Analysis: It’s not a coincidence that Team Biden made 3 high-profile visits to Wisconsin this week.

Biden, Evers, Baldwin, Walz, Klobuchar in Superior

President Joe Biden speaks near the John A. Blatnik Bridge between Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Superior. Biden (center) was accompanied by (l.-r.) Gov. Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, MN Gov. Tim Walz, MN Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and MN Sen. Tina Smith. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

By Pat Kreitlow

January 26, 2024

This is all about you and the power of your vote in a closely-divided state that’s likely to decide who becomes president—yet again.

Life is a lot quieter in the states that are politically deep blue or deep red—especially every four years when our country picks a president. The nominees don’t come and create traffic jams in Mississippi or Massachusetts. The local TV stations there aren’t plastered with wall-to-wall campaign ads. Everyone knows where their state’s electoral votes are going. There’s no drama.

In Wisconsin, on the other hand, we’re watched as intently as Taylor Swift in a Kansas City skybox.

Four of the past six presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point in Wisconsin, making us the “tipping-point” state that can decide who leads the nation. That’s why it’s no surprise that Wisconsin got a triple-shot of attention from President Joe Biden and his reelection campaign this week. Expect the same from Republicans shortly.

President Joe Biden visited Superior on Thursday to celebrate more than $1 billion in new federal funding to replace the John A. Blatnik Bridge between Superior and Duluth, MN.

“For decades, people talked about replacing this bridge, but it never got done. Until today.” Biden said at the Earth Rider Brewery after visiting with iron workers and local officials at the bridge. “This bridge is important, but the story we’re writing is much bigger than that.”

Biden talked up the billions of dollars that his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law would be investing all across Wisconsin over the next decade, creating jobs that replace or improve bridges, roads, ports, airports, water lines, broadband networks, and more.

The bridge, which carries traffic to and from Duluth over the massive freighters that use the shipping lanes of St. Louis Bay, is something out of central casting: a structure that looms large over the Twin Ports, but also a symbol of Rust Belt decay, as large trucks are no longer allowed on the rusting hulk, leading to much longer drives to move goods and people.

Tuesday marked Biden’s second trip to Superior and his eighth trip to Wisconsin as president—with the promise of more to come ahead of this November’s election.

Four of the past six presidential elections have been decided by less than a percentage point in Wisconsin, making us the “tipping-point” state that can decide who leads the nation. The state’s key role is why Biden’s visit was just one of three made by Team Biden to Wisconsin this week.

From the Practical to the Personal

While Biden’s latest visit focused on the practical, tangible accomplishments that make up a presidential agenda, Vice President Kamala Harris came to Wisconsin this week with a message that was much more personal—asking every woman to consider the level to which Republicans want to control their bodies and diminish their reproductive healthcare rights and choices.

“Extremists are trying to pass a national abortion ban to outlaw abortion in every single state,” Harris told a crowd in Big Bend on Monday. “But President Joe Biden will veto it. Because here’s the deal about all of us: We trust women. We trust women to make decisions about their own bodies, we trust women to know what is in their own best interest, and women trust us to fight to protect their most fundamental freedoms.”

Harris mentioned the legislative debate in Madison over a Republican bill that could lead to a 14-week abortion ban in Wisconsin. Later that evening, Gov. Tony Evers also vowed to veto anything that further reduces women’s healthcare rights—and in front of a joint session of the Legislature, he roasted his 2022 election opponent Tim Michels in order to paint the Republican crusade as out of touch with mainstream values.

“Folks,” Evers said, “Wisconsinites have been abundantly clear. As another example, the Republicans’ last candidate for governor wanted to take those same freedoms—and more—away. You’ll notice he’s not here delivering the State of the State address tonight.”

To the Pocketbook

The week closed with one more heavy hitter telling Wisconsin voters why they should stay the course with Biden in November. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told a Milwaukee audience how the administration is creating pathways to better jobs through a successful package of legislation and unprecedented support for unions.

“Last month, the unemployment rate stayed below 4%, continuing the longest streak in over 50 years,” Yellen said. “Real wages, which are wages after adjusting for inflation, have increased. Americans have rejoined the workforce, with the prime age labor force participation rate up over two percentage points over January 2021.”

Yellen outlined the different ways that workforce development and business growth are being supported through the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Much of the new job growth, Yellen said, is going to a labor force with ample room for income growth.

“One study estimates that over 60% of semiconductor manufacturing roles don’t require a bachelor’s degree,” Yellen said. “And so far, 86% of announced IRA investment dollars have been in counties where the college graduation rate is below the national average.”

In Wisconsin, 33.2% of the population 25 and older has a college degree while the national average is 44.4%.

Yellen also noted the Biden administration looks beyond the workplace when it comes to workforce development—noting, for example, the difficulty or impossibility of starting new training or a better job if someone cannot find adequate childcare for their kids.

“Though some forecasters thought a recession last year was inevitable, President Biden and I did not,” Yellen said Thursday at the Chicago Economic Club. “Instead of contracting, the economy has continued to grow, driven by American workers and President Biden’s economic strategy. It now produces far more goods and services than it did before the pandemic.”

The government reported Thursday that the economy grew at an unexpectedly brisk 3.3% annual pace from October through December.

In contrast, Yellen said Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act “prioritized tax cuts for corporations, disproportionately benefited top earners, and did not fix the broken international tax system that encourages companies to shift jobs and profits overseas.”

Yellen said the tax cuts added $2 trillion to the national deficit “while doing little to spur investment.”

Wisconsin voters will find no shortage of attacks like that on former President Donald Trump—but there is an often-expressed sentiment—an offshoot of that legendary “Midwestern Nice”—that says voters want to vote for someone, not just against someone. So along with the attacks and the correction of misinformation, expect to hear a steady drumbeat of Biden messaging about jobs and the economy, infrastructure improvements, a woman’s right to control her own body, and a legislative package from Biden’s first two years that is now starting to pay dividends to Americans.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Author

  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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