EMMAUS, Pennsylvania— President Joe Biden tried his hand at retail politics — stopping in a trio of Pennsylvania stores to stress the value of small businesses and talk up his economic record.
It was a distinct change from the set speeches that the Democratic president usually gives to highlight his policies about an economy with strong employment but levels of inflation that worry voters. Biden gladhanded and joshed at a running shoe store, bicycle shop and coffee house in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
“My name is Joe Biden and I work for the governor and the senator,” the president said as he stepped into the Nowhere Coffee Co. along with Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro and Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania. Biden ordered what appeared to be a mango smoothie. Obviously, the people in the coffee house knew who he was, with one of them joking, “This is a normal day.”
Sauntering along Main Street, Biden seemed to be in full campaign mode several months ahead of the November election, which could rematch him against his 2020 opponent, former President Donald Trump.
Biden won the surrounding Lehigh County with 53.2% of the vote in 2020, helping him to secure a victory in Pennsylvania and the White House. It’s a state that he will likely need again this year to win reelection.
Biden’s pitch Friday was that he’s been better for small businesses than Trump, a billionaire, real estate magnate and reality television host who won the presidency in 2016 on the premise that he knows how to grow the economy.
At the Emmaus Run Inn, Biden stressed what he saw as a key difference. There have been 16 million applications to start new businesses during the first three years of his presidency, which he noted is the highest number on record.
Drawing on recent consumer sentiment data, Biden said during a later stop at a firefighter training center in nearby Allentown that people are starting to feel better about the economy as inflation has receded from its June 2002 high of 9.1% to 3.4%.
“If you notice, they’re feeling much better about how the economy is doing,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question. “What we haven’t done is letting them know exactly who got it changed. … Everybody’s doing better and they believe it. They know it. And it’s just beginning to sink in.»
Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s Democratic governor, said that Biden discussed with the shop owners the running habits of his wife, Jill, and the kinds of bikes that he enjoys riding.
“It was cool for him to be able to see the small businesses that power our economy and the folks behind that,” Shapiro said.
The president also faced national security questions from the scrum of reporters that trailed him. He said the United States and its allies were not in a proxy war with Iran after a missile strike on Houthis who have attacked ships in the Red Sea. He later said he was “very concerned” about the risk of the attacks increasing oil prices.
But Biden went back to some of his favorite lines while in Pennsylvania. As he left the coffee shop, the president noted that his birthplace was just 90 minutes away.
“By the way, we’re almost in heaven, we’re almost in Scranton,” he said.