Biden courts Latino voters and presses housing affordability, manufacturing in Nevada and Arizona

TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden arrives with union members to speak after touring Intel's Ocotillo Campus in Chandler, Arizona, on March 20, 2024. The White House unveiled almost $20 billion in new grants and loans Wednesday to support Intel's US chip-making facilities, marking the Biden administration's largest funding announcement yet as it tackles China's dominance of the crucial technology. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
President Biden with union members at an Intel plant in Chandler, Ariz., on Wednesday. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)

Courting Western states’ voters who are critical to his reelection bid, President Biden completed a two-day swing through Nevada and Arizona on Wednesday with a focus on Latinos, housing affordability, taxes — and his predecessor and apparent Republican rival, former President Trump.

In a series of official events and political gatherings, Biden blasted Trump for cutting taxes for the wealthy, increasing the federal deficit and for what the Democrat said was a failure to follow through on plans that could have helped the nation.

“Remember my predecessor kept talking about ‘Infrastructure Week’ for four years? Well, he didn’t build a damn thing,” Biden told supporters at a community center in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “I proposed and signed the most significant investment in our nation’s infrastructure in generations, and now we’re going to have an ‘Infrastructure Decade’ — so far, 47,000 new projects modernizing Americans’ roads, bridges, ports, airports, public transit ... $3.4billion in projects right here in Nevada.”

Winning Arizona and Nevada in November — two states that gave Biden narrow victories in 2020 — is vital to the Democrat’s reelection effort. But averages of polling in both states show the incumbent trailing Trump by more than 5 points in each, according to Real Clear Politics.

These states also figure prominently in some of the most critical issues in this year’s election, such as border security, abortion rights and election denialism, amid concerns about the softening of support for the Democratic ticket among Latino voters, a critical part of the coalition Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris need to hold to win reelection.

Biden highlighted policy successes that he said had boosted both states’ economies, and on Wednesday announced that Intel was being awarded up to $8.5billion in grants and $11billion in loans to boost the manufacture of semiconductor chips in Chandler, Ariz., and other places across the nation — an investment expected to create tens of thousands of jobs.

Read more: Arizona and Nevada make up 3% of the U.S. population — and are vital to picking a president

“Not a damn thing America can’t do if we set our mind to it,” Biden told cheering supporters at a construction site in Chandler. “It’s gonna put us on track to manufacture 20% of the world’s leading-edge chips by the end of the decade. And right here in the United States.”

After Biden’s State of the Union address earlier this month, Harris immediately traveled to Phoenix and Las Vegas to promote their message — a reflection of Democrats’ need to strengthen their relationship with Latinos, something Democratic leaders in these states acknowledge.

“We have not been talking to folks about the issues that President Biden has been delivering on, and that’s what we are determined to do,” Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Yolanda Bejarano told reporters after Biden spoke at a campaign event in Phoenix on Tuesday.

Among the Biden administration’s accomplishments that need to be highlighted are job creation, capping insulin prices and protecting entitlements, Bejarano said. While Trump may be entertaining, she said, Arizona will “be a battle” in November, and Democrats must highlight what will happen if the Republican is elected to another term.

“People like [to] laugh at his rallies, you know — it’s like they’re going to a circus. They’re listening to him just joke about things — very, very serious things,” she said. “We just need to be very, very focused and, you know, make sure that Latinos understand exactly who Donald Trump is and what a danger he presents to us.”

Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, identified the Western battlegrounds as one of three swaths in the nation that the president’s reelection bid will hinge upon, in a campaign memo released Tuesday.

She said the campaign would have more than 40 staff members on the ground in the two states by the end of March.

“We’re investing early to reach these voters and highlight the Biden-Harris administration’s work to bring down costs, create good-paying jobs, and keep their families safe — rather than treating them as base voters to engage at the last minute,” she wrote.

The Biden campaign also announced a new ad Tuesday that focuses on Latino voters — delivered in English, Spanglish and Spanish — as well as the launch of “Latinos con Biden-Harris,” an effort to mobilize Latino voters for November’s election.

“You’re the reason why in large part I beat Donald Trump,” the president told supporters shouting “Viva Biden!” on Tuesday evening at El Portal, a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix. “I need you badly.”

Republicans discounted the effort as too little, too late.

“Democrats have taken the Hispanic community for granted for far too long, and no amount of money the Biden campaign spends will change the fact that Biden and Harris have been a disaster for our community, from the failing economy to the border crisis and the uncontrollable raise of crime in our neighborhoods,” Jaime Florez, the Republican National Committee’s Hispanic outreach and communications director, said in a statement.

“Republicans will continue receiving with open arms thousands of Hispanics that are moving to our party, disappointed with Democrats and their policies, and will be fundamental to Republican victories all over the country in 2024,” he said.

Biden’s campaign also used the visit to focus on union jobs created since the pandemic gutted employment, a particularly salient point in Nevada.

The state’s tourism industry was decimated by the 2020 shutdowns and hasn’t fully recovered. Labor has been an enormous booster of Democrats in the state, where more than 1 in 10 workers were union members in 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Supporters there repeatedly called Biden “the most pro-union president in history.”

Among the policy proposals he and his campaign highlighted on the trip were plans to give first-time home buyers a $10,000 tax credit and to build or renovate more than 2million homes, expand the child tax credit and increase taxes on the wealthy.

Biden also touted a high-speed rail project that will connect Las Vegas with Southern California, funded by billions of federal dollars.

“Guess what?” he told supporters at the campaign event in Reno. “It’s coming.”

Get the L.A. Times Politics newsletter. Deeply reported insights into legislation, politics and policy from Sacramento, Washington and beyond, in your inbox three times per week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.