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Washington Watch: Here’s how Biden’s State of the Union and the Republican response preview the midterm-election fight

Neither President Joe Biden nor Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said the words “midterm elections” in their big speeches on Tuesday night. But their addresses offered a preview of how the November contests will be fought.

In his State of the Union remarks, the Democratic president highlighted his fight against inflation, saying his “top priority is getting prices under control.” Not to be outdone, the Republican governor said in her response that inflation is an “everybody problem,” and hammered Democrats for massive spending that she said is sending inflation soaring. Reynolds instead talked up tax cutting and balanced budgets.

Read: Biden says his ‘top priority is getting prices under control,’ as he outlines steps to fight inflation

Also see: ‘Biden and his party have sent us back,’ says Republican after State of the Union, as Democrats also respond to speech

With inflation at a 40-year high and a top-of-mind issue for many Americans, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee — which works to get Democrats elected to the House of Representatives — amplified Biden’s message after the president spoke. The National Republican Congressional Committee fired back, saying Americans are paying higher prices thanks to what its chairman called Biden and Democrats’ “socialist agenda.”

An ongoing battle over COVID-19 restrictions and school closures also appears set to continue, with Reynolds saying that, in Iowa, “We honored your freedoms and saw right away that lockdowns and school closures came with their own significant costs; that mandates weren’t the answer.” Reynolds’ comments drew praise from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who could become House speaker if Republicans capture the chamber in November.

Biden appeared eager to demonstrate that he empathizes with those who are fatigued from the pandemic, saying: “We can end the shutdown of schools and businesses. We have the tools we need. It’s time for America to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again with people. People working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.”

As the Associated Press reported last month, Democrats are increasingly supportive of easing mandates as they struggle to address voter frustration with the lingering pandemic. Biden said in the speech that COVID “no longer need control our lives,” and reiterated that sentiment in a tweet.

The NRCC cast Democrats’ turning against mask mandates, meanwhile, as a purely political calculation, tweeting out a chart showing Republicans are running ahead of Democrats in a generic ballot.

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