President Biden and Vice President Harris are off to Philadelphia on Friday, a rare joint trip for the two leaders that will be a mix of the White House showing off its work and looking ahead to 2024.
Also on display will be how Biden and Harris sharpen their campaign message ahead of an expected re-election announcement this spring.
“It feels like it’s that time where you begin to present to your party, your partisans, and then to the broader public this sense of, ‘We are joined together, this is the team that you saw fit to elect, here’s what we accomplished together, and here’s what the future is intended to look like,’” said Patrick Gaspard, president of the Center for American Progress, an influential left-leaning think tank.
Biden and Harris haven’t traveled together since before the midterm elections, when they also went to Philadelphia to campaign for now Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.). Otherwise, it’s an uncommon occurrence for the two to travel alongside one another. Before the Fetterman event, Biden and Harris had not appeared together for an event outside of Washington, D.C. since January 2022.
Their first stop on Friday will be to deliver remarks about the economy the same day the Labor Department will release its January jobs report. The two will then participate in a Democratic National Committee reception and deliver remarks at the DNC Winter Meeting.
David Thomas, former deputy director of legislative affairs for former Vice President Al Gore said seeing Biden and Harris together “reinforces that they are a ticket.”
“People like to see the president and VP together. There’s comfort in knowing that they work together well and they have a good relationship,” Thomas said.
Biden and Harris have struggled at times with a cool reception by Democrats, many of whom distanced themselves from Biden ahead of the midterms and avoided directly answering whether they wanted to see him run for re-election. And last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared to take a jab at Harris by suggesting that she’d support Biden running again but that she would “defer” to what makes Biden “comfortable” when choosing his running mate.
Reports have also surfaced about animosity between Biden and Harris’ teams over the last year, including one in which White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield blamed tensions on the vice president herself.
But since the better-than-expected midterms in which Democrats gained a Senate seat and lost the House by fewer seats than anticipated, the administration has been focused on touting its wins.
Some Democrats say that Biden and Harris have been running since November for a second term, even if not officially.
“The future is here, but not everyone has caught up. The dynamic duo presided over the most successful first two years legislatively and politically in a generation,” said Ivan Zapien, a lobbyist and former DNC official. “Might be news to some, but catch up—they have been running since about 2 a.m. after the midterms.”
The trip comes just a week before the president will deliver his State of the Union address, around the time he is also expected to indicate if he will officially run for a second term.
Biden’s now-former chief of staff Ron Klain squashed any lingering skepticism over whether the president will seek another term when he said at a chief of staff transition event on Wednesday that he looks forward to being by Biden’s side when he runs in 2024.
The uptick in travel, which is expected to continue after the State of the Union, reflects how the White House is honing its pitch to the American public about its ability to deliver tangible results over the past two years in the form of new jobs and improved railways and roadways. That message will likely form the backbone of Biden’s eventual re-election campaign.
Biden has traveled to Kentucky, Maryland and New York recently to tout infrastructure projects funded through a bill he signed in 2021, and he’ll do the same in Philadelphia, a city that will be key to his ability to hold Pennsylvania in a re-election bid.
Much of the president’s messaging will also focus on the economy, which the White House has spent the better part of a year struggling with amid record-setting inflation and historically high gas prices. The Friday jobs report will come after the 2022 jobs report showed U.S. employment growth slowing under the weight of higher interest rates and stubborn inflation, but not enough to derail a historically strong labor market.
“Every presidential election is about the economy now. This one won’t be an exception. Economic winds continue to improve, inflation drops, we’re sort of back after a pretty rough go of it for six years. And so, he’s going to want to tout the economy a lot,” said Thomas, now a Democratic strategist at Mehlman Consulting.
In New York earlier this week, Biden traveled solo to New York City to discuss infrastructure and also attended a DNC fundraiser, during which he talked about what Democrats need to do to succeed in future elections.
“[T]here’s two things that I think we have to run on: what we stand for, what we did, and what we need to do more of,” the president said.
And, he echoed comments from during the midterm campaign, saying “this is not your father’s Republican Party.” While he called Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whom he met with in-person on Wednesday, a “decent man,” he said that concessions he made to hardline Republicans to become speaker are “are just absolutely off the wall.”
The president and vice president’s decision to head to Philadelphia is also consistent with Biden’s travel since the 2020 campaign.
Biden typically has traveled to Philadelphia for big events, whether for a speech on democracy or for a campaign rally. The president also considers Philadelphia a second home and his wife, Philadelphia-native first lady Jill Biden, has been donning Eagles gear ahead of the Super Bowl later this month.
And, political watchers note how pivotal it is for the president to focus on the Keystone State.
“Pennsylvania remains the critical swing state in the country here. I feel like it is sort of taking the place of say, Florida in the past decade or maybe Ohio before that,” Thomas said. “It’s the state that if you want to be president, you gotta win.”
Source: The Hill