In Ohio, Biden turns to direct attacks on Trump as US midterm elections near

US President Joe Biden speaks to supporters at Max S. Hayes High School in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 6, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

CLEVELAND (BLOOMBERG) - President Joe Biden accused former President Donald Trump of "dismissing and ignoring the forgotten people he promised to help" in a unusually blunt attack on Wednesday (July 6), indicating that the White House may be trying to turn the midterm elections into a referendum on his predecessor.

Mr Biden, at an event in Cleveland, slammed Mr Trump repeatedly during his remarks unveiling new regulations governing assistance intended to bolster multi-employer pension plans.

He said the former president kept Republican lawmakers from voting for the legislation that funded the programme.

Mr Trump, Mr Biden told assembled union workers, "didn't have a commitment to you".

"We have seen the risk that millions of workers face as they watch their hard-earned pensions turn into broken promises. We saw before the pandemic and the economic crisis that followed the millions of retirees that were at risk of losing their retirement security through no fault of their own," MrBiden told union supporters in Cleveland.

The president has largely avoided addressing his predecessor by name, and in previous speeches had obliquely attacked Republican congressional candidates as "ultra MAGA" - a reference to Mr Trump's Make America Great Again slogan - without mentioning him directly.

But on Wednesday, Mr Biden repeatedly called Mr Trump out by name, even joking as a mobile phone rang that the former president was calling to complain.

The president also criticised Republican senators, saying South Carolina's Lindsey Graham had a plan to cut Social Security, while Florida's Rick Scott had proposed a "shameful" plan that would require Congress to reauthorise programs like Medicare and Social Security every five years.

The White House estimated that with the funding secured in the pandemic bill, some 200 multi-employer plans affecting between 2 and 3 million workers would no longer risk insolvency or dramatic benefit cuts.

The more explicit attacks on Mr Trump come as Mr Biden has seen his approval rating slump to below 40 per cent nationally according to the FiveThirtyEight polls analysis, amid concerns about inflation and the overall state of the economy.

Mr Biden's public approval rating is close to the lowest level of his presidency, with 57 per cent of Americans disapproving of his performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll on June 28.

In recent days, the White House has faced questions about the president's more muted reaction to the recent Supreme Court decision overturning the Roe v Wade abortion law and the July 4 mass shooting at a parade in the Chicago suburbs, compared to Democratic governors like Illinois's Jay Pritzker and California's Gavin Newsom.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre defended the president's reaction to both events earlier Wednesday, pointing out that Mr Biden had recently secured the first bipartisan gun control legislation in decades.

"The president has been very loud and very focused on those two issues," Jean-Pierre said.

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