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Former Biden White House chief of staff says president’s reelection message is too focused on infrastructure

<i>Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Ron Klain
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource
Ron Klain

By Kaanita Iyer, CNN

(CNN) — President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff said Tuesday that the president is too focused on infrastructure and should instead prioritize Americans’ economic concerns as he seeks another term, Politico reported.

“I think the president is out there too much talking about bridges,” Ron Klain said Tuesday evening, Politico reported, citing audio it had obtained of the remarks. “He does two or three events a week where he’s cutting a ribbon on a bridge. And here’s a bridge. Like I tell you, if you go into the grocery store, you go to the grocery store and, you know, eggs and milk are expensive, the fact that there’s a f**king bridge is not [inaudible].”

While the former chief of staff called the administration’s efforts to improve the nation’s infrastructure “a positive thing,” he warned at an event hosted by “Democracy: A Journal of Ideas” that “it’s kind of a fool’s errand.”

“He’s not a congressman. He’s not running for Congress. I think it’s kind of a fool’s errand,” he said, according to Politico, adding later: “Like it’s a bridge, and how interesting is the bridge? It’s a little interesting but it’s not a lot interesting.”

CNN has reached out to Klain for comment.

Klain, who has a decadeslong relationship with Biden, left the White House early last year. He had some level of direct involvement in deliberations big and small, ranging from political to policy issues, and he was known to check on gas prices even in the middle of the night.

Klain, in a follow-up interview with Politico, noted that he had also touted the administration’s wins in his remarks, but he doubled down that the president’s reelection messaging could be stronger.

“The president’s most effective economic message is contrast around whose side are you on, and compassion for the [pinch] of family budgets, and his agenda to bring down costs and raise incomes — and that lauding achievements — especially ones with abstract benefits — is less persuasive with voters,” Klain said, according to Politico.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates defended Biden’s campaign talking points in a statement, arguing that the president is focused on several different issues that impact Americans.

“Like Ron says, President Biden is crisscrossing the country building on his State of the Union message, highlighting that he is fighting to grow the middle class and lower costs like prescription drugs while blocking the trickle-down agenda Republican officials have proposed on behalf of rich special interests, including Medicare cuts and tax giveaways to big corporations,” Bates said.

In recent weeks, the president has traveled to battleground states to shore up support, focusing on housing costs and job creation in clean energy and manufacturing as he makes the case to Americans that his administration’s policies are working for them.

Biden’s team also hopes that reproductive rights and democracy arguments also turn out voters, particularly moderates, as the president takes on former President Donald Trump once again.

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Arlette Saenz and Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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