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Democrats work to own CHIPS on campaign trail

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Apr 2, 2024
Illustration of a US flag made of semiconductor chips.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

President Biden and Democrats down the ballot are banking on historic semiconductor investments to gain favor among voters.

The big picture: Getting the CHIPS and Science Act through Congress was a major win for the Biden administration at a time when lawmakers struggle to agree on anything.

  • The 2022 law appropriated $52.7 billion for chip manufacturing, R&D and workforce development.
  • One industry study projected the investments would create 280,000 jobs in the U.S.

Yes, but: Many Americans aren't aware of the program, said Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock. Although the economy tends to be a major election issue, abortion and immigration are also crowding voters' minds.

Friction point: The bill took bipartisan support to write and pass, and Republicans are also touting it.

  • Even Republicans who voted against the bill or bashed it are now full of praise as it brings money to their states.
  • Even Republicans who voted against the bill or bashed it are now full of praise as it brings money to their states.

What we're watching: Biden and some Democratic lawmakers have already begun to bring up semiconductor investments in major speeches and press releases.

  • Seven months out from the election, Pollock expects Biden's campaign to ramp up CHIPS Act talk, particularly touting the creation of manufacturing jobs.

Zoom in: The CHIPS Act is likely to resonate strongly among voters in states and counties where companies have announced they are building manufacturing plants.

  • Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee national communications director Abhi Rahman: "Our goal as Democrats is to say that hey, this happens when you elect Democrats up and down the ballot, and that's what we're trying to do here in November."

For example, the Commerce Department and Intel recently announced that up to $8.5 billion of CHIPS funding would go toward Intel's chip projects in Arizona, New Mexico, Ohio and Oregon.

  • Intel also announced that it is investing more than $20 billion for two new semiconductor factories in Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown is in a toss-up race.
  • On the day after the Ohio primary, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer thanked Brown on the Senate floor for "making CHIPS and Science happen."
  • Mike Knisley, Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council executive secretary, said workers associate the CHIPS Act and the jobs it will bring with Brown: "We will have his back in November just like he has had ours."

By the numbers: Navigator, a progressive research organization, in an October 2023 poll of 1,000 registered voters with a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, found broad support for CHIPS programs, including:

  • 89% of Democrats
  • 59% of Independents
  • 50% of Republicans
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