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Biden hits the campaign trail after delivering the State of the Union address


President Biden is taking his State of the Union address on the road, or is that the campaign trail? Georgia today, then Wisconsin and Michigan, states considered critical in the general election. He began yesterday in Pennsylvania. NPR White House correspondent Deepa Shivaram has been along for the ride. Deepa, thanks for being with us.

DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having me.

SIMON: And what did the president focus on in his speech in Philadelphia?

SHIVARAM: Yeah, I mean, there were a lot of similarities from the speech that Biden gave in Philly and his State of the Union address. He really followed the same themes, particularly on what he called kitchen table issues, which is namely lowering costs for Americans. One thing was different, though. On Thursday night, we heard Biden refer to former President Trump as his predecessor multiple times. He didn't actually name him, but he talked a lot about the differences between him and Trump. Last night, though, the gloves came off. Biden called out Trump by name several times. He blamed him for restrictions on reproductive rights, and he blamed him for some of the ways he says America has changed.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We arrived down the street, and there was a Trump banner with a FU on it and a little - and a 6-year-old kid putting up his middle finger. Did you ever - no, I'm serious. Did you ever think you'd hear people talk the way they do? Look, it demeans who we are. That's not who - that's not America.

SHIVARAM: A couple things he didn't mention on the road version of this speech was the war in Gaza. And I will note there were a lot of protesters outside the middle school where he gave that speech. He also didn't talk about immigration either. He's taking some heat from progressives lately and advocates for immigrants because on Thursday night, he referred to an undocumented immigrant arrested for a crime as an illegal. We asked him yesterday if he regretted using that term, and he kind of sidestepped it and said, you know, quote, "technically, he's not supposed to be here."

SIMON: Today you're traveling with the president to Georgia, obviously another swing state. Its primary is Tuesday. What do you know about the rally in Atlanta tonight?

SHIVARAM: It's focusing on three key groups representing communities of color who are going to be formally endorsing Biden today. That's the Latino and AAPI Victory Funds, which are organizations that bring out voters in their communities, and Collective PAC, which organizes Black voters. And these coalitions are really critical for Biden in the state of Georgia. He won it by a very narrow margin in 2020. But it's not just Georgia where this matters. Overall, we know that this election is going to be decided by small, small numbers. And in these key swing states like Nevada and North Carolina, Michigan, voter turnout from communities of color could very well decide the course of this presidential race. And keep in mind, this is all kind of coming at a time when enthusiasm for Biden among Black and Latino voters, especially, has been lower, so he needs to drum up more support. And it's not so much here that these voters are turning to Trump, right? It's that they just could not show up and vote at all in November. And that would be detrimental for Biden.

SIMON: Georgia, of course, is the home state of Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. She had what I'll call a cameo the other night at the president's State of the Union address.

SHIVARAM: She did. Yeah, Biden often uses her as a bit of a foil to talk about right-wing supporters of Trump. And on Thursday, she was wearing that red MAGA hat and heckling him during the State of the Union. So Biden started off his remarks yesterday in Philly talking about her, and the crowd there got really fired up about it. So I wouldn't be surprised if she becomes a bit of a regular punchline, if you will, on the road as Biden keeps traveling. And, you know, speaking of that, he's got a lot of travel planned this week - New Hampshire on Monday, then Milwaukee and Saginaw, Mich., in the middle of the week. And there are $30 million in ads going up over the next six weeks for this campaign. So it's really kicking into high gear for Biden.

SIMON: NPR's Deepa Shivaram, thanks so much.

SHIVARAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.