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As midterms enter the homestretch, Biden rallies support for Democrats

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The next two days of campaigning can shape the next two years of the Biden administration.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

If Republicans win either chamber of Congress, they'll have much more power to block President Biden's agenda. Many Republicans are also talking on the record about investigations, impeachments and holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling. The president spoke last night in New York, a state where some congressional Democrats and even the governor face tough races.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Our approach is working. Since I came to office, we've created 10 million brand-new jobs.

(CHEERING)

BIDEN: The unemployment rate is a historic low of 3.7%. And we're making things here in America again.

(CHEERING)

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric McDaniel was with the president yesterday. Eric, good morning.

ERIC MCDANIEL, BYLINE: Good morning, my friend.

INSKEEP: What have these final days looked like for the president?

MCDANIEL: Well, he's gone to places with a lot of young people. I went with him yesterday to Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers. He'll head to Bowie State in Maryland today. And young people have helped Democrats a lot. They helped them win the House in 2018. They overwhelmingly supported the president in 2020. But, Steve, our polling shows that by and large, they're just not as excited to vote as they have been in past years.

INSKEEP: And polling also shows voters of all ages concerned about the economy despite that low unemployment rate. People are concerned about inflation. So what is the president saying to defend his record?

MCDANIEL: Well, he's mostly talking about fundamental rights instead. He's talking about access to abortion, access to the ballot. I mean, you did hear him defend the economy in that clip at the top. But these are fundamental, big-D Democratic principles he hopes folks vote on, right? He's not saying - he's saying this isn't a referendum about his performance, but it's a choice, a choice young folks have to make between supporting Democrats, who might not excite them, and, you know, risking that some of the 300 Republicans up and down the ticket - these are folks Biden have called out who have embraced conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election - risking that they may win their races. But in a lot of ways, voters will see this as a referendum, you know? It's hard if you're having trouble making ends meet to worry about big-D democracy.

INSKEEP: Aren't Maryland and New York, where the president campaigned, normally considered blue states?

MCDANIEL: Yeah. Yeah, they are. There's a couple of reasons that Biden's going there, right? He's going where Democrats are in trouble, in places that it might be surprising for Democrats to lose. But, you know, the fact is, folks in more traditional close races in swing states - I'm thinking the Senate race in Wisconsin, Senate race in North Carolina - they may just not want the president showing up. He's not the most popular man around. He has been to Pennsylvania a few times now. He won the state in 2020. He's got close ties there.

INSKEEP: Sure.

MCDANIEL: Also out on the trail and in more perilous places for Democrats is former President Barack Obama.

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BARACK OBAMA: And it has nothing to do, by the way, with political correctness or being too woke. It's about fundamental values that my grandparents from Kansas taught me...

(CHEERING)

OBAMA: ...Values I grew up with, values you grew up with values we try to teach our kids, values we learn in churches, and mosques, and synagogues and temples - honesty, fairness, opportunity, hard work.

INSKEEP: OK, so a former president there evoking his Midwestern grandparents. But don't Republicans also have a former president campaigning?

MCDANIEL: Yeah, they do. Most Republicans are saying this is a referendum election on Biden's performance. But former President Trump has been campaigning across the country. He was in Iowa late last week. But he's been more focused on 2024 than he is on tomorrow's election.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: And now, in order to make our country successful and safe and glorious, I will very, very, very probably do it again, OK? Very, very, very...

MCDANIEL: In Pennsylvania on Saturday - Trump was also campaigning there - he took a shot at Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, has been out on the trail. He's Florida's Republican governor, focused on more 2022 issues.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RON DESANTIS: He's created the worst inflation in 40 years because they printed and borrowed and spent trillions and trillions of dollars when they were warned not to do it.

MCDANIEL: And, you know, Steve, that's a pretty good encapsulation of the kinds of things I've been hearing from Republicans. But, you know, we've talked a lot about closing arguments. It's good to keep in mind, something like 40 million people have already voted. And these closing arguments might not pack the same punch they have in past years because ballots have been cast.

INSKEEP: NPR's Eric McDaniel. Thanks so much.

MCDANIEL: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 10, 2022 at 12:00 AM EST
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.