President Joe Biden kicked off his reelection campaign Saturday at a union rally in his frequent haunt of Pennsylvania, the state that remains an intersection of his personal and political identities that he hopes can propel him to a second term.
The first official rally of his final political campaign was a moment for Biden to underscore recent economic wins that undergird his argument for another four years in the White House.
“Just think back. Remember what it was like when I came to office, we came into office. Remember the mess we inherited,” Biden told the audience in Philadelphia. “Now look at where we are today.”
To a roaring crowd, who repeatedly cheered “four more years,” the president touted several accomplishments, including the bipartisan infrastructure law, a coronavirus relief package, a bipartisan semiconductor chip manufacturing law and the recently negotiated debt ceiling deal that helped avert a US default.
Biden also criticized recent Republican tax proposals while describing what he called his middle-class vision for the American economy, referring to it several times as “Biden-omics.”
Biden made only brief mention of Donald Trump, the current front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, steering clear of the former president’s recent federal indictment and arraignment but hitting him on infrastructure.
“Under my predecessor, infrastructure week became a punchline,” Biden said. “On my watch, we’re making infrastructure a decade headline.”
First lady Jill Biden, who spoke shortly before her husband, highlighted the president’s optimism. Wearing a corsage to mark their 46th wedding anniversary Saturday, the first lady recalled how she met Biden following the death of his first wife and baby daughter in a tragic car accident that also injured his two sons.
“What I love about Joe is that even though he has faced unimaginable tragedies, his optimism is undaunted,” Jill Biden said. “His strength is unshakeable.”
She added that the president was “not done.”
“He’s ready to finish the job,” she said. “He’s ready to win, and with your help, he will.”
Though his economic wins were the centerpiece of Biden’s opening campaign event, polls show many voters give him poor marks for his handling of the economy, particularly as prices have soared post-pandemic. Recent figures have shown inflation easing, however, and fears of an imminent recession have faded.
Biden has said more Americans will come to reward him for his economic stewardship once the benefits of some of his signature legislative achievements, including a new infrastructure law, begin taking hold.
Labor groups that threw their backing behind Biden ahead of his speech include the AFL-CIO, which said it was the earliest point in a presidential election cycle it had ever endorsed a candidate.
“There’s absolutely no question that Joe Biden is the most pro-union president in our lifetimes,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler. “From bringing manufacturing jobs home to America to protecting our pensions and making historic investments in infrastructure, clean energy and education, we’ve never seen a president work so tirelessly to rebuild our economy from the bottom up and middle out.”
Biden, who made his first stop after announcing his reelection bid a legislative conference for North America’s Building Trades Unions in Washington, has long relied on union support for his political ambitions.
“I’m more honored by your endorsement than you can imagine – coming this early, it’s going to make a gigantic difference in this campaign,” Biden said during Saturday’s event in Philadelphia, where he called himself “the most pro-union president in American history.”
Not all unions have thrown their support behind Biden’s reelection bid. The powerful United Auto Workers said last month it was holding off on endorsing Biden, citing concerns over his policies that would encourage a transition to electric vehicles, according to a memo from the union.
The UAW has more than 400,000 members, and Biden has touted its support in the past. Last year he called American autoworkers “the most skilled autoworkers in the world.” The group’s membership is mostly concentrated in Michigan, a presidential election battleground.
Biden also rankled union members last year when he signed legislation that averted a nationwide rail strike – a step he said was necessary to prevent a stoppage of important freight movement.
Biden’s campaign has leaned into his economic record, including releasing a 60-second ad titled “Backbone” last month. The spot struck a populist tone, mixing audio of the president speaking about “investing in places and people that have been forgotten” and a narrator ticking through the administration’s work to boost infrastructure and manufacturing in the country.
“Joe Biden’s building an economy that leaves no city, no town, no American behind,” the narrator says.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Kaanita Iyer, Sam Fossum, Priscilla Alvarez and Lauren Koenig contributed to this reporting.