Biden pushes middle class message with new ads ahead of key Iowa test

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Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Oct. 31, 2019. Copyright Charlie Neibergall AP
Copyright Charlie Neibergall AP
By Mike Memoli with NBC News Politics
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Ahead of this weekend's gathering of state party activists, Biden shifts focus from Trump to his middle class message.


DES MOINES, Iowa — After months of hammering President Donald Trump in what he has called "a battle for the soul of America," former Vice President Joe Biden is now refocusing his campaign message at a critical point on a familiar theme: the middle class.

Ahead of a key test of his strength in Iowa this weekend at the state Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Dinner, which will feature 14 presidential hopefuls at the biggest gathering of party activists before next February's caucuses, Biden's campaign is launching a pair of new television and digital advertisements that play to his reputation as a champion of middle class values and working class voters.

The first ad, titled "Scranton Values," mixes old home videos of a much younger Biden in his original Pennsylvania hometown, as he talks about the values he said that community instilled in him.

"Maybe the most important thing my mom and dad taught me was that everyone should be treated with dignity," Biden says in the ad. "Today too many middle class and working class people, they're not able to look their kid in the eye and say, 'Honey, it's going to be okay,' and mean it. That's why I'm running."

The second ad, which includes 30- and 15-second versions, features Biden telling a union audience earlier this year that "a lot of you don't think the rest of the country sees you" - evoking Trump's 2016 appeals to the "forgotten man."

"Let me tell you what I see: I see millions of people across this nation who get up every single day to make this country work," Biden says in the ad. "I see the people who teach our kids, grow our food, build our cars. I see the backbone of the nation."

On the campaign trail in recent days, Biden has continued to punctuate his speeches with a promise to "beat Donald Trump like a drum," while excoriating him for putting America's standing in the world and its core values at risk.

But he's also broadened his definition of what that "battle" means to re-emphasize his commitment to giving the middle class "a real shot again," as he put it this week in Maquoketa, Iowa.

Biden advisors say it reflects a balancing act all Democrats must confront as the Democratic-led House of Representatives takes the next step toward adopting articles of impeachment against the president.

While congressional investigators do the work of making a legal and constitutional case against Trump, Biden has said he needs to focus on the political case against him - including an appeal beyond the party's base.

The Biden campaign says the new ads are a $4 million component of previously-announced media buys, and will include broadcast and digital media in Iowa.

"With less than 100 days until the Iowa caucus, we are blanketing the state on the air and online to remind voters of the striking differences between Donald Trump's selfish and senseless actions and Joe Biden's inclusive economic vision for the middle class," Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz said in a statement.

Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Oct. 31, 2019.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a town hall meeting in Fort Dodge, Iowa, on Oct. 31, 2019.Charlie Neibergall

Schultz has joined Biden on the campaign trail this week as he continues a four-day swing through the first caucus state, where Biden's frontrunner status is at risk. Biden's campaign has been the subject of renewed scrutiny as he has been forced to spend more time raising money.

Until Wednesday, he had just four public events in Iowa in October compared to 13 fundraisers. He's making up for that with seven stops this week, including Friday's dinner.

Biden told NBC News' Andrea Mitchell in an interview this week that he's still confident of his position here.

"This is really early in the process as you know. And most observers know the Iowans take a long time to make up their mind," he said. "I feel good about what's going on. I think we have all we need to be able to conduct a really successful campaign in all four early states."

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