Biden is heading West for a political victory lap, creating an implicit contrast with Trump

After the Arizona National Monument is announced, the President will come to New Mexico and Utah.

(Kenny Holston | The New York Times) President Joe Biden exits Air Force One as he arrives at Grand Canyon National Park Airport in Arizona on August 7, 2023.

Tusayan, Arizona. • President Joe Biden launched a western swing Monday to showcase his work on environmental protection, clean energy and veteran benefits, creating an implied contrast between his administration’s accomplishments and former President Donald Trump’s legal woes.

Biden’s first stop will be the Grand Canyon area, where he will announce a new national monument on Tuesday to protect about 1,562 square miles around Grand Canyon National Park and limit uranium mining, White House officials said.

Climate adviser Ali Zaidi told reporters accompanying Biden aboard Air Force One Monday that the president would name his fifth national monument during the stop in northern Arizona. He said a dozen tribes “came up” asking for the memorial.

After Arizona, Biden will travel to New Mexico and Utah.

The Democratic president will be in Albuquerque on Wednesday to discuss how the fight against climate change has created new jobs, and he will visit Salt Lake City on Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the PACT law that would protect veterans living there were exposed to toxic substances provides new benefits. He will also host a re-election fundraiser in each city.

Biden will use the three-day trip to “continue to highlight the progress he’s making on his agenda,” particularly on climate change, said Natalie Quillian, the White House deputy chief of staff.

“You can expect us to highlight more groundbreaking projects, more ribbon-cuttings and opportunities to show the American people how these investments and jobs are reaching their communities and their neighborhoods,” she said.

The White House is urging to demonstrate the impact of Biden’s policies, hoping to use lower inflation numbers and strong jobs numbers to mitigate the president’s falling poll numbers.

Biden is fresh from more than a week’s vacation at his homes in Rehoboth Beach and Wilmington, Delaware. On the day Trump was again impeached for trying to redeem his 2020 election defeat, Biden went to a seafood restaurant with First Lady Jill Biden, watched the movie “Oppenheimer,” and took a moonlit stroll across the beach.

He did not comment on the charges against his Republican predecessor, maintaining the same strategic silence as on the previous two charges.

The criminal charges appear to have done little to dampen Republican voters’ enthusiasm for Trump, who remains the front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024. The situation was also a challenge and an opportunity for Biden.

The legal dramas have diverted attention away from the White House and made it harder for Biden to garner public attention for his accomplishments. But it has also provided a suitable backdrop for Biden’s promise to break with years of Trump-fuelled chaos and focus on governance.

Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg said Trump’s legal troubles are “depriving everything else of oxygen” and limiting Republicans’ ability to discuss other issues, such as the economy.

“People like to say that nothing matters anymore,” she said. “But the conversation you’re not having is actually important.”

Biden’s journey will traverse a varied political landscape.

Arizona is a key battleground state that Biden narrowly won in 2020, making him the first Democrat to lead the state since Bill Clinton in 1996. Arizona is also one of a few truly competitive states running in next year’s election, making it crucial to Biden’s re-election.

New Mexico is considered safe for the Democrats. Utah is a Republican stronghold, and Governor Spencer Cox is keen to find common ground across party lines.

It is also a crucial region for climate change talks. Temperatures in Phoenix have been at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43.4 degrees Celsius) for 31 days in a row.

Biden’s senior adviser on clean energy, John Podesta, said the president will discuss “the investments we need to ensure we build a resilient society in the face of an increasingly challenging situation.”

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has claimed without evidence that he is being targeted by Democrats who want to stop him from retaking the White House.

Justin Scaccy

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