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Joe Biden appeals to young voters in US West as midterms near

US President Joe Biden appealed to young voters in New Mexico on Thursday as part of his final major campaign swing ahead of midterm elections that the White House seeks to turn into a referendum on Republicans, and Republicans into a vote on Biden.

Biden’s three-day tour began in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city, where he spoke at a community college on his cancellation of billions of dollars in student debt.

The president addressed students in a safe congressional district for Democrats as polls showed New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham leading Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti, a former television weatherman, by around six percentage points.

New Mexico’s contests echo political battles nationwide.

Lujan Grisham has made maintaining access to abortion the centerpiece of her campaign. Ronchetti proposes banning the procedure after 15 weeks, and has hammered Lujan Grisham on crime.

Biden said his student debt policies and Lujan Grisham’s free college tuition program, among the largest in the country, were designed to encourage young Americans to get skills they needed to compete in a modern economy.

“Your generation is not going to be ignored, you will not be shunned, you will not be silenced,” Biden told students at Central New Mexico Community College, where he also said people should not be imprisoned for marijuana possession and vowed another attempt to ban assault weapons.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks next to Governor of New Mexico Michelle Lujan Grisham at a Democratic Party of New Mexico campaign rally for Incumbent New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democratic candidate for reelection, and other New Mexico Democrats at the Gallegos Community Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S., November 3, 2022. (Reuters)

Biden then crossed the Rio Grande river to address a rally in the state’s second congressional district where incumbent Republican Congresswoman Yvette Herrell is in a close battle with Democratic challenger Gabe Vasquez.

New Mexico’s oil and gas sector is a pivotal issue in the race and Biden criticized fossil fuel companies for reaping record profits while pushing up gasoline prices.

“These outrageous profits are the windfalls of war,” Biden told hundreds of supporters inside a community center in Albuquerque’s South Valley as crowds watched outside on a big screen.

High inflation is another key issue in the race, as it is nationwide, but Biden and a string of other Democratic speakers made no mention of soaring consumer prices.

Biden heads to California on Thursday evening and Illinois on Friday before traveling to Pennsylvania on Saturday for a rally with former President Barack Obama. He will appear at a rally in Maryland on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s congressional elections.

He plans to contrast his economic plan with a Republican push to roll back loan forgiveness, the White House said.

Biden, whose job approval percentage rating in the low 40s is a drag on Democratic candidates, is fighting to help his party hold off a strong challenge mounted by Republicans for control of the U.S. Congress.

Polls show Republicans are widely expected to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and perhaps the Senate as well, as voters worry about the state of the U.S. economy and inflation. Opposition parties historically fare better in midterm elections, providing a balance for new presidents in the second half of their terms.

Biden warned on Wednesday night that Republican loyalists to former President Donald Trump are a threat to democracy as they refuse to say they will accept the results of elections if they are defeated on Tuesday.

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