Morning Chronicle - Biden visits battleground state to tout work on US innovation

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Biden visits battleground state to tout work on US innovation
Biden visits battleground state to tout work on US innovation / Photo: MANDEL NGAN - AFP/File

Biden visits battleground state to tout work on US innovation

US President Joe Biden traveled to North Carolina on Thursday to tout his efforts on combating inflation and jumpstarting high-tech research and manufacturing to make the United States more competitive in the global economy.

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The president is due to visit a new engineering research and innovation complex at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the largest historically Black university in the country.

The visit comes with the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting inflation at a 40-year high of 8.5 percent -- mainly due, it says, to Russia's invasion to Ukraine, rent hikes and gas prices.

The White House said Biden would meet faculty and students studying robotics and cybersecurity and discuss how the Bipartisan Innovation Act can boost the economy by improving American manufacturing.

"That means stronger supply chains, more manufacturing jobs, and lower prices for consumers as we break up the bottlenecks, like semiconductor chips, that have driven inflation over the last year," said Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki.

She added that the initiative would "create more good-paying jobs and lower prices for working families."

Psaki's deputy Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One that Greensboro was an example of the kind of "regional manufacturing ecosystem" that Biden envisions building across America, to create an industry that can counter China's growing influence.

One of the administration's top priorities, the legislation would offer funding to the city of 300,000 and places like it, to promote job creation and business growth.

North Carolinians have voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since the Reagan era except 2008, when the state went for Barack Obama over John McCain.

But five out of its seven governors over the same period have been Democrats, and statistical analytics website FiveThirtyEight described North Carolina in 2020 as a "perennial" swing state.

- Deep underwater -

Biden is deep underwater in recent polling, however, with inflation seen as the Democrats' biggest challenge ahead of November's midterm elections.

A poll released last week by High Point University gave the president a job approval rating of 35 percent in North Carolina, while 53 percent said they disapprove.

His lowest marks were for his handling of inflation (19 percent), including rising gas prices (18 percent), and his stewardship of the economy in general (26 percent).

Nationally, a new Quinnipiac University poll has the president at just 33 percent approval, while 54 percent disapprove of his job performance.

Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have been discussing the contours for launching formal negotiations on Biden's legislation as early as April, with a floor vote expected in May or June.

The Senate passed its own package with a decisive bipartisan 68-32 vote last summer but that needs to be synched up with a more contentious equivalent passed mostly along party lines in the House.

Republicans argued that the 2,900-page House version wasn't tough enough on China and overly focused on unrelated issues like climate change and social equity.

North Carolina Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson said in a statement Biden had been "laser-focused" on lowering costs for voters still recovering from the pandemic.

But Thom Tillis, one of the state's two Republican senators, said North Carolinians were "sick of inflation and tired of President Biden's excuses."

"President Biden's only answer to date is blaming everyone else for his decisions and pushing a multitrillion-dollar tax and spending spree," Tillis said in a statement, according to Fox News.