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In Pittsburgh, Biden to talk about inflation, jobs and Supreme Court vacancy


In a news conference last week, President Biden talked of traveling more.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I'm going to be out on the road a lot, making the case around the country with my colleagues who are up for reelection and others, making the case of what we did do and what we want to do, what we need to do.

INSKEEP: Today, the president does that, visiting Pittsburgh, Penn. The state has open races for governor and the U.S. Senate, which means this visit bears directly on Biden's presidency. The Senate race is one of many that will decide if Biden's party controls the Senate after 2022. The governor's race determines who is in charge of that state during the presidential voting of 2024. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith will be traveling with the president today. Hey there, Tam.


INSKEEP: What's the president's plan?

KEITH: Well, he is following in a long line of presidents who, facing some difficulty with Congress, head out into the country. And he, of course, like so many presidents, gets a lot of energy from just talking to regular people outside of the Beltway. So he's going to talk about this incredibly fast economic growth - new numbers came out yesterday about 2021 - and the bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress passed. And he's going to talk about things he's doing to revitalize American manufacturing and deal with the supply chain challenges that are feeding inflation. And, of course, those rising prices are something that voters say they care about a lot. And it's something that Republicans plan to campaign on in November. I spoke with former Republican Senate leadership staffer Brian Walsh about this.

BRIAN WALSH: I think he was correct in recognizing he does need to get out of Washington more. At the same time, he's politically held hostage to a number of things both domestically and internationally right now that he can only have so much impact on right now.

KEITH: Domestically, like not being able to pass the voting rights legislation or his social safety net Build Back Better legislation, and internationally, Ukraine. And if something goes wrong over there, that could completely overtake. At this point, we're in a midterm election year, and President Biden is out there trying to define the choice for voters. At least that's what he's beginning to try to do.

INSKEEP: People always notice this sort of thing. Some prominent Pennsylvania Democrats who conceivably might have shown up with the president will not be doing that, it seems.

KEITH: Yeah, the Associated Press reported that two top Pennsylvania Democrats had scheduling conflicts, which probably wouldn't get much notice at all, except that earlier this month, President Biden was in Georgia, and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams also had a scheduling conflict. It's an optics thing. And let's just say optics may only matter to people who provide political commentary and not actually voters, especially nine months before an election.

INSKEEP: Which is the fact - we are months away. At the same time, the president has a big choice to make now - a Supreme Court justice to replace Stephen Breyer.

KEITH: Indeed. And this is good for him in that it is a big change of topic from some of the other challenges he's been having that have disappointed the Democratic base. This is the kind of thing that can make the base very happy, people he needs to turn out in November. And this is an opportunity for him to follow through on a campaign pledge. And he said yesterday he fully plans to do that - to nominate a Black woman to the nation's highest court, which would be a first. Karen Finney is a Democratic strategist.

KAREN FINNEY: It's just exciting that - the history-making opportunity. At the same time, from a political context, it is an opportunity for the president to keep another promise to the American people.

KEITH: Biden said yesterday he would name his pick by the end of February. And then Senate Democrats plan to move fast.

FINNEY: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, safe travels to Pittsburgh. It's a lovely city.

KEITH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.