Biden returns to Scranton to make middle class economic pitch

Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at the United Federation of Teachers annual Teacher Union Day on Oct. 20, 2019, in New York. Copyright Craig Ruttle AP
By Mike Memoli with NBC News Politics
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The former vice president is making his pitch to voters he says Trump has left behind on a day when the president will also be visiting Pennsylvania.


SCRANTON, Pa. — Making a general election argument with the primary in mind, Joe Biden returns to his hometown of Scranton Wednesday to argue that President Donald Trump has abandoned the voters who put him in the White House.

In what his campaign is billing as a major economic address, the former vice president aims to highlight his reputation as a champion of the middle class, an idea central to his political identity as he seeks to shore up his fragile position in the crowded Democratic primary field. And he'll do so in a state Trump took from the Democrats three years ago — and on a day the president will also be visiting Pennsylvania.

Biden previewed his remarks as he addressed donors Tuesday night, saying the northeast Pennsylvania region "is where I learned everything there is to know about the basic values that animate this country," that everyone should be treated with dignity.

"Donald Trump doesn't know what it means to be a part of the middle class. I do," he said in a statement Tuesday. "Donald Trump has had everything given to him and spent his entire life and presidency enriching himself."

Biden is not expected to unveil any new policy proposals Wednesday. He will reiterate his pledges to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, undo the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and restore Obama administration policies to expand overtime pay protections, among other initiatives. He is also expected to recall his role in the White House overseeing implementation of the 2009 stimulus program.

While Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has surged to join Biden as a frontrunner in a shrinking primary field, Biden has been increasingly willing to spar with his fellow Democrats after months of trying to coast above the fray. Just last week, after the fourth debate, he slammed Warren for failing to be "candid and honest with the American people" about the cost of her signature plans.

"Look, the last thing the Democrats should be doing is playing Trump's game and trying to con the American people to think this is easy. There's nothing easy about it," he said. "If you're going do it, tell us how you're going do it. It's called truth in speaking. That's all it is."

Biden's first pubic appearance as a presidential candidate was in his adopted hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. But he returns to Scranton to make a similar point to the one he made on his last visit, on the eve of the midterm elections in 2018 in neighboring Luzerne County. That jurisdiction saw one of the largest flips from the 2012 election, when the Obama-Biden ticket narrowly carried it, to 2016, when Trump won by nearly 20 points.

Biden surrogates maintain that he is unique among the top Democratic contenders in being able to win over swing voters in swing states, even as many public polls at this point also show other Democrats leading Trump in key battlegrounds.

Biden argued Tuesday that not only is Trump worried about facing him in November, but so do America's adversaries. Referring to new reports about online activity aimed at undermining his candidacy, Biden told donors: "What I've learned is that Putin doesn't want me to be president, and Trump doesn't want me to be the nominee. Because I will beat him like a drum."

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