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Biden Hails Surprise 3.3% Growth in Recession Forecast Rebuke

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden touted better-than-expected economic growth on the campaign trail in Wisconsin, a critical battleground in a likely rematch with Donald Trump.

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“The experts, from the time I got elected, were insisting that the recession was just around the corner,” Biden said Thursday at an event in Superior, Wisconsin, noting US gross domestic product increased at a 3.3% annualized rate during the fourth quarter of 2023.

“The economic growth is stronger than we had during the Trump administration,” Biden added.

The government’s preliminary GDP estimate — out earlier Thursday — trounced forecasts as cooling inflation fueled consumer spending, capping a surprisingly strong year that defied recession calls. For all of 2023, the US economy expanded 2.5%.

The unexpectedly fast economic expansion is welcome news for Biden, who has struggled to convince voters his policies are working. Trump — who is closing in on the Republican presidential nomination after decisive wins in Iowa and New Hampshire — routinely gets higher marks from voters on his handling of economy.

The president has ramped up his travel to highlight the impacts of his economic agenda and investments on communities across the country. High prices have weighed on perceptions of his management of the economy.

Wisconsin is one state where he will need his message to resonate. Trump led Biden in Wisconsin by 45% to 41%, according to a Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll released in December, one of several surveys showing the former president ahead in key swing states.

Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, said Trump has a chance of winning the state back in part because families aren’t feeling the effect of strong economic data.

“If you still can’t afford to pay for your mortgage or your rent and your gas and your food, it doesn’t matter what other indicators are going up,” Walker said in an interview ahead of Biden’s visit.

Trump and Biden each won Wisconsin in 2016 and 2020, respectively, albeit by less than 1 percentage point both times. It’s expected to again be a closely fought state in 2024, when Democrats will also be looking to defend Senator Tammy Baldwin’s seat.

Biden brought with him Thursday a pledge of $4.9 billion for 37 fresh infrastructure projects across the US, including $1 billion to rebuild the Blatnik Bridge connecting Superior with Duluth, Minnesota. The battered bridge is expected to be forced to close by 2030 without major investment, White House officials told reporters on a briefing Wednesday.

Economic Messaging

The president has seized on data showing that Americans might slowly be feeling more positive about the state of the economy. Confidence on the economy, incomes and inflation outlook drove the University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index in January to a two-year high.

The White House has also highlighted ebbing price growth and what officials tout as “historic” investments in infrastructure, including through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Biden in his speeches has focused his attention on Trump, drawing a contrast between their policies and casting him as a threat to democracy for his role in ending nationwide abortion rights.

--With assistance from Michelle Jamrisko, Justin Sink and Akayla Gardner.

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