President Biden’s Cook Out visit draws attention to inflation

Hello and welcome to your Under the Dome newsletter. Avi Bajpai here.

President Joe Biden made his first visit of the year to North Carolina this past week, traveling to Raleigh to talk about his administration’s latest investments in expanding high-speed internet access in the state, meet with a family that has benefited from student debt forgiveness, and make an impromptu stop at Cook Out for a burger and shake.

The week before, Vice President Kamala Harris came to Charlotte to meet with students affected by gun violence, and announce new federal funding for mental health services in schools.

The visits, which were official White House trips and not part of the Biden-Harris campaign, were the first of several likely stops in North Carolina this year, as Democrats have identified the state as a top target in seeking to keep control of the White House.

It’ll be a tall order for Biden, whose likely opponent in a general election match-up, former President Donald Trump, won North Carolina by 3.6% in 2016, and by a narrower 1.3% in 2020, and whose party’s presidential candidates haven’t won the state in 16 years.

Since taking office, Biden has regularly received low approval ratings in the state, often lower than Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. Polls conducted by High Point University in September and November 2021 found approval ratings of 38% and 34%, respectively. In September 2023, a poll conducted by Meredith College found that Biden’s approval rating was 40%.

Nationally, Biden’s approval rating was also recorded at 40% in a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in early December, which Reuters reported was near the lowest of Biden’s presidency so far.

Republicans have argued that Biden’s energy and economic policies only fueled and exacerbated the 40-year high in inflation recorded in the 12-month period that ended in June 2022.

Persistently higher prices for groceries and everyday items have soured public sentiment about the economy, even if the rate of price increases has decreased since 2022, CNBC reported in December.

Prices have increased at Cook Out as well, where, GOP Senate leader Phil Berger’s team pointed out, a tray cost $5.99 when Biden visited a location in Durham in October 2020, and now costs $7.69.

Fast-food prices can differ by location, but the quick, on-message reminder of higher prices from Berger, a politician not known for going viral on social media, resulted in his post on X being shared more than 1,500 times and liked more than 4,400 times.

That’s all for today. Check your inbox on Tuesday for more #ncpol news.

This story was originally published January 21, 2024, 5:00 AM.

Avi Bajpai is a state politics reporter for The News & Observer. He previously covered breaking news and public safety. Contact him at [email protected] or (919) 346-4817.

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