Campaigning in California, Biden aims to ease voter anxieties

President Biden, campaigning for an embattled Democratic congressman in Southern California, argued Tuesday’s election will have implications for the nation’s future for generations.

“It will shape our country for decades to come,” Biden told a crowd of a few hundred supporters at an Oceanside community college gym. He acknowledged that while politicians often describe elections as the most important of their lives, this year is different.

“It will determine the direction of the country for at least a decade or more,” he said. “Everyone is talking about a referendum. It’s not a referendum. It’s a choice – a choice between two fundamentally different versions of America.”

Biden pocketed Rep. Karen Bass’ mayoral campaign in Los Angeles when he took the stage for Rep. Mike Levin, whose district spans Orange and San Diego counties. The congressman and environmental advocate finds himself in one of the nation’s closest contests at a time when Democrats are fighting forecasts that they will lose control of the House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

“This guy delivers,” Biden said of Levin. “He lowers costs for families, takes care of our veterans and protects the environment. These are a big deal; Reconstruction efforts, protections for Social Security and Medicare – and he fights to protect democracy. Look, we have to re-elect Mike.”

The congressman greeted Biden along with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, and members of the military on the tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar before the President to MiraCosta College left Oceanside to rally voters less than a week before the election.

Levin commended the government’s work to alleviate COVID-19, lower insulin costs for seniors and improve services for veterans. But he argued that it was imperative for Democrats not only to go to the polls but to win over other voters so he and others in his party could work on inflation, gun control and protecting women’s reproductive rights.

“I need everyone in the next five days to do more than just yell at the TV. You have to knock on doors. i need you to make the phone call I need you to get that vote out,” Levin said.

“Democracy is not automatic, like gravity or the rising sun. Democracy only happens when people like all of you in this room make it happen. We have to make it. Our democracy and our life as we know it in this country are on the ballot. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

Biden’s appearance with Levin shows the importance of holding California’s 49th district as Democrats seek to curb the GOP’s power maneuver in the House of Representatives. And it made more sense for Biden to run alongside Levin than Democratic candidates in other parts of the state, like the Central Valley, which has two counties classified as toss-ups by the bipartisan Cook Political Report, said Rose Kapolczynski, a longtime adviser to former Senator Barbara Boxer.

“A lot more of your Central Valley audience will be Republicans or more moderate Democrats, and you really don’t want to go somewhere and crank up the Republican base,” she said.

As voters grapple with the high cost of gas and groceries — issues critical to many voters in Levin’s commuter-heavy borough — Biden’s approval ratings remain low at 40%, according to a recent Reuters-Ipsos poll.

“The other dynamic is that Levin is an incumbent and a priority to protect,” Kapolczynski said.

The race between Levin and Republican Brian Maryott, a former Wells Fargo manager and former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, is also ruled a failure by Cook. Though Biden won the district by more than 11 points in 2020, Democrats hold a slim 2.9 percentage point lead among registered voters.

Biden’s campaign momentum comes as he and other prominent politicians, including former Presidents Trump and Obama, are fanning out across the country to rally supporters in the most competitive and critical races.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris travel to Illinois on Friday. On Saturday, Biden, Trump and Obama are all scheduled to run in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, where there is a close race to replace a recalled Democratic governor and where progressive Lt. gov. John Fetterman vs. Trump-backed Republican Mehmet Oz is fighting in a Senate race crucial for control of the chamber. Biden, Trump and Obama have campaigned in Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin in recent days.

Earlier Thursday, Biden held a rally for New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who narrowly outsells her GOP challenger.

In remarks at a Democrat rally and a community college in Albuquerque, Biden sought to remind voters of his administration’s accomplishments to date, including nominating the first black woman to the US Supreme Court, pardoning people accused of marijuana possession federal convictions and some federal student loan forgiveness. Biden said he would ban assault weapons and pass legislation statewide to protect abortion access if voters would help expand the Democratic majority in Congress.

Biden tried to allay worries about a potential economic downturn by touting low unemployment and high exports. But voters’ outlook for the economy has clouded over. In a Wall Street Journal poll conducted in late October, 71% of respondents said America’s economy was going in the wrong direction, while 54% believed Biden’s policies had had a negative impact on the economy.

The Federal Reserve needs to make significant progress in containing inflation, central bank governor Jerome Powell said this week, worrying investors that a recession is on the horizon. Economic concerns have given Republicans an edge in many congressional elections. GOP candidates felt Biden was ill-equipped to lead the nation out of a recession and have pushed back on the president’s glare on the economy.

“Biden wants to brag about the economy, but families know better,” Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel tweeted. “57% of Americans say their financial situation is getting worse — that’s nothing to brag about.”

Biden touted the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed last year, cautioned voters against supporting Republicans running for Congress, and said the GOP is shamelessly working to undermine longstanding safety-net programs, including Social Security.

Biden was careful to highlight his plan for limited student loan debt relief. In August, he announced he would cancel up to $10,000 for borrowers and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. During a speech at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, Biden said about 26 million borrowers have already applied for debt relief with the Department of Education.

Republicans have campaigned against Biden’s debt relief plan, telling voters that Biden’s decision would increase national debt and exacerbate inflation. At the community college, Biden said Republican outrage at the plan was “false” and “hypocritical,” noting that many GOP lawmakers had been awarded millions in pandemic-era loans from the federal government.

Mehta reported from Los Angeles and Logan from Oceanside and Albuquerque. Campaigning in California, Biden aims to ease voter anxieties

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