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Joe Biden is coupling new attacks on Republican policies with a massive ad blitz more than a year before election day, as the US president tries to improve dangerously low polling numbers about his leadership and the state of the economy.
Biden on Thursday will head to Maryland to deliver what his top officials have dubbed a major speech on the economy, returning to his domestic agenda after a five-day trip that included stops in India for the G20 and Vietnam.
Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House council of economic advisers, said the address would show a “clear contrast” between “Bidenomics” and the “trickle-down” policies of congressional Republicans, which had “shipped jobs overseas, hollowed out communities, and produced soaring deficits”.
But in an acknowledgment that Biden is struggling to convey the message, his campaign is also spending $25mn on fresh advertising, aiming to blanket the airwaves over 16 weeks in eight battleground states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida.
The spending would be the largest ever overall ad buy for a re-election campaign at this point in an election cycle, the campaign said.
The ads are designed for the general election next November, airing on TV for National Football League games and Major League Baseball’s World Series, and on digital platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. Some of them are also targeted to specific Hispanic and African-American communities.
Republicans view the early advertising bombardment as a sign of Biden’s unpopularity. A recent CNN poll put his job approval rating at just 39 per cent, while 58 per cent of respondents — up eight points since the same time last year — said his policies had worsened the economy.
Former president Donald Trump “is in a stronger position to win than ever before, while Joe Biden has never been weaker”, said Karoline Leavitt, spokesperson for Make America Great Again Inc, a political action committee supporting Trump. “No PR stunt will save Biden from his disastrous record.”
Biden and Trump, the GOP frontrunner, are essentially tied in most national polls. But the Democrat’s ads will take advantage of a time when the Trump campaign and MAGA Inc are essentially off the air, according to AdImpact data.
The Biden campaign ads are focused on an optimistic message about how America “fought back” from the coronavirus pandemic to hit record low unemployment rates and increased manufacturing jobs — after passing into law trillions of dollars worth of aid, including hundreds of billions of dollars of tax breaks for cleantech and semiconductor projects.
But Biden’s message will need to overcome widespread pessimism in the market, and encourage hopes that the Federal Reserve has actually managed a soft landing — the so-called Goldilocks scenario — after months of raising interest rates to fight inflation.
While inflation has sharply fallen from its June 2022 high, the pace of consumer price increases rose 3.7 per cent year on year in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment remains low, but recently jumped from 3.4 per cent to 3.8 per cent.
In addition to Thursday’s speech, Biden’s aides are also targeting specific plans being floated by Trump’s advisers, such as a big cut to corporate tax rates and new across-the-board tariffs on imports. Trump and allies have raised both ideas in recent weeks.
“Combining a sweeping tariff tax on the middle class with more trickle-down tax welfare for rich special interests would stifle economic growth and fuel inflation,” said Andrew Bates, the White House deputy press secretary.
But Republicans are also sharpening their attack lines. In a speech on Wednesday, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said that while the “American people continue to struggle against rising costs, the president appears to be taking a victory tour”.
“‘Bidenomics’ may be working,” he said. “But it’s working against working Americans.”
Additional reporting by Oliver Roeder