Midterm politics loom over Biden, DeWine

It was the political event of the season.

Republicans and Democrats in Ohio descended on Licking County on Friday to mark the inauguration of Intel’s $20 billion investment in central Ohio alongside President Joe Biden. The plan to build two factories to manufacture semiconductors is expected to create thousands of jobs at Intel and its suppliers, as well as construction jobs during construction.

It is the largest economic development project in the history of the state, and the pomp and circumstances of Friday’s event testify to this. State officials and members of the congressional delegation rubbed shoulders with business leaders as live jazz filled an air-conditioned room at the construction site. The Ohio State University Marching Band had people performing on and off the stage. Officials took to the podium to tout Ohio’s place in the national economy and declare the Rust Belt dead.

“I always feel that good governance and good leadership is good policy,” Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted said. “There’s no political element to it except that I think it shows that we have never taken our eyes off the ball and that we have landed the biggest project in the world and that will benefit the people of the Ohio for generations. I think people will recognize that.”

Senator Sherrod Brown, Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine line up to shake hands with President Joe Biden during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Intel project on 9 september.

When Ohio leaders recognized the role of politics, they announced the bipartisan work in Washington, DC and Columbus that led to this moment. More recently, Congress passed legislation pushed by Intel it would increase federal subsidies for semiconductor production. All members of the Ohio delegation except four House Republicanssupported the bill that Biden later signed into law.

After:Full coverage: Video, photos and more from Biden’s visit to Ohio

“I think this is an example where if we can put partisanship aside, we get something good for the country,” said Sen. Rob Portman. “Is this a perfect bill? No…but it was really important that we re-establish America’s place in the global tech and innovation space.”

Governor Mike DeWine and other state, local and Intel officials break ground for Intel's new $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in Ohio.  Sara C. Tobias / The Lawyer

Still, November’s election hung in the air during Friday’s event. Governor Mike DeWine greeted Biden behind the stage, out of sight of the entire audience. Biden thanked DeWine “for the passport to get into the state,” but otherwise made no mention of the governor during his remarks. DeWine behaved similarly when he launched his own speech.

“What a great day,” DeWine said. “The President will be here in a moment. I would normally greet him and welcome him to Ohio, and I will.”

The official inauguration – with shovels and dirt that read “Let’s build” – took place before the arrival of Biden and Democratic officials, including US Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and US Representative Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, who joined him on Air Force One. An Intel representative attributed the timing to the logistics of the event and nothing more.

New Albany's Elaine Pace said she was upset that President Joe Biden claimed credit for Intel's upcoming chip factory in Ohio.  She said the credit belongs to Governor Mike DeWine.

While Biden, DeWine and other speakers framed Intel’s development as a team effort, some balked during the president’s visit. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik accused Biden and U.S. Representative Tim Ryan, who is running for the U.S. Senate, of taking a “victory lap” on Republican labor. A protester outside the site held a sign saying, “Joe, you didn’t build this.”

Republican Senate candidate JD Vance praised Republican leaders for their work and called the bill a “great bipartisan victory,” but he made no mention of Biden or other Democrats.

Ryan, for his part, attended Friday’s event after distancing himself from other recent appearances by Biden in Buckeye State.

Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, left, and Republican Senator Rob Portman attend a groundbreaking ceremony for Intel's $20 billion microchip manufacturing project.  Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

“That’s what happens when you stop the stupid fights I keep talking about,” he said. “I hope this is an example of what can be if we just let go of the age of stupidity and move into the age of possibility, which has Ohio at the forefront.”

Haley BeMiller is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and 18 other affiliate news organizations across Ohio.

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