Saturday July 20th, 2024 12:33AM

Jill Biden to rally veterans and military families as Biden team seeks to shift focus back to Trump

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Jill Biden is launching President Joe Biden 's outreach to veterans and military families during a campaign swing through battleground states, drawing contrasts with her husband's Republican rival as the Biden team works to shift the conversation away from growing calls for the Democratic incumbent to drop his reelection bid after a damaging debate performance against Donald Trump.

The first lady was to announce the formation of Veterans and Military Families for Biden-Harris during stops Monday in Wilmington, North Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and Columbus, Georgia. The states have large populations of veterans and military families.

Her daylong tour is part of the Biden campaign's broader effort to rebound from the president's halting performance against Trump in last month's debate, which led a handful of House Democrats and others to call on Biden to end his campaign because they no longer believe the 81-year-old president is mentally and physically capable of defeating Trump in November's election.

Biden has insisted, during public appearances since the June 27 debate, that he is staying in the race.

His campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said the new group will work to engage and mobilize millions of veterans and military families in the U.S. to vote to reelect the president.

“Our veterans and military families are the brave and the bold, who step forward for all of us," she said. "They deserve a commander in chief who respects their bravery and understands personally their sacrifice, not one who denigrates them for being willing to put their lives on the line for our democracy.”

Rodriguez was referring to reports that Trump, during a 2018 trip to France, referred to service members who made paid the ultimate sacrifice as “suckers” and “losers.” Trump denies making the comments.

Biden's late son Beau served in Iraq as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard, and the first lady's father was a Navy signalman during World War II.

Biden and Trump argued during the debate over who cares the most about veterans. Biden noted that he recently visited an American military cemetery in France, the final resting place for U.S. soldiers who fought in World War I, which Trump notably skipped on that 2018 trip.

Trump asserted during the debate that the Democratic president is coddling migrants while neglecting the needs of veterans and service members, and he faulted Biden for the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

Biden's campaign noted that the president had expanded benefits for veterans affected by toxic exposures, developed a strategy to reduce veteran suicide, increased support for caregivers and awarded more than $1 billion in 2023 to support homeless veterans.

Jill Biden separately leads a White House initiative named Joining Forces, which is working to help military spouses get and keep federal government jobs, make child care more affordable and accessible for military families and support those who care for veterans.

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