Biden Takes Return-to-Normal Message to Swing State Michigan
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden traveled to Michigan to underscore U.S. progress in fighting Covid-19, part of a slate of Fourth of July weekend events by the administration to signal a return to pre-pandemic life.
Biden picked a battleground state where he beat Donald Trump by 3 percentage points in the 2020 presidential election and where Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has clashed with state Republicans over pandemic restrictions.
Touring a fruit orchard near Traverse City, a largely White community that helped him flip the state last November, Biden discussed electric vehicles with a farm executive, greeted four cherry pickers who emigrated from Guatemala and spoke at length with supporters crowded along a rope line in the sun. He ordered apple pie and cherry pie at the farm store and later stopped off for ice cream.
While the White House billed the trip as celebrating the nation’s “independence from the virus” after one-and-a-half years and a chance for Biden to promote his infrastructure agenda, the president didn’t comment on either topic publicly in Michigan.
After a historic vaccination drive, the U.S. is falling short of Biden’s goal of getting at least one dose to 70% of adults by Independence Day. The number was 67% on Saturday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the spread of the more-contagious delta variant adding urgency to reaching unvaccinated pockets of the U.S.
Members of Biden’s cabinet are fanning out across at least 10 states and Washington D.C. through Sunday to deliver the administration’s messages, including visits to vaccine sites, baseball games and a community meeting. First lady Jill Biden was scheduled to visit Maine and New Hampshire on Saturday, and Vice President Kamala Harris to travel to Nevada.
On Sunday, the White House has invited 1,000 essential workers and military families for a barbecue, the biggest event on the grounds since Biden took office.
The trip is Biden’s third as president to Michigan. He visited a Pfizer Inc. Covid-19 vaccine plant in February and traveled in May trip to promote the F-150 Lightning, an all-electric version of the Ford pickup truck.
Covid-19 infections have dropped substantially in Michigan and about 62% of residents age 16 and older have gotten at least one dose, a rate that puts it near the middle among states.
Whitmer, who faces a potential re-election contest next year, has said she wants to see at least 70% vaccinated.
Michigan on Thursday announced lottery-style drawings to give away $5 million in cash and college scholarships to residents who get at least one shot.
Whitmer, who joined Biden on the cherry farm tour, said that while the bipartisan proposal provides funding for electric-vehicle infrastructure, more would have to be done.
“There’s so much investment that is going to have to happen to support electric vehicles,” she told reporters.
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