MILWAUKEE — President Joe Biden was in Milwaukee on Labor Day on Monday to campaign just under two months ahead of the crucial midterm elections, which will decide who controls the U.S. Senate.
Biden spoke about a number of campaign issues and vocalized his support for unions during Milwaukee's Laborfest. The president will visit Pittsburgh on the same day.
WATCH: Air Force One lands in Milwaukee
Biden last visited Wisconsin in March of 2022, when he stopped in Superior to support his infrastructure bill. Monday's visit will be Biden's fourth trip to Wisconsin since his term began.
This will be the first time a current president has visited Milwaukee's Laborfest since 2014. That's when then President Barack Obama visited, as he did in 2008 and 2010. Former President Bill Clinton also stopped by the festival in the 1990s.
WATCH: Biden speaks during Laborfest
Biden excoriated “MAGA Republicans, the extreme right and Trumpies” on Monday, pitching his Labor Day appeals to union members he hopes will turn out in force for his party in November.
“The middle class built America,” Biden told a workers’ gathering at park grounds in Milwaukee. “Everybody knows that. But unions built the middle class.”
On Monday, Biden said “I’m not talking about all Republicans” but singled out those who have taken Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign cry to dangerous or hateful lengths. He highlighted episodes like last year’s mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Biden told the Milwaukee rally that many in the GOP have “chosen to go backwards, full of anger, violence, hate, division.”
“But together we can, and we must, choose a different path forward,” Biden said. “A future of unity and hope. we’re going to choose to build a better America.”
The crowd jeered as Biden chided Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin for voting against a Democratic-backed measure meant to lower prescription drug prices.
The president also returned to another theme that was a centerpiece of his 2020 campaign, that labor unions boosted the middle class.
"He's the man. All our family has local union ties. So this is why I'm here," said Joe Brien, a Biden supporter in the crowd.
"Infrastructure in Milwaukee is important, especially as a resident of the north side," said Haley Truss, a young union worker. "It's like so surreal. I've never seen him [Biden] in person."
This year, the oldest president in U.S. history has faced speculation about if he’ll seek a second term in 2024 — though he’s insisted that’s his intention, and the pressure has dissipated some in recent weeks after a string of policy and political successes for Biden and his party.
Still, both perennial presidential battleground states Biden was visiting Monday may provide key measures of Democrats’ strength before this November and 2024. With inflation still raging and the president’s approval ratings remaining low, how much Biden can help his party in top races — and how much candidates want him to try — remains to be seen.
They’re set up for @POTUS at Laborfest at Henry Maier Festival Park. He’ll speak at 12:15 CST on the “dignity of American workers,” according to the White House. Early arrivers grabbing the best seats. VIP seats, too, for elected officials and union members. @tmj4 pic.twitter.com/4rPXOdwPXN— Bruce Harrison (@HarrisonMKE) September 5, 2022
In Wisconsin, Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is trying to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, but drew criticism from Johnson's campaign for being noncommittal beforehand about appearing with Biden in Milwaukee. In the state's other top race, Tim Michels, a construction executive endorsed by Trump, is attempting to deny Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a second term. Evers said he planned to join Biden on Monday.
WATCH : Wisconsin governor candidate Tim Michels speaks in Milwaukee ahead of President Biden's visit on Labor Day
In the state’s other top race, Tim Michels, a construction executive endorsed by Trump, is attempting to deny Democratic Gov. Tony Evers a second term. Evers also spoke at the labor event Biden addressed and briefly greeted the president in a backstage photo line.
“We have a president who understands the challenges facing working families,” Evers told the crowd. He said that Biden “hasn’t forgotten that working families matter, not just on Labor Day, but every single day of the year.”
The Pennsylvania and Wisconsin races could decide which party controls the Senate next year, while the winner of each governorship may influence results in 2024′s presidential election. The stakes are particularly high given that some Trump-aligned candidates have spread lies about widespread fraud that did not occur during the 2020 election — raising questions about what might happen if a candidate they don’t support wins the next presidential contest.
Biden to visit Pittsburg
President Joe Biden is making his third trip to Pennsylvania in less than a week and returning just two days after his predecessor, Donald Trump, staged his own rally there — illustrating the battleground state's importance to both parties as Labor Day kicks off a nine-week sprint to crucial midterm elections.
Trump spoke Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, near Scranton, where Biden was born. The president made his own Wilkes-Barre trip last week to discuss increasing funding for police, decry GOP criticism of the FBI after the raid on Trump's Florida estate and to argue that new, bipartisan gun safety measures can help reduce violent crime.
Two days after that, Biden went to Independence Hall in Philadelphia for a prime-time address denouncing the “extremism” of Trump's fiercest supporters. On Monday, he's attending Labor Day festivities in Milwaukee, in another key swing state, Wisconsin, before traveling to Pittsburgh for that city's parade.
The White House says Biden will celebrate “the dignity of American workers.” The unofficial start of fall, Labor Day also traditionally kicks off political crunch time, with campaigns scrambling to excite voters ahead of Election Day on Nov. 8. That's when control of the House and Senate, as well some of the country's top governorships, will be decided.
Trump has endorsed candidates in key races around the country and Biden is warning that some Republicans now believe so strongly in Trumpism that they are willing to undermine core American values to promote it. The president said Thursday that the midterms will be a battle “for the soul of the nation,” the same slogan he used to win the 2020 election, and that “blind loyalty to a single leader, and a willingness to engage in political violence, is fatal to democracy.”
Biden added in that speech that “MAGA Republicans are destroying American democracy," referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign cry and pointing to incidents like last year's mob attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump said during his Saturday rally that Biden's Philadelphia appearance featured "the most vicious, hateful and divisive speech ever delivered by an American president.”
“He’s an enemy of the state,” the former president said.
Endorsements from key unions helped Biden overcome disastrous early finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire to win the Democratic primary, and eventually the White House. He has since continued to praise labor unions — even though many voters without college degrees, many working class, remain among Trump's strongest bloc of supporters.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2-million-member Service Employees International Union, called Biden championing unions heading into the midterms “critical” and said that the labor movement must “mobilize in battlegrounds across the country to ensure that working people turn out.”
“We’re really excited about the president speaking directly to workers about, if he had the opportunity, he’d join a union,” Henry said. She added: “This president has signaled which side he’s on. And he’s on the side of working people. And that matters hugely.”
Biden, meanwhile, has personal history with Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade, which is among the nation's largest. He attended the 2015 installment as vice president and returned in 2018. Both times, Biden, now 79, faced questions about whether he’d run for president in upcoming elections — which he opted against in 2016 before winning the White House in 2020.