ALBUQUERQUE — President Joe Biden‘s travel schedule ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections clearly reveals his defensive stance in the final days of the campaign: He spends most of his time trying to cling to the seats his party already holds.
Biden kicked off his three-day, four-state campaign Thursday to support Democrats in competitive races in California, Illinois and New Mexico, as well as battleground Pennsylvania, where Biden has deep roots.
His first stop was Albuquerque, where he spoke about his student debt relief program, calling it “a game changer for so many people” before headlining a political rally in the late post- noon for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Focusing on young voters whose support Democrats are aggressively seeking, Biden said, “Your generation will not be ignored. You will not be shunned. You will not be silenced.
“Republican members of Congress and Republican governors are doing everything they can, including taking us to court, to deny aid, even to their own constituents,” Biden said.
Nearly 26 million people have applied for student loan forgiveness, up 4 million from two weeks ago. About 16 million applications are expected to be approved by the end of the week, but no debt can be written off until a legal battle over the program is resolved.
After:Amid midterm vote, Biden warns of ‘chaos’, fears of political violence ahead of November 8 election
Biden’s final-day itinerary illustrates the limited political clout of a president who has been held at bay by most Democrats in tough races this cycle. It also suggests the president, whose approval rating remains submerged, has concluded he can be more effective in using the final days before the near polls to bolster support for Democratic candidates in areas he has. easily won in 2020.
“Democrats are clearly on the defensive and that’s borne out as the campaign winds down,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion. “Their winning odds don’t seem realistic, so now look at what you can preserve.”
A president’s party typically faces significant losses in midterm elections. Since 1934, only Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934, Bill Clinton in 1998, and George W. Bush in 2002 have seen their parties gain midterm seats.
Some recent presidents have suffered big losses in their first midterm races. Republicans under Donald Trump lost 40 House seats but gained two Senate seats in 2018; Democrats under Barack Obama lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats in 2010, and Democrats under Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats in 1994.
The decision to deploy Biden to areas where he won hands down in 2020 was made in part due to concerns about voter energy in races Democrats see as must-wins. Party officials are also concerned about some candidates who have seen their races narrow in the final days of the campaign.
After:What’s on my ballot in Doña Ana County? Where can I drop off my postal ballot?
In New Mexico, a state Biden won by nearly 11 percentage points in 2020, he hosted the Albuquerque rally for Lujan Grisham, who faces a Republican challenge from former TV weatherman Mark Ronchetti .
“You have the best governor here and you need to re-elect her,” Biden told an overflowing crowd with Lujan Grisham at his side. “Remember this is not a referendum. This is a choice.”
Fundraising by Ronchetti’s campaign surged amid visits from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Ronchetti also received a social media endorsement from Trump despite his acknowledgment that Biden won in 2020.
Later Thursday, Biden joined Rep. Mike Levin for a voting event at a community college in Oceanside, Calif. Levin represents a district with a slight Democratic lean that crosses San Diego and Orange counties that Biden boosted to double digits in the 2020 presidential election. Republican candidate Brian Maryott lashed out at Levin in the about inflation, gas prices and rising crime.
Biden is due to spend part of Friday and Saturday in the Chicago area, where incumbent Rep. Sean Casten faces a tough challenge from Republican Keith Pekau as he tries to hold on to a suburban neighborhood that Biden won by double digits. percentage in 2020. The White House has yet to announce Biden’s plans for his stay in Chicago.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Republican leaders, this week announced a $1.8 million ad buy to help Pekau, the mayor of the southern suburb of Orland Park. And Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Minority Leader, is due to campaign with Pekau in the district on Friday.
Casten’s campaign, in a fundraising email Wednesday, called the crushing of super PAC money a “last-ditch effort to buy that seat” and implored his supporters to send him contributions for the last straight line of the campaign.
The president will travel to Pennsylvania on Saturday to campaign with Obama for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro and Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman.
Pennsylvania Democrats are trying to keep control of the governor’s office, which is vacated by Tom Wolf as he completes his second term. Fetterman is locked in a tight race with Republican Mehmet Oz, vying for the seat vacated by retired Republican Senator Pat Toomey.
Associated Press writers Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; Michael R. Blood in San Juan Capistrano, CA, and Sara Burnett in Chicago contributed to this report. Collin Binkley and Chris Megerian in Washington also contributed.