Politics Biden Stresses Middle Class Roots in Plea to Pennsylvania Voters
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(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden drew a sharp contrast between his middle-class upbringing and President Donald Trump’s wealth as the Democratic presidential nominee sought to win over the Rust Belt voters who drifted away from his party in 2016.
Biden, who was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, returned to his birthplace on Thursday night for a CNN town hall where he emphasized the values that he said shaped him.
“I really do view this campaign as a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue,” Biden said at the drive-in event.
At town hall, Biden blasts Trump's 'criminal' virus response
MOOSIC, Pa. (AP) — Joe Biden on Thursday went after President Donald Trump again and again over his handling of COVID-19, calling Trump's downplaying of the pandemic “criminal” and his administration “totally irresponsible." “You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder. There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up. The president should step down,” the Democratic presidential nominee said to applause from a CNN drive-in town hall crowd in Moosic, outside his hometown of Scranton.
Joe Biden participates in a CNN town hall event in Moosic, Pennsylvania. on Sept. 17.
Photographer: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Biden repeatedly compared his childhood in Scranton and Delaware with Trump’s privileged background, saying he understands Americans’ fears as they struggle with lost jobs, expensive health care and economic pain that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The event also offered Biden a rare opportunity to interact with voters and display the empathy that he often exhibited on the campaign trail but that was difficult to recreate in the virtual events that have largely dominated his campaign since March.
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Biden has a 4 point lead in Pennsylvania, according to the RealClearPolitics average of state surveys, but Trump captured the state -- and the White House -- in part by attracting White, non-college educated voters who had supported Barack Obama, but not Hillary Clinton.
Rust Belt Voters
The Wyoming River Valley of Pennsylvania, which includes Scranton, backed Trump in 2016 after voting for Obama by double digits. Across the Rust Belt, in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, White working-class voters flocked to Trump after reliably supporting Democrats in past elections.
Biden’s campaign believes he is uniquely suited to win back these voters because of the upbringing he described on Thursday.
“We are as good as anybody else, and guys like Trump, who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited, are the people I’ve always had a problem with,” Biden said.
Biden shows the qualities Trump lacks at CNN town hall
Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Thursday showed the empathy and fact-based thinking at a CNN town hall that President Donald Trump has been lacking, both at his own similar event two days before and throughout his botched management of a pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. © Gabriella Demczuk for CNN Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at the CNN Presidential Town Hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, September 17, 2020.
After the event, Biden said that coming back to Scranton had reminded him “how people just want to be treated with respect and decency, about how they really resent people kind of looking down on them.”
Adapting to the realities of the coronavirus pandemic, the town hall was held outdoors in a baseball stadium parking lot with a limited number of people allowed to watch from their cars. Still, throngs of supporters of Biden and Trump lined the street leading to the stadium, chanting and booing as the former vice president’s motorcade drove by.
The former vice president also dismissed accusations by Trump that he was soft on China, and he said Russia would “pay a price” for its interference in U.S. elections.
At the same time Biden was vowing action against Russia, Trump tweeted criticism of FBI Director Christopher Wray, who said that the U.S. has seen “very active, very active efforts by the Russians to influence our elections.” In particular, he said Russia was trying to “denigrate” Biden.
Six Standout Moments From Biden's CNN Town Hall
The Democratic nominee railed against the Trump administration and pledged to bring more troops home as he faced questions about his platform.Hear from outgoing US ambassador to China on US-China relationship
Trump said Wray should focus on China and mail-in voter fraud as greater threats.
Biden also said he would confront unfair trade policies by China by denying it the opportunity to undercut prices through state-run enterprises.
“If any of that is being purchased by any government agency, we will not purchase anything that’s not made in America,” he said.
But Biden’s main argument throughout the town hall was that Trump’s policies -- especially in responding to the pandemic -- have been designed to boost stocks and corporations, rather than front-line workers and families.
“It was all about making sure the stock market didn’t come down, that his wealthy friends didn’t lose any money,” Biden said of Trump. “He waved a white flag. He walked away, he didn’t do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do. And it’s almost criminal.”
Biden often refers to his hometown as the source of his beliefs on the economy and the middle class. He moved to Delaware as a child when his father could not find work in Pennsylvania.
The Democratic nominee has repeatedly traveled to Pennsylvania since he resumed in-person campaigning after Labor Day, underscoring its importance to winning the Electoral College in November. And with an eye toward the significant role energy production plays in the state’s economy, Biden pushed back on Trump’s charge that he wants to ban fracking, but called for more investment in green energy.
“Fracking has to continue,” he said. “Theres no rationale to eliminate fracking right now. When Trump thinks about global warming he thinks hoax. When I think of global warming I think jobs.”
Biden also criticized Trump’s comments suggesting he might contest the outcome of the November election.
“If the president had even remote confidence that he was likely to win the election he wouldn’t be doing this,” he said.
Instead, Biden said he would try to make it easier for people to vote. If elected, he said, he would encourage states to change their rules so early and mail-in ballots are counted before Election Day to help avoid delays in results.
“I would get states to agree to open ballots before the actual deadline,” he said. “I would make sure there were as many poll workers as possible.”
(Updates with Biden comments, in 10th paragraph)
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