Biden visits his childhood Scranton home and plays up working-class roots in first day of Pa. tour (2024)

President Joe Biden described his childhood hometown of Scranton as a place that “climbs into your heart and never leaves,” as he launched a three-day long tour of Pennsylvania meant to appeal to working-class voters.

Biden has often returned to Scranton when he needs a boost or a political reset. Beneath a banner that read “Tax Fairness for All Americans,” Biden aimed to contrast his working-class roots in the city with former President Donald Trump’s more privileged background.

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“When I look at the economy, I don’t see it through the eyes of Mar-a-Lago. I see it through the eyes of Scranton,” Biden told the crowd at the downtown Cultural Center.

The president, who will also visit Pittsburgh and Philadelphia this week, has increasingly fixated on his native state as being essential to his political survival. The visit comes one week before Pennsylvania’s primary election, a contest that will be an early test of the breadth of both candidates’ support in a critical swing state.

The president came to Scranton to call for higher taxes on the rich and to reinforce his candidacy as a fight for the middle class, as Trump spends the week in a Manhattan courtroom for his first criminal trial.

“People like Donald Trump learned very different lessons,” Biden said. “He learned the best way to get rich was inherit it. Not a bad way. He learned that paying taxes was something people who work for a living did, not him. He learned that telling people you’re fired was something to laugh about.”

It’s a tactic that Biden used in the 2020 campaign, which he often framed as Scranton vs. Park Avenue. His Tuesday remarks were sprinkled with a mix of personal anecdotes about growing up in the state’s sixth largest city and jabs at his opponent, whom he called “Donald Herbert Hoover Trump” in reference to the president who oversaw the beginning of the Great Depression.

“Now Trump is running again on the same failed trickle-down policies,” Biden said. “Nothing has changed. Just a few months ago — at a closed-door event in Mar-a-Lago — he told his billionaire donors, ‘You’re rich as hell. We’re going to give you tax cuts.’”

After his remarks, Biden stopped at his old house in the Green Ridge neighborhood of Scranton, a place he has visited many times, including during the 2020 campaign, when he signed the wall “from this house to the White House by the grace of God.”

Trump — and many of his supporters — have long scoffed at Biden’s claims to the Electric City, given that he spent only a fraction of his 77 years living there. During rallies in Pennsylvania, Trump has made a point of saying Biden had “abandoned” Scranton.

The theme across the tour this week will be the economy, a key issue for voters and one that Biden has struggled to connect on after severe inflation for much of his presidency.

“Joe Biden’s campaign stops in Pennsylvania this week ought to serve as a sobering reminder of the failures his administration’s policies have had for the Keystone State,” Pennsylvania GOP chairman Lawrence Tabas said in a release.

“This past year alone, inflation within the state has surged. … Families cannot afford to go grocery shopping and home prices have skyrocketed. Voters will remember all of President Biden’s failures when they cast their vote this November.”

A contrast in tax policies

Inflation spiked last week to its highest level in six months and polls consistently show that voters trust Trump more on the economy and consider it a vital issue.

In Tuesday’s remarks, Biden focused on taxes to reframe the conversation around the economy, which has dogged his reelection campaign. He told the crowd in Scranton that the wealthy should pay more in taxes to reduce the federal deficit and help fund programs for the poor and middle class.

“I’m just asking for basic fairness,” he said, later arguing that “no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a teacher.”

Trump’s 2017 tax cuts slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and reduced rates for most individual taxpayers, including the wealthiest Americans. Many of those cuts will sunset in 2025, which raises the stakes of the issue in the presidential race.

Biden and Trump both say they would keep cuts in place for households making under $400,000 a year but they differ when it comes to the highest earners.

Trump has called for extending tax cuts, which would deliver an average $175,000 cut for the top 0.1%. He points to economic growth from 2018 and 2019 after tax cuts were in place.

Biden has said he wants to raise $4.9 trillion in revenue over 10 years with higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. His platform includes a “billionaire’s tax,” which would set a minimum rate of 25% on the income of the richest Americans. He’s also said he would like to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%.

All in on Pennsylvania

Biden was introduced by a Scrantonian who lives down the street from his former home and ended his address by saying he thinks a lot about a statue in downtown Scranton dedicated to soldiers who fought in World War II.

He then blasted Trump for disparaging comments the former president reportedly made about wounded soldiers in 2018 and implored the audience to listen to what Trump says and believe him.

Biden exited the stage to a standing ovation from his hometown crowd and then headed to the Washington Avenue home where he lived in as a child. Neighbors lined up as the motorcade wound by on a sunny day, some holding Biden signs and waving American flags.

As the motorcade parked and Biden walked up to the three-story Colonial, a crowd of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered about 100 yards away and chanted, accusing Biden of being “complicit with genocide.”

Their voices competed with shouts from neighbors on nearby neatly trimmed lawns chanting “We Want Joe!” And “Four more years!”

When Biden left the house about an hour and 45 minutes later, he walked out holding hands with several kids wearing uniforms for St. Clare/St. Paul School and greeted some neighbors gathered on the lawn.

”Take him down, Joe,” one man said as Biden smiled. “Anything we can do to help,” another said.

Biden’s campaign has already opened 14 offices in Pennsylvania and hired dozens of staff, a contrast with Trump, who polls closely with Biden in Pennsylvania despite having no staff or offices assigned here.

Trump, who narrowly won Pennsylvania in 2016 and lost it in 2020, was in Bucks County for a fundraiser and in the Lehigh Valley for a rally on Saturday, further highlighting what the next seven months of presidential politicking may look like in the state.

Trump’s New York trial will likely restrict his ability to campaign in Pennsylvania during weekdays in the final lead-up to the April 23 primary. While the former president sat in a courtroom, his surrogates sought to hammer Biden on inflation.

“It’s no wonder why Pennsylvanians will vote to make America affordable again and elect President Trump in November,” Republican National Committee chair Michael Whatley said in a statement.

On the same day he visited Scranton, Biden released a digital ad featuring interviews with his cousin, a grade school classmate, and a local business owner, arguing that he’s the best pick for the middle class.

Sarah Cruz, who appeared in the digital ad that Biden’s team released, also attended Biden’s event Tuesday. The 37-year-old told The Inquirer she moved to the city when she was 10 and has served on its school board. Cruz’s father’s family is from Puerto Rico and her mother is from Honduras.

“Joe Biden’s history began in Scranton and so he has those hometown roots and that feel,” Cruz said. “But he doesn’t just limit that sense of belonging to people who look like him or who are born and raised in Scranton. He embraces people who may not be from the area, but who came to the United States and to Scranton for a better life or for better opportunities.”

Biden visits his childhood Scranton home and plays up working-class roots in first day of Pa. tour (2024)

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