WILMINGTON, Del. – President Joe Biden ventured to suburban Minneapolis on Monday to talk about factory jobs and contrast his agenda with “the last guy who had this job.” The “last guy,” as Biden calls Donald Trump, was simultaneously touching down in New York to become the first former president to be arrested.
The Biden White House, which has shied away from involvement in the legal spectacle surrounding Trump, hoped to turn the split-screen moment into a chance to showcase the president’s accomplishments and relatively drama-free administration. It represented a rehash of the choice that voters made in 2020 — and might have to make again in 2024 — as both men intend to seek the White House.
Biden offered himself as a veteran policymaker while Trump, ever the showman, aimed to use Tuesday's arraignment on criminal charges to generate campaign donations and fire up Republican voters.
Biden sought to highlight job growth and investments nationwide while pushing clean energy and manufacturing in the U.S. during his visit to engine maker Cummins Inc. The company announced in conjunction with his visit that it’s investing more than $1 billion in its U.S. engine manufacturing network in Indiana, North Carolina and New York to update facilities so they can produce low- to zero-carbon engines.
Dogged by high inflation, Biden said his policies and spending will position the U.S. for greater prosperity in the future that boosts the middle class.
“The plan is to invest in America, in a literal sense,” Biden said. “Not overseas. In America. Invest in ourselves — and it’s working.”
Trump left his Florida home for New York City, posting on Truth Social that the indictment — tied to payments made during his 2016 campaign — was part of a “Witch Hunt” against him. He later sent out a message that tried to fundraise off his predicament.
Biden's team saw Monday's trip to the Cummins facility as a way to sharpen the contrast with Trump. If Trump gobbles up attention, administration officials say, Biden wants his message to be squarely focused on the American middle class.
“Stick to your message that you want to be talking about with discipline,” said Andrew Bates, deputy White House press secretary. “Whatever else is happening, you just have to keep talking about what it is that you want to talk about."
The president regularly highlights the CHIPS Act, the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the $1 trillion infrastructure legislation and a roughly $375 billion climate bill — major bills that his administration steered into law before Democrats lost control of the House in last year's elections to Republicans.
The White House wants to contrast Biden's record and a proposed budget that includes $2.6 trillion in new spending with Republicans' plans for spending and economic growth. Republicans have rejected Biden’s budget but have yet to bring forward a counteroffer to the Democrats’ blueprint, which is built around tax increases on the wealthy and a vision statement of sorts for Biden's yet-to-be-declared 2024 campaign.
Other members of Biden's administration are traveling to more than 20 states this week to buttress his message. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, for example, went to Connecticut on Monday for a fireside chat at Yale University on the economic agenda. While the president blasted Trump's 2017 tax cuts for raising the deficit, Yellen panned them for failing to boost growth.
The treasury secretary said Trump's signature achievement has "not been very successful, even at promoting investment spending and growth.” What the cuts did, instead, is tilt the tax code in favor of those with extreme degrees of wealth, according to Yellen.
“If you take something like the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” she said, "maybe that had some marginal impact on boosting private investment -- not obvious that it did. But it certainly raised the incomes of the wealthy individuals who received those huge tax cuts, and so it made the tax burden a lot less fair.”
First lady Jill Biden was in Colorado to promote Biden's efforts to promote job training at community colleges and had other stops this week planned in Maine and Vermont. Her plans to visit Michigan later Monday were postponed because of an aircraft issue.
As the president returned to Washington, a large TV on Air Force One ran Trump headlines as Biden stood facing the screen in a conference room with his staff.
Boak reported from Washington. AP writers Fatima Hussein and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.