For Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, their joint campaign stop Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania, was a play for the swing state’s crucial voters, particularly those from the white working class who Donald Trump has taken pains to attract.
But it was also something of a homecoming: Both the vice president and Clinton’s father, Hugh Rodham, were born in the city, a former coal-mining and manufacturing hub. Biden has long used Scranton as a symbol of the American dream, and often invokes his early years there as evidence he’s a man of the people. During his remarks Monday, he framed Clinton as a fellow child of Scranton: the product of one of its families, yes, but also of its ethos.
The city “is made up of so many people with grit and courage—I mean this sincerely, from the bottom of my heart—with grit, courage, determination, who never, never, ever give up,” Biden said. “They deserve someone who not only understands them, they deserve someone who's with them. And they deserve someone who's made of the same stuff. That's Hillary Clinton. That’s who she is.”
Monday’s rally marked Biden’s first appearance on the campaign trail with Clinton, his former Senate and Obama administration colleague. The two were originally scheduled to visit Scranton before the Democratic National Convention in July, where Biden gave a lengthy address on Clinton’s behalf. That trip was canceled after five police officers were killed in a shooting ambush in Dallas, Texas. During the Democrats’ Philadelphia convention, Trump made a visit to Scranton, where he vowed to restore manufacturing and mining jobs in Pennsylvania. “No state is more central to Mr. Trump’s uphill quest” for the presidency, The New York Times noted this week, though it’s voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1992. The Wall Street Journal recently reported on Scranton’s—and Pennsylvania’s—significance going into November:
Known as the setting for NBC’s comedy “The Office,” Scranton is the kind of community that is expected to be at the center of the fight between Republican Donald Trump and Mrs. Clinton. Mr. Trump’s path to the White House depends on winning big margins among white, working-class supporters to offset a major Democratic demographic advantage among nonwhites, especially in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Scranton has long been solidly Democratic territory, but Mr. Trump hopes to change that, capitalizing on the region’s economic stagnation and anger over illegal immigration. For Mrs. Clinton, a key challenge will be to prevent further erosion of her support among working-class whites—a likely reason Mr. Biden has been tapped to aid her.
Biden serves as a useful surrogate for Clinton. He’s “courted” white working-class voters “with success in his more than four decades in politics,” the Los Angeles Times writes, adding that the vice president targeted these voters during President Obama’s two races. Her choice of running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, was widely seen as an appeal to this voting bloc as well.
While introducing Biden, Clinton told rally-goers about her family’s history in the city: how she was christened there, how her grandfather worked at the Scranton Lace Company, giving her dad a chance to go to Penn State. Her dad then similarly provided for her. “No matter where life takes me, I always remember: I am the granddaughter of a factory worker and the daughter of a small businessowner and I am so proud of it.” Then, drawing connections with Biden: “The story of the Rodhams and the Bidens isn’t unique,” Clinton said. “What’s unique is the country where those stories were written.” She also went after Trump: “Friends should not let friends vote for Trump,” Clinton told the audience, before pivoting to his company’s treatment of its workers. Trump has praised his organization’s child-care program, though the Associated Press has reported that’s solely for guests of his properties. “If you work for his business—if you clean the rooms, water the lawns, carry people’s bags, you get nothing,” Clinton said.
Biden, too, turned to Trump toward the end of his remarks. He characterized the Republican nominee as a man disconnected from everyday Americans and one incapable of keeping them and their children safe. Biden said he would’ve “thrown my body” in front of his late son, Beau, an Iraq War veteran, before letting him serve under President Trump. “My word as a Biden, no major-party nominee in the history of the United States of America—don’t cheer, just listen—has known less or been less prepared to deal with our national security than Donald Trump,” he said.