jill biden intel First lady Jill Biden speaks after touring an Intel facility, Monday, March 7, 2022, at Intel Corp's Ocotillo Campus in Chandler, Ariz.
AP Photo/Matt York

First lady Jill Biden promoted her husband’s economic agenda Monday during a stop in Arizona, a state President Joe Biden won by the narrowest of margins and which is crucial for Democratic hopes of retaining control of Congress.

In a six-minute address that sounded at times like a campaign stump speech, the first lady delivered a robust defense of the president and his first year in office.

“You were right to put your faith in Joe Biden a year ago, because in the face of uncertainty, he is unshakable,” Jill Biden said.

She recounted the hardships Joe Biden has faced such as when his wife and infant daughter died in a car accident that also injured his two young sons. She opened her remarks asking for a moment of silence for Ukrainians fighting off a Russian invasion, saying, “Our hearts are with the people of Ukraine and I think all Americans feel that as well.”

She spoke after touring one of two Intel campuses in Chandler, where the semiconductor firm has promised a massive $20 billion expansion to ramp up and modernize its chipmaking business.

The first lady is among the White House surrogates crisscrossing the country to promote the “building a better America” agenda the president laid out in his State of the Union speech last week, which he delivered amid flagging approval ratings and a bleak outlook for the upcoming midterm elections.

In a private fundraiser later at the Gila River Indian Community, Biden acknowledged the political headwinds but expressed optimism.

“They’re trying to paint this gloomy picture, but that’s not who we are,” she said.

At Intel, Biden highlighted a partnership between Intel and the Maricopa Community College District that will offer accelerated training for entry-level jobs as semiconductor technicians.

“These investments are changing lives and every person who benefits from this program and others like it, who is better off today than they were a year ago, passes that benefit along,” Biden said. “When we invest in you, you invest in your family, in your neighborhoods, in local businesses, in your cities and in your states.”

Semiconductor manufacturing has become a crucial pillar of Arizona’s economy since Intel opened its first factory here in 1980. The firm now has four factories, known as “fabs,” open in Chandler with two more under construction. Its major competitor, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, has its own massive project under construction in North Phoenix.

The Biden administration has built a close relationship with Intel amid a global shortage of microchips that has slowed production and raised prices for a variety of goods, including cars. Rising prices look to be a major liability for Biden and the Democrats in the midterm elections later this year.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger was the first lady’s guest at the president’s State of the Union address last week, and the administration this year has repeatedly highlighted Intel’s plans to build another $20 billion manufacturing plant in Ohio.

Republicans used Biden’s trip to highlight the rising prices they hope will lead help sweep the GOP into office.

“Jill Biden’s visit does nothing to address the real issues facing Arizonans,” Ben Petersen, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.

After Intel, Biden went to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Chandler and was scheduled to fly to Tucson on Monday evening. On Tuesday, she’s scheduled to hear about the cancer program and services at the San Xavier Health Center on the Tohono O’odham Nation.

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