Washington Matters


Biden's Working-Class Coattails

Richard Sammon

The VP's biggest job this campaign season is to win blue-collar voters in key states for his boss.



Vice President Joe Biden will play an outsize role in the fall campaign, taking the stage as much as or more often than President Obama himself. Why? He has more campaign firepower with the millions of middle- and working-class voters in key Mid-Atlantic and Midwest states.

Biden will emphasize his working-class roots at dozens of campaign stops as well as in local media interviews, targeted election ads and the fall debates. Talking the talk of the common worker without appearing to be overly political is a craft he's honed over decades in public life and through a long string of successful elections.

SEE ALSO: An Inside Look at the Obamas' and Bidens' Personal Finances

Even though the vice president is prone to the occasional gaffe or unscripted comment that can rattle the White House staff, he is also a huge campaign asset, connecting with factory workers, construction crews and small shop owners. He's far better at it, in fact, than either Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney, both of whom frequently exude an air of wealth and Ivy League elitism.

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So Biden will be on the road a lot, sometimes accompanying the president, but more often making solo appearances as the event headliner.

He'll be a regular visitor to some states sure to be key in the election, including blue-collar-rich Pennsylvania, where Biden claims a boyhood home. The son of an auto dealer, the vice president spent his early years in the gritty, working-class hub of Scranton, where the Biden family, of modest means, lived in a small house.

The vice president's plane will also land many times in Ohio, where a flurry of campaign stops in small towns could prove critical to winning the state. Obama took Ohio four years ago by a margin of five percentage points. The race will likely be tighter this time, especially with Romney and GOP-leaning independent groups flooding the state with resources -- something 2008 GOP nominee John McCain did not do. Biden will also seek to shore up support for Obama in working-class areas in and around Cleveland and Cincinnati.

He'll highlight areas of economic recovery and promise more help for struggling Ohioans than a Romney White House would provide. And he'll cite local economic stimulus projects, saying the state would have been worse off without the federal aid that Romney has lambasted as wasteful spending.

Other stomping grounds for Biden: Missouri and Iowa. He'll be dispatched to the two states more often than Obama, focusing especially on the sprawling working-class areas of St. Louis and Kansas City, both of which have strong Democratic leanings. In 2008, Missouri could hardly have been closer. McCain ended up winning the state with 49.4% of the vote to Obama's 49.3% in a recount after the national election had already been called.

In Iowa, expect Biden to make repeated appearances in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport to talk it up with farmers, shop workers and other locals. Obama won Iowa in 2008 by a fairly comfortable 54% to 45%. But some of Obama's early appeal has worn off there, and the race is shaping up to be far tighter this time.



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