PITTSBURGH — President Biden returned to his home state of Pennsylvania on Thursday to promote the fruits of the infrastructure law that he enacted this year and to make a final push to help Democrats maintain their slim control of the Senate.
In traveling to Pennsylvania, Mr. Biden injected himself into one of the most hotly contested elections in the country, the fate of which could determine the prospects of his legislative agenda for the next two years. The backdrop represented a shift in Mr. Biden’s rhetorical approach to the midterm elections, which have focused in recent weeks on preserving abortion rights, Social Security and Medicare.
“Instead of infrastructure week, which was a punchline under my predecessor, it’s infrastructure decade,” Mr. Biden said, standing in front of a crane situated next to the partially rebuilt Fern Hollow Bridge, which collapsed in January after years of neglect.
Although the event was purported to be about the economy, politics was clearly in the air. Mr. Biden was greeted at the airport by John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, who is locked in a tight race with Dr. Mehmet Oz, a Republican, to become the state’s next senator.
The president opened his remarks by thanking Mr. Fetterman for running and acknowledging his wife.
“Gisele, you’re going to be a great, great lady in the Senate,” Mr. Biden said, predicting that Mr. Fetterman would prevail.
The State of the 2022 Midterm Elections
Both parties are making their final pitches ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
The Pennsylvania Senate race has grown increasingly contentious during the final stretch. Mr. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke earlier this year, has faced questions from Republicans including his opponent, about his capacity to serve because of lingering health effects. During his recovery, Mr. Fetterman has at times struggled to articulate his thoughts on the campaign trail and has had to read questions on a screen during interviews.
At the event with Mr. Biden in Pittsburgh on Thursday, Mr. Fetterman made no public remarks.
The Fern Hollow Bridge, where Mr. Biden spoke on Thursday, is symbolic of the creaky state of American infrastructure that the president wants to rehabilitate. As Mr. Biden was preparing to visit the city in January, the thoroughfare crumbled and fell into the ravine below.
Funding from the infrastructure law did not go directly to rebuilding the bridge, but Mr. Biden noted that the money allowed the state to fix it more quickly because Pennsylvania’s Transportation Department did not have to divert resources from other projects. The bridge is on track to be rebuilt in less than a year, which is far faster than the two to five years that similar projects might take.
“I’m coming back to walk over this sucker,” Mr. Biden said.
The president laid out the other ways he said the infrastructure law is helping Pennsylvania, pointing to investments in broadband, electric car chargers and lead pipe replacement. He said that much of the work would be completed using union labor.
Mr. Biden, who is expected to return to Pennsylvania next week, acknowledged that he continues to gravitate to the state and to Pittsburgh, where he started his 2020 presidential campaign.
How Times reporters cover politics. We rely on our journalists to be independent observers. So while Times staff members may vote, they are not allowed to endorse or campaign for candidates or political causes. This includes participating in marches or rallies in support of a movement or giving money to, or raising money for, any political candidate or election cause.
“I’m a proud Delawarean, but Pennsylvania is my native state — it’s in my heart,” Mr. Biden said. “I can’t tell you how much it means to be part of rebuilding this beautiful state.”
Mr. Biden, who has maintained a low profile on the campaign trail this fall, is also attending a fund-raising reception with Mr. Fetterman in Philadelphia on Thursday evening. They traveled together on Air Force One, along with Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, to make the journey across the state.
Before leaving Pittsburgh, Mr. Biden stopped at Primanti Brothers, a local sandwich shop, and ordered the Pitts-burger sandwich, which comes with the French fries on the beef patty. The White House said Mr. Biden left a $40 tip.
Speaking with reporters at the sandwich shop, Mr. Biden said that he felt “good” about the upcoming elections and expressed optimism that Democrats could retain control of the Senate.
But at the fund-raiser in Philadelphia, Mr. Biden clearly laid out what he believes is at stake next month.
“If we do not maintain the Senate and the House in this next election, a lot is going to change,” Mr. Biden said, lacing into “MAGA Republicans” who he warned would get rid of Medicare and Social Security.
For his part, Mr. Fetterman said that he wants to be the 51st vote in the Senate and to give Democrats the power to eliminate the filibuster, raise the minimum wage and protect abortion rights that were lost when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.
Mr. Fetterman also addressed his health, accusing Dr. Oz of rooting against his recovery from the stroke and mocking him for moving from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to run for office.
“In January I’ll be feeling much better, but Dr. Oz will still be a fraud,” Mr. Fetterman said.