Facing Trump, Biden promotes “Infrastructure Decade” in Wisconsin

Consumer confidence is increasing. Fears of a recession are easing. The economy is growing. And a corroded bridge in Wisconsin is getting more funding.

It’s a wintry mix of positive news for President Biden, who traveled to the shores of a bay near Lake Superior on Thursday to stand at the foot of the Blatnik Bridge, a structure that his administration says has failed by 2030 without a billion dollars. the infusion provided by the bipartisan infrastructure law championed by Mr. Biden.

The president was there to talk about infrastructure and the economy, and to compare his performance with that of his predecessor and likely general election challenger, former President Donald J. Trump.

“Economic growth is stronger than we had under the Trump administration,” Mr. Biden, dressed in a casual sweater, said as he addressed Wisconsinites gathered at the Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin. “We obviously still have work to do, but we are making real progress. »

As the president spoke, Mr. Trump took the stand in a defamation trial in New York, offering a striking split-screen comparison that the Biden campaign praised.

Mr. Biden and his advisers say projects like Blatnik’s, taking place in the backyards of Americans living in conflict states like Wisconsin, could be enough to bolster optimism and overcome pervasive skepticism about to the state of the economy.

At his event, Mr. Biden talked about the $6.1 billion that has been invested in Wisconsin and the $5.7 billion in Minnesota, located just across the bridge, which supports industries agriculture, maritime and forestry of the upper Midwest. The Blatnik, which spans St. Louis Bay and connects the ports of Superior and Duluth, Minnesota, was corroded and clogged with construction and detours.

“For decades, people have talked about replacing this bridge, but it has never been done,” Mr. Biden said. “Till today.”

Bipartisan law or not, no Republicans gathered to greet Mr. Biden. (“I’m sorry to say the vast majority voted against it,” Mr. Biden said, a number that includes Rep. Tom Tiffany, a Republican representing the district where the bridge is located.)

The Democratic governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota showed up. “This wouldn’t have happened without Biden,” the governor said. Tony Evers of Wisconsin told attendees.

Several other Democrats, including Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, accompanied the president as he viewed the bridge and later met with people at a brewery next to the brewery. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota sipped a glass of beer while mingling next to Mr. Biden.

Even without the absence of Republicans, who are rapidly closing ranks around Mr. Trump, there are other headwinds to overcome.

Mr. Biden has faced low approval ratings on the economy. And he faced criticism from other Democrats over whether it was smart of him to embrace Bidenomics as his namesake effort to take credit for an economy that Americans have repeatedly signaled they don’t care about. didn’t feel enthusiastic.

On Thursday, Mr. Biden seemed to have no qualms. At the brewery, he stood in front of a pole emblazoned with the letters “Bidenomics” and attacked Mr. Trump for “empty communities, closing factories, leaving Americans behind.”

For his part, Mr. Trump attacked Mr. Biden on just about everything, but he also falsely claimed that the low jobs numbers under the Biden administration were not real.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen took rare aim at Mr. Trump during a speech in Chicago.

“Our country’s infrastructure has been deteriorating for decades,” Yellen said Thursday. “In the Trump administration, the idea of ​​doing anything to fix it was a punchline.”

There was truth in his comment. During his presidency, Mr. Trump often looked away from speeches about infrastructure to attack his enemies. At his first Infrastructure Week-themed event in 2017, he accused James B. Comey, whom he fired as FBI director, of perjury and leaking information to the media. He then proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure package, without specifying how he would get the money. The phrase “Infrastructure Week” has become a running joke in Washington.

In November 2021, Mr. Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

“Instead of an infrastructure week, America is having an infrastructure decade,” Mr. Biden said Thursday, referring to the work his administration has done.

To show how important Wisconsin will be ahead of the November election, Mr. Biden visited just three days after Vice President Kamala Harris began a national tour for reproductive rights at an event at the outside of Milwaukee. Wisconsin is a battleground state where his campaign is focused on courting black voters, young voters and any voters who might help him fight the state’s 10 electoral votes against Mr. Trump.

Even though Mr. Trump was in court, the Republican National Committee issued a statement criticizing Mr. Biden for making the trip and blaming Bidenomics for the economic problems.

“With dizzying inflation And negative economic growth“Wisconsin residents are bearing the brunt of Joe Biden’s failures,” the group’s president, Ronna McDaniel, said in a statement. “As great as it is, it’s too little, too late to impress the workers and families who live paycheck to paycheck thanks to Bidenomics.”

Alan Rappport contributed reporting from Washington.