President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order to encourage companies to manufacture new inventions in the United States at Auburn Manufacturing Inc., in Auburn, Maine, Friday, July 28, 2023. From left, Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Rep. Jared Golden, D-Maine, Auburn, Maine Mayor Jason Levesque, Biden and Kathie Leonard, CEO of Auburn Manufacturing. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

President Joe Biden brought three of Maine’s top politicians with him on a trip to the state on Friday, something that may prompt campaign reverberations into next year.

Economic policy and manufacturing were the focus of the Democratic president’s remarks in Auburn, but the trek cannot be separated from a coming election in 2024 that will once again put Maine’s 2nd Congressional District somewhere near the center of the national map.

The political themes were marked by Biden exchanging kind words with U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, the centrist Democrat from that swing district who stood against many of the president’s priorities.

Here are three of the key things we learned from the five-hour trip.

Golden made Republicans happy by embracing Biden.

Biden left three seats for Golden, U.S. Sen. Angus King and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine’s 1st District and on Air Force One and the helicopter that took the president from the Brunswick airport to Auburn. The interplay between Golden and Biden was worth a close look.

Former President Donald Trump won the third-term congressman’s district in 2016 and 2020, and Golden has taken high-profile stances in opposition to key Biden goals including his “Build Back Better” spending plan and a stalled student debt relief agenda.

When Golden came up to speak ahead of Biden in Auburn, he said he sees the president’s policies as the beginning of a dismantling of an economy that sent jobs overseas, adding that Americans are being fed a false narrative that conservatives or liberals are bad people.

“Thankfully, President Biden is not the type of leader that wants to force this device of choice upon us,” he said.

Biden returned the favor. Even though a book by two journalists last year said a top adviser considered primarying Golden over his opposition to the Build Back Better bill, the president gushed over the congressman’s “beautiful wife and little daughter I just met” and called him an independent voice for his district.

“You’re doing a great job, pal,” he said.

Republicans are paying attention. A spokesperson for their House campaign arm thanked Pingree on Twitter for a photo of Golden and Biden and said it would be in ads soon.

President Joe Biden speaks at Auburn Manufacturing Inc. in Auburn on Friday before he signs an executive order to encourage companies to manufacture new inventions in the United States. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

The president’s speech was tailored to Maine but came with hiccups.

Trump came to Maine often and typically made national news in his appearances, between saying in 2016 former Republican presidential nominee who criticized him had once begged for his endorsement to comparing an email probe into Hillary Clinton with Watergate that year.

The current president’s speech was similar in theme to other economic addresses he has made in recent months, contrasting “Bidenomics” with conservative “trickle-down economics” and the preferred policies of “MAGA Republicans” aligned with Trump.

But he peppered it with references to Maine, including recent flooding along the Androscoggin River and noting mills that had closed as well as recent events including the opening of North America’s first wood fiber insulation plant at a former mill in Madison.

There were some issues with the speech. Biden noted the 2001 closure of the Bates textile mill in Lewiston, which he called “Lewistown.” He said the former Bucksport paper mill was now farming sustainable salmon even though it remains in the design phase. He also repeated a claim that was called false by the Washington Post in April on deficit reduction.

Actor Patrick Dempsey applauds during an event before President Joe Biden arrives to speak at Auburn Manufacturing Inc. in Auburn on Friday. Credit: Susan Walsh / AP

Biden gave a platform to state-level figures trying to rise.

The nature of politics in Auburn led to mixed company at Auburn Manufacturing. Trump’s appearances here were Republican-only affairs, while Mayor Jason Levesque, a former Republican congressional candidate openly considering a run for higher office down the road, had a speaking role ahead of the president on Friday.

Seats were also saved for other prominent Maine conservatives, including Sen. Eric Brakey, who sat next to actor Patrick Dempsey. Rep. Laurel Libby, R-Auburn, the nominal leader of an insurgent group of State House conservatives, was pictured taking a photo with Golden and his young daughter while mulling a run against the congressman.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, someone who is widely seen as a potential candidate for higher office, used his attendance to note in a statement that Mills had once vetoed a “Buy American” bill that he plans to bring back for consideration next year while lauding Biden’s new executive order on that topic.

It was a throwback kind of political visit at which dignitaries on both sides got a chance to show off agendas that will shape Maine politics for years to come.

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after time at the Kennebec Journal. He lives in Augusta, graduated from the University of Maine in 2012 and has a master's degree from the University...