Just a few months ago, President Joe Biden rarely said the name of his likely opponent in the 2024 presidential election — former President Donald Trump — instead invoking other Republicans as proxies during public events or, on occasion, referring simply to “the former guy”.
But speaking in Las Vegas on Friday, Biden didn’t hold back. “Trump just talks to talk,” he said at the Carpenters International Training Center in Las Vegas, a union hub favoured by Democrats. “We walk the walk.”
And then his words turned even sharper: “He likes to say America is a failing nation. Frankly, he doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about.”
Biden was in Las Vegas to announce $8.2 billion in funding for passenger rail projects, and he used the opportunity to criticize his predecessor’s approach to infrastructure, saying that “the last administration tried to cancel” a rail project in California and that his latest investments “stand in stark contrast”.
“He always talked about ‘infrastructure week’, four years of ‘infrastructure week’, but it failed — he failed,” Biden said, referring to Trump. “On my watch, instead of infrastructure week, America’s having ‘infrastructure decade.’”
The shift comes as officials for the Biden campaign have taken an interest in trying to use Trump, and his actions and words both during and after his presidency, as a foil to bolster Biden’s reelection effort. That strategy is one that some other elected Democrats nationwide have been less keen on, arguing that Biden needs to do more to promote his own accomplishments while in office.
A poll released last month by The New York Times and Siena College found that Trump was leading Biden in Nevada by 10 points, the largest margin across six critical battleground states surveyed.
Trump, who in most national polls leads the field of Republican primary candidates by more than 40 percentage points, will hold a rally in Reno later this month.
Biden’s visit to Las Vegas came after two tragedies in the state: the killing of two state troopers in a hit-and-run last week, and a shooting Wednesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, that killed three faculty members. Biden met with the university’s president and some of its students and other community members before delivering his remarks on the infrastructure funding, according to the White House.
For a few minutes during his speech, he paused to address gun violence, renewing his calls for Congress to “step up” and pass legislation that would include restrictions on assault rifles and universal background checks. “Folks, we got to get smart,” he said. “There have been over 600 mass shootings in America this year alone, plus daily acts of gun violence that don’t even make the national news.” He added, “This is not normal.”
But the event’s primary focus was to promote his administration’s agenda, and in doing so, indirectly make his pitch for another four years in office to a friendly audience.
Biden, who earned the nickname Amtrak Joe after commuting by train between Delaware and Washington for decades, particularly praised an allocation for a 218-mile high-speed rail line between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
New York Times News Service