President Biden on Wednesday entered a wind tower manufacturing plant surrounded by desert boasting of declining unemployment, waning inflation and a manufacturing boom — all metrics that should make his three-state Southwest tour a victory lap.
“Our plan is working,” Mr. Biden said, referring to his economic agenda. “When I think climate, I think jobs.”
But hours before he entered Belen, the president reflected on the challenge hanging over the White House during his tour of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Even as he traverses the country to promote his economic policies, many voters are still skeptical of — or unclear on — Mr. Biden’s legislative record.
He addressed the issue of voter sentiment during a fund-raiser at a private residence shortly after arriving in Albuquerque on Tuesday night.
Noting recent infrastructure projects funded by his policies, Mr. Biden said: “They’re beginning to realize what we actually passed is having an impact. It’s just going to take a little while.”
White House officials are hoping tours around the nation like Mr. Biden is doing this week can change that. As extreme weather rages across the country, the White House has framed one of its signature pieces of legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act, as both a means to improve environmental justice and a source of manufacturing jobs for wind and solar.
A day after seeking to galvanize environmental activists by designating a fifth national monument near the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, Mr. Biden traded talk of conservation for remarks focused on “renewable manufacturing” that can provide “high-paying jobs and dignity to the people who have long been waiting for that.”
The president pointed to the company hosting him, Arcosa Wind Towers Inc., which received $1.1 billion of new orders for wind tower equipment after the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act, according to the White House.
The message most likely resonated with people in New Mexico, where many rural communities are still focused more on job growth rooted in energy production than the fight against climate change, according to Brian Sanderoff, the president of New Mexico-based Research & Polling Inc. But it has not broken through to the nation at large, according to recent surveys.
Mr. Biden remains broadly unpopular among a voting public that is pessimistic about the country’s future, and his approval rating is just 39 percent, according to a recent New York Times/Siena College poll. That survey found him in a neck-and-neck tie with former President Donald J. Trump.
The poll did find that more Americans think the economy is in excellent or good shape: 20 percent, compared with 10 percent a year ago.
On Wednesday, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, defended the administration’s messaging strategy, saying on CNN that “polls don’t tell the entire story.” She then indicated that the public would see more trips like Mr. Biden’s current swing through the Southwest.
The president will be “talking directly to the American people about how wages are actually going up, about how inflation is going down over a long, extended period of time,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said.
In the weeks ahead, however, Mr. Biden must convince Americans that they will feel the impact of provisions of his infrastructure, clean energy and semiconductor packages — even if much of the funding may not be spent for years to come.
“People live through day-to-day challenges of the economy,” Mr. Sanderoff said. “You can tout big legislation, comprehensive legislation that you passed through Congress, but people are busy getting their kids through school and dealing with the cost of bread.”
Matt Bennett, the executive vice president for public affairs at Third Way, a center-left think tank, said the way Mr. Trump’s criminal indictments have dominated Americans’ attention lately makes it even more important for Mr. Biden to travel to small markets and speak directly to the American people.
“People have to begin to feel it in their life or understand what the president has done,” Mr. Bennett said. “That takes time.”
During his visit to the wind tower facility on Wednesday, Mr. Biden appeared to agree.
“I’m not here to declare victory on the economy,” he said. “We have a lot more work to do.”