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After a rowdy State of the Union address, Biden hits the road to spread his message

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

President Biden is taking his State of the Union message on the road.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Yeah. Yesterday, he was in Wisconsin, where he recapped his Tuesday address.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It is strong. It is strong. And it's strong because of you, because the soul of the nation is strong.

FADEL: And today, he'll be in Florida testing out some of the lines he could use in what's expected to be a reelection bid.

MARTÍNEZ: Joining us now is NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid. What is the point of this road show?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, I would say the explicit message from the White House is that these trips are about showcasing the president's plans, whether that's around, you know, job creation or infrastructure. And it's also about reiterating his message to lower costs. But, A, there is also a tactical explanation. Wisconsin, of course, is a critical state in presidential elections. Florida, where he's heading to later today, is less of a swing state than it used to be. But there are a couple of very useful foils for the president there. The state is home to former President Donald Trump, who is running for president again in 2024. It's also home to Ron DeSantis, the governor who is widely seen as a possible Republican presidential candidate also in this next election.

MARTÍNEZ: But how is, then, President Biden trying to create a contrast with Republicans?

KHALID: Probably the key issue where Biden has been trying to score points at the GOP's expense is around the idea of putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block. There have been some Republicans in Congress who suggested cuts to these entitlement programs. One is Florida Senator Rick Scott. We've also heard this similar message from Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. And I do want to be clear. I mean, Republican leaders in Congress have distanced themselves from these ideas. But the president is not letting it go. Yesterday, at a union hall in Madison, Wis., he replayed this feisty exchange he had had with Republicans during his State of the Union.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: Remember, I said - no, I'm serious. Remember what I said? I said, so you're not going to cut it, huh? No. I said, OK, we got a deal. Well, I sure hope that's true.

(APPLAUSE)

BIDEN: I'll believe it when I see it and their budget's laid down with their cuts they're proposing.

KHALID: And this type of contrast is likely what we're going to hear from the president as he gears up for a potential reelection bid.

MARTÍNEZ: Asma, you spent some time in Florida talking to voters about what they're concerned about. How do you think this message will land there?

KHALID: You know, I think one thing that's important to keep in mind is that inflation looks different in different parts of the country. And the Tampa Bay metro area has had some of the worst inflation rates in the country. The most recent data showed it was around 10%. The president keeps saying - we keep hearing him say that inflation is slowing, and that is true. But prices are still higher than where they were before the pandemic. And, you know, many people are still feeling that. So there does seem to be this disconnect at times between what the president is depicting around this rosy economy and how some people are feeling about the economy.

A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found roughly 40% of Americans say they are worse off financially since Biden took office. You know, yesterday, I was struck in this interview the president gave with "PBS NewsHour." He said his policies are popular and basically said, you know, the polls don't matter anymore. But one of the challenges in the race ahead for the White House is going to be trying to get the president the credit they think he deserves for what he's accomplished.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid. Asma, thanks.

KHALID: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.