White House

Biden on Republicans: ‘Their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare’

The president seized on his battle with GOP lawmakers over the entitlement programs.

President Joe Biden speaks.

MADISON, Wisc. — A jubilant President Joe Biden kicked off his post-State of the Union blitz on Wednesday, buoyed after a night of touting his wins from the past two years and challenging Republicans.

“Folks, I hate to disappoint them, but the Biden economic plan is working,” the president told a crowd gathered inside a union training center. “It’s working.”

The president used his stop in the battleground state to drive home the themes from his national address, primarily his optimism about his economic plan. Biden also will continue hitting the road as he prepares to launch an expected reelection bid in the coming months.

After running through his usual economic talking points, Biden capitalized on his handling of a tense exchange the previous night with Republicans for wanting “Medicare and Social Security to sunset.” While Biden didn’t name Sen. Rick Scott during his State of the Union speech, he did so on Wednesday, pulling out the Florida Republican’s “Rescue America” pamphlet that calls for all federal legislation to include such a provision.

Then the president quoted Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) stance on the issue, prompting the crowd to boo.

“They sure didn’t like me calling them on it,” Biden said, noting that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green (R-Ga.) stood up and called him a “liar” during Tuesday night’s speech. “Look, a lot of Republicans — their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me just say this. It’s your dream, but I’m going to use my veto pen and make it a nightmare.”

A post-State of the Union barnstorming swing has become a traditional part of the calendar for modern presidents, with great thought put into the location for a visit inherently bound to receive more media attention than an average trip.

For the Biden White House, it was always going to be Wisconsin. White House aides suggested that a lot of the year ahead will look just like this day. They believe that a message of blue collar populism works for the president, saying he is the first Democratic standard bearer in decades to successfully chase a demographic drifting steadily toward Republicans.

A labor hall filled with union workers was considered a perfect backdrop for this particular president. Biden aides said they hoped to fill his schedule with events like this one — and like last week’s twin infrastructure events in Maryland and New York — to showcase the president’s record in creating jobs and tangible, real-world projects.

Wisconsin, in many ways, has become the preeminent swing state. It was one of the trio of Great Lakes states — along with Michigan and Pennsylvania — that Biden won back from Donald Trump in 2020. And while the president may still be a month or more from announcing his reelection plans, most paths for a Biden second term run right through the same three states.

Michigan and Pennsylvania trended more toward the Democrats in the 2022 midterms than did Wisconsin, which reelected a Democratic governor but also a Republican senator in Johnson. Biden’s margin of victory in Wisconsin in 2020 was fewer than 21,000 votes — his smallest advantage of the three former “Blue Wall” states — but his advisers believe that his pro-union and manufacturing message will continue to play well in the state.

Moreover, Biden advisers are looking at the electoral map and see limited options. Many in the party believe that Florida — which has dramatically trended rightward in recent years and is home to the GOP’s two top leading 2024 candidates — is a lost cause. Still, Biden will make a stop there Thursday. But even the most bullish Biden advisers concede Florida is an uphill climb, and a loss there, if combined with defeats in Georgia and Arizona — two states Biden barely captured two years ago — would make his path to victory very narrow. It also would make Wisconsin essential.

Biden has been to Michigan and Pennsylvania more often to this point in his term, and aides said to expect travel to Wisconsin to ramp up. It’s been decided by less than a percentage point in four of the last six presidential races, including in 2016 and 2020.