weeks. Tuesday’s speech was widely considered among officials as a test run of the message he will use in his campaign.