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Biden Tries to Reassure Voters on Health Care Costs

LOS ANGELES — President Biden on Friday tried to reassure Americans stung by high inflation that his administration was working to keep health care costs down, promising a community college audience in Southern California that he was committed to doing even more.

But his remarks in Irvine, Calif. — the first of two West Coast speeches devoted to health care costs — come just days after government data revealed that overall inflation remains high as voters prepare to go to the polls for midterm elections early next month.

Surveys show that Americans are deeply frustrated by the impact of sharply higher prices on their pocketbooks. They are expected to rebuke the president and his party in the elections, with most analysts predicting that Democrats will lose control of one or both chambers in Congress.

Speaking to a friendly audience, Mr. Biden argued that Republicans would drive prices higher if they gained power. He noted their opposition to his efforts to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, which he said would force prices down for medication for millions of seniors. And he said Democrats had pushed through price caps on critical drugs like insulin.

Ms. Porter, who is facing Scott Baugh, a Republican former state assemblyman, pushed for the drug pricing measure. At the event on Friday, Mr. Biden singled her out, crediting the success of Democratic legislation to her efforts to fight on behalf of her constituents.

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“That’s why Katie’s leadership and the work of the Democrats in Congress was so consequential,” he said. “Katie, I’m not just being nice because I’m in your district. It happens to be true. No, no. I mean, you’re a fighter. You’re decent. You’re honorable and everybody respects you.”

Friday’s event at the Irvine Valley Community College was an official one, not a campaign rally. But Ms. Porter used her time at the podium to assail Republicans.

“Every single Republican in Washington voted against patients, against families and against taxpayers,” she said. “In the Senate, Republican politicians voted to limit how much Americans can save on prescription drugs and to prevent all patients from getting insulin. And House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has vowed that next term it’s his priority to return Big Pharma its unchecked power to charge patients whatever it wants.”

She called that a “slap in the face” to the Californians she represents.

Republicans sought to portray the president’s efforts to bolster candidates’ prospects as in vain. “Joe Biden is the last person Democrat candidates want to see on the campaign trail,” Michael McAdams, the communications director for the National Republican Campaign Committee, said after the event, noting reports that Democrats recently shifted money away from some California districts to candidates who need help more.

“His policies are so unpopular House Democrats are being forced to abandon spending in California districts he won by double-digits,” Mr. McAdams said.

Friday evening, Mr. Biden was scheduled to fly to Portland, Ore., a liberal community where the Democratic Party would not normally need the help of the sitting president. But Mr. Biden is hoping to help boost the fortunes of Tina Kotek, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Although the state has not elected a Republican leader in decades, polls suggest that Ms. Kotek is in a tight, three-way race with Christine Drazan, the Republican candidate, and Betsy Johnson, a former Democrat who is being financed by Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike. The White House is hoping that a visit by Mr. Biden will help underscore the party’s commitment to her.

Republicans predicted that the president’s trip will not prevent their party from grabbing the top electoral prize in the state.

“Joe Biden’s disastrous policies continue to hurt Oregon families, and there has been no bigger fan of his out-of-touch approach,” said Kaitlin Price, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association, citing Ms. Kotek, Ms. Johnson and Kate Brown, the state’s current Democratic governor.

“This last-ditch effort from national Democrats is proof of their hysteria as they watch Christine Drazan take hold of once deep-blue Oregon that is desperate for change,” Ms. Price said.

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