BAY CITY, Michigan — An elated Joe Biden sounded like a president eager for another term, imploring Americans in a speech Tuesday to embrace his vision of a nation making dramatic economic strides against global competition.
“We are building a better America,” Biden said at a plant that makes components for electric vehicles. “We just have to keep it going! I know we can.
Biden promised in his half-hour remarks that the US would expand its manufacturing capacity to levels that would prevent the kind of supply disruptions that led to shortages of vital products early in the covid pandemic. He suggested that China and Europe are not necessarily happy with the US’s economic ambitions, but indicated that it is determined to supplant their role as vital links in the global supply chain.
“We have shown that it has never, ever been a good bet to bet against the United States,” Biden said at the gleaming new SK Siltron CSS plant to a crowd of union workers, elected officials and appreciative political supporters. “I’m serious.”
Biden was talking about the nation, but he might as well have been talking about himself. Two years ago, anyone betting against Biden’s political prospects would have lost. He upended conventional thinking when he rallied after early losses in the 2020 Democratic primary and went on to win the nomination and unseat President Donald Trump. Just this month, Biden’s party defied history in the midterms by maintaining control of the Senate while avoiding heavy losses in the House.
Still, Biden has been cautious about his own political future, saying he intends to run for re-election in 2024 without making a definitive announcement.
Rep. Dan Kildee, a Democrat who represents the district that is home to the SK Siltron CSS plant and preceded Biden on stage, said in an interview Tuesday that he does not know of Biden’s plans for the upcoming election. Asked if he wanted Biden to run, Kildee said: “It will be up to him.
“If he decides to run, obviously we will support him,” he added. “These are personal decisions rather than political ones.”
Biden was introduced by Kildee and another Democrat who figured prominently in the party’s midterm success story: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Both Whitmer and Kildee defeated the Republican challengers.
In the interview, Kildee said Biden’s focus on job creation is a winning message Democrats should carry through to 2024.
“I ran on the agenda that President Biden, myself and others promoted, and I won a Republican-leaning district by more than 10 points,” said Kildee, whose congressional race was one of the most competitive in the country. “So I think Michigan is well positioned to show the rest of the country that when you lean in, you have great candidates and policies that make sense, we’ll be rewarded for it.”
As the backdrop for the speech, Biden chose a plant that symbolizes the kind of high-tech manufacturing jobs he wants to create. Earlier this year, SK Siltron CSS opened a facility here, about 100 miles northwest of Detroit, as part of a $300 million expansion project. The plant employs about 220 people and the company expects the number to rise to 300 in the next few years, a spokesman said.
Biden touts his industrial policy as a reason for his optimism about America’s economic prospects. In August, he signed into law the CHIPS and Science measure, which sets aside more than $52 billion for semiconductor research and manufacturing. As a condition, recipients of the money are prohibited from building “certain facilities in China and other countries of interestthe White House said.
But the credit that Biden has given himself may be overstated. US employment in the manufacturing sector has been in decline since the late 1970spartly due to the outsourcing of jobs to countries that pay much lower wages.
Biden has said more than 700,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since he took office. A PolitiFact ReportHowever, he says the uptick was evident under Biden’s predecessor and was partly a product of the Trump administration’s policies.
Biden’s visit on Tuesday was a perfect fit for the Democrats’ political ambitions. The plant is in Bay County, which Trump won in both 2016 and 2020. Before the 2016 election, the last Republican presidential candidate to win the county was Ronald Reagan, in his landslide re-election in 1984.
Democrats would like to flip the county in 2024, when Michigan, as always, looms as a crucial battleground state. One step to make that happen is to show voters that government policies are helping create jobs, local party officials said.
“Bay County was traditionally a very trusted Democratic county, and that changed when Trump was born,” said Karen Tighe, the Democratic borough chair. “We hope that President Biden’s visit can bring people back into the fold and recognize what his administration is doing for us financially.”