The day after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden test-ran a new populist phrase about income inequality in a parking lot set up for a town hall in Pennsylvania, he doubled down in another swing state at risk of turning red: Minnesota.
During a televised event with CNN on Thursday night, Biden deliberately elevated Scranton, a largely white, working class city he identifies as home, over Park Avenue, the ultra-exclusive section of New York City where President Donald Trump has erected one of his flashiest towers. By Friday afternoon, he drove the point again.
“As I said last night in my hometown, I believe this campaign is between Scranton and Park Avenue,” the former vice president said in Hermantown, Minnesota. “All Trump sees from Park Avenue is Wall Street, that’s why the only metric of the American prosperity for him is the value of the Dow Jones.”
“Like a lot of you I spent a lot of my life with guys like Donald Trump looking down on me,” he went on. “Looking down on the people who take care of our kids. Clean our streets.”
The back-to-back messaging made it clear that Biden was embracing a fuller version of economic populist rhetoric than he had previously employed during the campaign cycle. The strategic move came as Trump continues to poll ahead of him in some recent surveys on the economy, and with fewer than 50 days until Nov. 3.
At a different moment in his speech, Biden returned to another reference from the prior night, challenging the notion that to become the leader of the free world requires an Ivy League diploma. Rebelling against that point of conventional academic wisdom, Biden recounted an exchange he had with an opinion columnist, who he said remarked that, if voted into office, he would be the first non-Ivy League president in many years.
“You know if you get elected you’re going to be the first guy in a long time elected president without an Ivy League degree,” Biden said, recalling the conversation in frustration. “Like somehow, a kid who went to a state university didn’t qualify to be president of the United States without an Ivy League degree?”
“Let me tell you something: I know how to do the job of being president and it’s pretty clear, no matter how wealthy Donald Trump is, no matter how much he doctors his—if he does—his tax returns, he doesn’t have a clue how to be president.”
He then directly acknowledged attendees: “You don’t measure people by the size of their bank accounts. I don’t respect people based on how big the house they live in is, and I don’t look down my nose at people busting their necks just making a living,” he said. “Nor do any of you.”