Joe Biden visits New Hampshire in effort to shore up bridges, Democrats’ fortunes

President Biden took his sagging poll numbers and shrinking political coattails to New Hampshire on Tuesday to promote his newly signed $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan, hoping to build back support for endangered congressional Democrats who are facing a historic disadvantage in voters’ preferences for the 2022 midterm elections.

Standing on an 82-year-old bridge in Woodstock in need of repair, the president promised that the new law will “make sure that democracy delivers for everybody” by rebuilding and creating infrastructure such as water pipes and broadband internet service.

The president also said he’s confident the House will pass his long-stalled $1.75 trillion social welfare bill this week, and that the Senate will approve it “within a week” after the House vote. Advisers say the pair of political wins are vital to helping Mr. Biden counter a strongly negative political narrative.

As he spoke in a light snowfall, Mr. Biden was flanked by New Hampshire’s two Democratic senators and two Democratic House lawmakers, whose political fortunes are closely tied to the unpopular president.

“Your delegation is laser-focused on your needs,” Mr. Biden told the audience. “Because of this delegation, New Hampshire and America are moving again. Your life is going to change for the better.”

The trip is the start of an administration-wide blitz by the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and Cabinet members to travel around the country hailing the new infrastructure law “and communicating directly with the American people about how it will change their lives for the better,” a senior administration official said. 

On Wednesday, the president will travel to Detroit to visit a General Motors electric-vehicle assembly plant.

Mr. Biden also sought to emphasize the bipartisan support he secured for the infrastructure measure, where 13 House Republicans and nearly 20 GOP senators ended up voting for the traditionally popular roads-and-bridges package. His social infrastructure bill, by contrast, has virtually no GOP support.

“Despite the cynics, Democrats and Republicans, we can work together,” Mr. Biden said. “We can deliver real results.”

It was Mr. Biden’s first visit to New Hampshire since he finished fifth in the Democratic presidential primary in 2020. He defeated then-President Trump by 7 percentage points in the general election, but a University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll last month found his approval rating at 34% in the state, with 53% having an unfavorable view.

Voters have cited rising inflation, continuing problems containing COVID-19, and the widely criticized final withdrawal from Afghanistan that Mr. Biden ordered in their negative assessments of the president.

On the president’s drive to the bridge, his motorcade passed signs proclaiming “Let’s Go, Brandon,” a G-rated version of a profane insult increasingly directed at Mr. Biden.

Mr. Biden’s low approval ratings, especially in battleground states, have Democrats increasingly worried about the midterm elections, when the president’s party typically loses seats in Congress and Mr. Biden’s party has the tiniest of majorities in both the Senate and the House.

Republican congressional candidates held their largest lead in 40 years over Democrats in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, released this week. The survey cited worries about inflation and the economy, among other concerns.

Worse for the administration, House GOP candidates held a 23-point advantage in eight battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Independents in the poll favored GOP candidates by 18 points. And Mr. Biden’s job-approval rating in the battleground states with competitive Senate races like New Hampshire was 33%, 10 points lower than his approval in the rest of the nation.

One of the Republicans’ top targets in the midterm elections is New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat whose approval rating was 33% in the latest Granite State Poll.

The president singled out Ms. Hassan as “a key player in every aspect of this [infrastructure] law.”

“She was always making sure that New Hampshire roads and bridges, like the one we’re standing on today, are safe. And this one is not,” the president said.

Ms. Hassan received a major boost a week ago when Republican Gov. Chris Sununu, seen as the GOP’s top recruit to capture the seat, announced instead he will seek reelection to a fourth term. He had been leading Ms. Hassan in hypothetical polling matchups.

Ms. Hassan raised nearly $3 million in the third quarter and entered October with $6.5 million in cash on hand, the largest amount for any Senate candidate in state history at this point in the election cycle. Republicans now appear to be pinning their hopes on retired Army Gen. Don Bolduc, a decorated Afghanistan War veteran who trailed the incumbent by 5 points in last month’s poll.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a new digital ad Tuesday in four states, including New Hampshire. Titled “Nightmare,” the ad focuses on Mr. Biden and the Democrats’ recent setbacks such as the statewide elections in Virginia, showing a video of the president appearing to nap at a recent climate-change summit.

“When Joe Biden dozes off in meetings, is it sweet dreams or nightmares?” the announcer intones. “Joe Biden and Senate Democrats are in for a rude awakening.”

NRSC Chairman Rick Scott of Florida said the president’s “collapsing poll numbers and recent Republican electoral victories have Democrats limping toward a nightmarish 2022. Instead of changing course, Democrats are doubling down on the radical agenda that voters are rejecting. They will be rudely awakened when Republicans take back Congress next year.”

Mr. Sununu, who greeted Mr. Biden at the airport in Manchester, sent a letter to the president earlier Tuesday urging him to work with Congress to send more infrastructure funding to the state. He also called on the president to fix rising prices, labor shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks.

“Ensuring that roads get built, bridges get repaired, and drinking water gets improved will be even more challenging given the economic challenges Washington seems oblivious to,” Mr. Sununu wrote.

Under the infrastructure funding formula, New Hampshire will receive $1.1 billion for highways and $225 million for bridges. Overall the state is to receive about $2.05 billion, or about $1,500 per capita, placing it in the middle of the pack in the ranking of states’ funding.