By Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland
NEW ALBANY, Ohio (Reuters) – President Joe Biden made an election-year visit to an overwhelmingly Republican state of Ohio on Friday for the construction of a semiconductor plant that he promoted as proof that his economic policies are working.
But his trip was marred by comments from a fellow Democrat, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who is now running for the U.S. Senate. On Thursday, Ryan publicly questioned whether the party needed new leadership after being asked whether the 79-year-old president should run for re-election in 2024.
Biden traveled to Licking County near Columbus to speak at the site of Intel Corp’s new $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility and hailed it as a sign of things to come.
“The future of the chip industry will be made in America,” he said. “The industrial Midwest is back.”
The trip is part of a preliminary White House push for new manufacturing and infrastructure funding that Biden’s Democratic Party has pushed through Congress, while denouncing opposition Republicans backed by former President Donald Trump as dangerous extremists.
Previous trips to Maryland, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin took the president to areas where Democrats already have strong support, but Licking County went 63 percent to 35 percent Republican in the 2020 presidential election.
Democrats lost Ohio in the previous two presidential contests, but Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s withdrawal may give Democrats a chance to pick up a Senate seat.
Some recent projections show Democrats favored to retain control of the Senate after a string of congressional victories. But not all candidates welcome Biden’s campaign support.
Ryan, who currently represents Ohio’s 13th congressional district, is running against Republican JD Vance, a venture capitalist and author of the book “Hillbilly Elegy,” who has the support of Trump.
Asked Thursday if Biden should seek a second term, Ryan told WFMJ in Youngstown, Ohio, “My gut feeling is that we need new leadership across the board — Democrats, Republicans, I think it’s time for a move. generations”.
Ryan, who has fallen out with the president on a number of issues, did not ask Biden to campaign in the state with him, but was present at the Intel groundbreaking for the president’s remarks.
Pressed later by reporters on whether Biden should run again, Ryan said that was up to the president. “The president said from the beginning that it was going to be a bridge to the next generation, that’s basically what I was saying,” he said.
Vance accused Ryan of hypocrisy. “It takes a real two-faced scam for someone to tell the people of Ohio that they don’t support Biden running for re-election literally the day before they show up at an event with him,” he said.
Trump’s political organization announced Monday that Trump will appear at a rally for Vance in Youngstown, Ohio, on Sept. 17.
CHIPS ACT PROJECTS
Intel supported the Ohio project pending passage of the Chips and Science Act, a funding bill that Biden signed last month after some Republicans joined Democrats in supporting it, the White House says.
The Chips Act aims to jump-start domestic semiconductor production in response to supply chain disruptions that have slowed car production.
A number of other companies have announced new semiconductor facilities stemming from the passage of the Chips Act, which authorized about $52 billion in government subsidies for U.S. semiconductor production and research and an investment tax credit for chip factories estimated at 24 billion dollars.
“Industry leaders choose us — the United States — because they see America’s back and America leading the way,” Biden said.
Intel timed an announcement that it has distributed $17.7 million to Ohio colleges and universities to develop education and workforce programs focused on semiconductors, part of a $50 million investment in education and research in the state, with Biden’s visit.
The Intel facility will contain at least two manufacturing plants that the White House said will be built by union workers, creating more than 7,000 manufacturing jobs and 3,000 full-time jobs for cutting-edge chip production.
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland; additional reporting by Jane Lee and Jeff Mason; Editing by Heather Timmons, Aurora Ellis and Jonathan Oatis)