Joe Biden in NC
President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit North Carolina at the end of March. Ben McKeown/AP

Joe Biden Is Making North Carolina the Poster Child for His Agenda

North Carolina is getting a lot of attention in 2024.

Team Biden and North Carolina have developed a kind of love affair. In the past month, seven cabinet officials have visited the state. Vice President Kamala Harris, who kicked off this month in North Carolina, is set to return to the state with President Biden at the end of March. That’s more visits from high-ranking administration officials than Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia have seen.

This latest “Investing in America” tour — the White House’s fourth highlighting the impacts of “Bidenomics” in battleground states — resurfaces a central risk of the administration’s 2024 strategy: Why are they going all in on a state Democrats have lost in the last three presidential elections?

One answer: The Biden team sees North Carolina as a model state for its agenda.

“Not to pick on favorite governors, but I will say North Carolina has stood out many times,” Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to the president, told NOTUS. “We’ve considered Governor [Roy] Cooper to be one of the strongest in implementing key aspects of the American Rescue Plan.”

Cooper, who is a part of the Biden-Harris National Advisory Board, has been present for each visit to North Carolina as the administration touts the use of federal funds for different state projects. At the start of this month, he joined Harris in Durham to announce American Rescue Plan money designated for women-led and minority-led venture capital firms. North Carolina was an “irresistible” choice for the announcement, Sperling said, as the home to a “historic Black Wall Street.”

The state was also chosen as the ideal platform to showcase other parts of Biden’s economic agenda, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, as well as visits from Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan, White House Director of Domestic Policy Neera Tanden and others.

“Whenever we make these national announcements, we make them from a place where you have strong leadership both at the state and local level,” Regan said in Wilmington, North Carolina, as he announced the launch of the EPA’s Clean Ports Program to fund zero-emission port equipment and infrastructure. “We look for that magic recipe that we know will put forth very creative grant applications.”

Biden did two North Carolina radio interviews last week ahead of the state’s primaries, explaining what’s at stake for Black voters and emphasizing his administration’s investments in the state. He listed the hundreds of thousands of new jobs, capping insulin costs, HBCU investments and providing affordable high-speed internet to its rural neighborhoods.

“There’s a lot going on, repairing neglected infrastructures in Black communities,” Biden said on Power 98.1 with Jessica Williams. “They’ve always been the last — the so-called fence-line communities.”

The Biden team’s optimism in North Carolina is a sign that the campaign is looking at several routes to 270 electoral votes, as it may not win all of the swing states it did in 2020. Despite North Carolina Republicans’ electoral successes in the state’s legislature and courts, statewide elections still come down to small margins.

“The road to the White House runs through North Carolina,” said Rep. Jeff Jackson, who will run alongside Biden as the state’s Democratic nominee for attorney general. “I think the president and his team know that, and I expect them to spend a lot more time in our state.”

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries echoed the sentiment, telling NOTUS North Carolina was “definitely an important state in the context of what happens in November.”

It’s not just the Democrats’ agenda the Biden team is emphasizing. In addition to touting North Carolina’s low unemployment rate and Medicaid expansion, the campaign has attacked Donald Trump and the Trump-endorsed Republican nominee for governor in the state, Mark Robinson. North Carolina was included in the Biden campaign’s latest $30 million ad buy on Trump leaving room for entitlement cuts.

Meanwhile, Republicans are spinning Biden’s focus on the state as a negative.

“Maybe he’s trying to make up ground because life’s really expensive for North Carolinians out there, thanks to his policies. I would say, no thanks to his policies,” Sen. Ted Budd said.

Calen Razor is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.