Watch CBS News

Biden addresses friendly union crowd in first speech since 2024 campaign announcement: "Finish the job"

President Biden's first speech since he formally announced his reelection bid Tuesday was to a friendly crowd as he addressed the North America's Building Trades Unions Legislative Conference at the Washington Hilton near the White House. Mr. Biden took the stage to chants of, "Let's go, Joe," and another chant of "four more years" broke out as he spoke and urged the crowd to let him "finish the job," his new campaign slogan. 

In what was billed as an official White House event and not a campaign stop, the president shared how he believes his administration's investments are bringing back manufacturing jobs and rebuilding the middle class, with occasional references to the opposition party and his predecessor and potential 2024 challenger, former President Donald Trump.

"Under my predecessor, Infrastructure Week became a punchline," Mr. Biden said. "On my watch, infrastructure's become a decade headline, a decade. And that's where you all come in. No, really. That's where you all come in. We've already announced over 25,000 infrastructure projects in 4,500 towns across America. And we're just getting started, not even close. Union workers will build roads, bridges, lay internet cable, install 500,000 electric vehicle chargers throughout America. And union workers are going to transform America. And union workers are going to finish the job!"

On Tuesday morning, the president's campaign released a three-minute video with the president trying to make the case that he and fellow Democrats want to protect as many American freedoms as possible. 

"When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America — and we still are," Mr. Biden said in the video. "The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer. I know what I want the answer to be. This is not a time to be complacent. That's why I'm running for reelection."

The Washington Hilton, where Mr. Biden spoke Tuesday, is the same site where the White House Correspondents Dinner will be held on Saturday.

Mr. Biden has long voiced his support for unions, a key group in funding and backing his successful 2020 presidential election bid against former President Donald Trump. The line, "The middle class built America — and unions built the middle class," has become one so frequent in his speeches that those who watch the president regularly could probably cite it in their sleep. And it's one Mr. Biden used in his speech yet again Tuesday. 

But inflation continues to hammer American budgets, something Mr. Biden briefly mentioned Tuesday, while casting it as a global issue.

"Folks, we've got a lot more work to do though," Mr. Biden said. "I know folks are also struggling with inflation. I grew up in a house when the price of gas when up at the gas station, it was talked about, you felt it, at our house, for real, many of you did as well. But it's not just the United States' problem. It's a global problem."

The president also made the case that the U.S. needs to make aggressive investments in manufacturing, research and development, new enterprises and infrastructure to be competitive with the rest of the world, particularly China. 

"This is not about good or bad, other countries. It's about competition," the president said. 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel criticized the president's speech before it began in a statement. 

"Biden wants to 'finish the job,' yet he couldn't name a single accomplishment in his three-minute-long video seeking re-election," McDaniel said. "Americans' paychecks are shrinking and our communities are less safe in Biden's America, which is why our Republican nominee will beat Biden in 2024."

According to a CBS News poll released Tuesday but conducted ahead of Mr. Biden's announcement, Democrats said they like and approve of the president, although they would greet the announcement of his reelection bid more with acceptance than excitement. Among Democratic and Democratic-leaning respondents, 54% described how they feel about the president running again as "accepting," while 28% chose "confident," 27% chose "nervous" and 22% chose "excited." 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.