As White House officials have struggled to reverse President Joe Biden's sliding approval rating, they have often promised a strategy was in the works to help address the problem: Get Biden back out on the road, outside Washington, more often.
So far, that's been easier said than done.
Wednesday’s trip to battleground Ohio is just the third stand-alone trip Biden is making outside Washington to promote his domestic agenda since the last time he traveled to the Buckeye State on May 6, according to an NBC News review of the president’s public schedule.
While Democrats are bracing for a brutal midterm elections amid voter concerns about the direction of the country, the president has spent much of the past two months consumed by foreign policy and global affairs.
Since that May 6 trip to the Cincinnati area, promoting a proposed bill to boost advanced manufacturing in the United States, Biden has participated in multiple international summits — a U.S.-ASEAN summit in Washington in mid-May; a summit of Quad leaders in Tokyo that was part of a two-nation Asia trip in late May; the Summit of the Americas he hosted in Los Angeles in early June; and the G7 and NATO Summits in Europe that concluded last week.
Biden’s travel to boost his domestic agenda during that time has been limited by comparison. He traveled to Illinois May 11 to talk about steps the administration was taking to tackle inflation, and delivered an address in Philadelphia June 14 that offered a preview of what will likely be the themes of his midterm campaign message this fall.
Biden has also made stops in New Mexico to survey wildfire damage, to Buffalo and Uvalde to address communities mourning mass shootings, and six weekend trips to homes in Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
A president’s time is often said to be the most precious commodity in any White House, and Biden’s domestic, political and national security teams are often competing for chunks of it. White House officials acknowledge the strain his foreign policy work, in particular, has put not just on his time but also on logistics needed to support president travel.
Officials looking to put the president on the road more often here at home are anxiously looking forward to his return from yet another international summit, in Saudi Arabia next week.
A Biden adviser noted that even when Biden was traveling to meet with foreign leaders, they worked to include events focused on the domestic economy, whether at a Samsung plant in South Korea, or the Port of Los Angeles on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas.
A focus in the months ahead will be not just speeches but opportunities to interact with ordinary Americans.
“That’s where he also gets his energy from, being able to connect with people,” the adviser said. “He really wants to do that more and more, and I think that’s a big piece of how you’ll see us through the summer and into the fall.”
One recurring trend of Biden’s albeit limited travel of late has been the inclusion of unions. His May 11 trip to Illinois included a speech to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers convention, he addressed the AFL-CIO Convention in Philadelphia last month and Wednesday’s Ohio trip focused on protecting union pensions.
Even as Biden’s popularity has been under strain among all Americans, the White House has been working to showcase his support among organized labor, a key Democratic constituency and turnout engine for the midterms.
“It’s important to have 3,000 AFL-CIO members going out, talking to their districts, meeting with their members and being able to carry that [message] forward,” the Biden adviser said.