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Joe Biden

Dems bet infrastructure can turn around Biden’s fortunes

Democrats still don’t think voters are giving them enough credit for their big accomplishments during the 117th Congress when the party had full control of Washington.

And with President Joe Biden trailing former President Donald Trump in early 2024 polling, top Democrats are aggressively leaning into selling the sprawling infrastructure bill to turn the story around.

That’s why White House senior adviser Mitch Landrieu was recently on Capitol Hill, visiting Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and the working group tasked with overseeing implementation and messaging on Democratic legislation.

Landrieu’s visit to the Hoyer-led Regional Leadership Council marked the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a $1.2 trillion investment in the nation’s roads, bridges, transportation and internet systems.

Hoyer and Landrieu — two politicians with boatloads of experience — are teaming up to make sure voters get the memo that it was Biden who delivered what Hoyer labeled a “generational, transformative” bill.

Democrats are betting that the tangible effects of the nationwide infrastructure overhaul — which many people are just now starting to see — will hit home for voters. Traveling to ribbon-cutting ceremonies is one thing, but the end game of an easier commute and faster internet is the real political and practical boon for Americans.

“Two years ago, there was nothing. We started off from ground zero,” Landrieu, whose role is to coordinate the infrastructure implementation, told us in an interview. “Now there’s $1.2 trillion — $400 billion of which has been pushed out of the door already. Two years ago, no projects. We now have 40,000 projects, cutting across 4,500 communities in every state.”

But despite consistent Democratic messaging for the last two years, voters still aren’t crediting the party with these benefits. Hoyer cited a high-profile Washington Post poll from February where 62% of Americans said Biden accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing” in his presidency.

Biden also signed into law the American Rescue Plan, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act last Congress — the products of a Democratic-controlled government.

“They thought we didn’t do much in the last Congress. In fact, it was probably one of the most impactful congresses in history,” Hoyer said. “The American people need to know the consequences of the actions taken in the last Congress because it’s going to make such a difference over generations.”

Hoyer’s role in helming the Regional Leadership Council — a team of House Democrats representing a dozen geographic zones of the country — is to ensure a coordinated effort exists between the White House and Congress in implementing key legislation. The RLC traveled to the White House in March to discuss messaging strategy.

Landrieu, for his part, said “It doesn’t surprise me at all that the public doesn’t really know or understand” the infrastructure law’s impacts yet, “because this thing is massive.”

“The reason I’m 100% comfortable is when they know about it, they’re going to know exactly where it came from,” the former New Orleans mayor said. Landrieu pointed to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s reelection victory in deep-red Kentucky this month, arguing the incumbent focused on construction progress on the long-stalled Brent Spence Bridge.

“When you put money on TV, and you tell them a story, and you show them to people and you bring the receipts, they like what you’re trying to sell them,” Landrieu said. “They go, ‘OK, I’m going to buy that.’”

Both Hoyer and Landrieu insisted that Biden will bring the “receipts” to the electorate in 2024, creating a clear contrast with Republicans who largely opposed the infrastructure plan.

“We’re building jobs and communities so people don’t have to choose between living with people that they love and going to find someplace else to work,” Landrieu said. “As that vision comes into clearer focus for people, I think that the president is going to benefit tremendously.”

— Max Cohen

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