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Biden Seeking to Appeal to Key Constituencies With Targeted Policies

Last Monday, it was forgiving student loans. This week, it was calling for tariffs on Chinese steel. Soon, President Biden is expected to protect federal land in the Alaskan wilderness.

As his re-election campaign heats up, Mr. Biden is leaning heavily on the powers of the presidency to try to shore up his support among key constituencies — young people, union workers and environmentalists — many of whom have expressed disappointment in his handling of the issues they care about.

It is a tactic often employed by previous sitting presidents, but one that is made more urgent for Mr. Biden by polls that show lagging support among several of the groups that helped him win the White House four years ago. Campaign aides say the rapid-fire string of announcements, which will continue, demonstrate that the president hears their concerns.

It is also part of the campaign’s broader strategy of trying to boil down the choice for voters to a simple one of governing versus chaos. The announcements by Mr. Biden are meant to draw a contrast with former President Donald J. Trump, who has spent most of this week sitting at the defendant’s table during the first of his four criminal trials.

“You’ve got a president who’s bringing people together to get things done, like relieve student loan debt, protect American manufacturing, lead on the world stage, while Donald Trump screams into an echo chamber of MAGA extremism on Truth Social,” said Michael Tyler, the communications director for Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign.

Republicans view the president’s spate of policy announcements as an effort to distract from what they consider the real issues of the campaign: immigration, inflation, taxes and what they insist is a weak foreign policy that has encouraged the country’s adversaries to act out.

Democrats are also focusing on issues with broader resonance, especially abortion rights and democracy. And although the president’s recent events have helped to focus attention on his promises to key constituencies, the gears of government often crank slowly and it is far from clear that the targeted policy actions will go into effect in time to help his campaign assuage the concerns among his voters.

The new student loan regulations that the president announced will not be finalized until just weeks before Election Day, and even then they are likely to be blocked by legal challenges that could last months or years. His proposed steel tariffs on China could take years to fully affect the U.S. market and would address only a small element of the intensifying economic challenge from Beijing. And the action in Alaska is just one small part of the numerous government actions that environmentalists say are vitally needed to protect the planet.

Other policy moves by Mr. Biden could actually undermine support for him among some of the same voter groups he is trying so hard to court.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden embraced a renewed effort in Congress to approve foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs. In a statement, he said that if the measure passed this weekend, he would “sign this into law immediately.” It would include about $60 billion to help Ukraine and about $14 billion in military aid to Israel as it wages war against Hamas.

That is likely to anger many Americans who oppose the president’s support for Israel, including young voters, even though the legislation also includes about $10 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza. Mr. Tyler said that the president would continue to say the death toll in Gaza was unacceptable, but that he would not let campaign politics determine his course of action on a complex foreign policy issue.

The legislation also includes a hotly debated national security provision that could lead to a ban on TikTok because it is owned by a Chinese company. That possibility is sure to infuriate young people and social media entrepreneurs who spend countless hours on the app.

“People may not like or agree with every single decision he makes in the moment in which he makes it,” Mr. Tyler said. “But that’s not fundamentally how people are going to base their decision when they go to the ballot box.”

Recent voter surveys suggest that Mr. Biden has not yet made the case to some of his core voters. A poll released this week by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University shows that support for the president among young people has sagged below where it has been for previous successful Democratic candidates.

Molly Murphy, one of Mr. Biden’s pollsters, said the campaign had seen improvement among young people and other groups as the president consolidates the support of his traditional voters.

But she said the campaign still needed to ensure that voters believe Mr. Biden cares about their issues and is fighting for them, even if they do not think he has completely addressed them.

“It is not just making the promise. It is showing that he has not walked away from his commitment,” she said. “We’re seeing as they’re engaging, they’re consolidating behind the president, and we expect that that’s going to continue, obviously, as he continues to talk to them about the things that matter to them.”

Aides say it is time to underscore Mr. Biden’s commitments to policy positions now that voters are beginning to focus more on the choices in front of them.

On April 8, Mr. Biden traveled to Madison, Wis., to announce the development of new regulations that would forgive some federal student loan debt for as many as 30 million Americans. It was the president’s second attempt to make good on a campaign promise after the Supreme Court blocked an earlier plan.

Mr. Biden pledged to be the most pro-union president ever and some of the country’s biggest unions have endorsed him, saying he has kept his promise. But his policies have irritated some blue-collar union members, many of whom voted for Mr. Trump in the last election.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden traveled to Pittsburgh, where he called for a tripling of tariffs on steel imported from China, a position cheered by union workers at U.S. companies. He also highlighted his opposition to the acquisition of U.S. Steel by a Japanese company.

In a campaign ad released the same day, JoJo Burgess, a steelworker from Washington, Pa., contrasted the president’s efforts on behalf of the country’s steel workers with those of his predecessor.

“We listened to four years of Donald Trump talking about infrastructure because there was a lot of lip service with the previous administration,” Mr. Burgess says in the 60-second ad. “Joe Biden delivered on it.”

Mr. Biden frequently cites the record levels of climate-friendly investment in legislation he pushed through early in his presidency. But some voters still want more. In the days ahead, the Interior Department is expected to block the Ambler Access Project, a road that is essential to reach what is estimated to be a $7.5 billion copper deposit buried under ecologically sensitive land.

When it comes to policy decisions that some people might not agree with, Ms. Murphy said that even voters who care deeply about an issue like the humanitarian crisis in Gaza are likely to make their presidential decision based on a variety of strongly held beliefs.

“They are also very concerned about abortion, democracy and their economic interests,” she said. “They’re going to look at multiple factors when they decide who they’re going to vote for.”

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