Biden says Pittsburgh is where successful run for president will begin in first campaign stop
Former Vice President Joe Biden opened his presidential campaign in Pittsburgh on Monday with a message of unity and a pledge to rebuild middle-class America through union labor.
Biden, who appeared with his wife, Jill, at Teamsters Union Local 249 hall in Lawrenceville before an audience of about 600, said he chose Pittsburgh for his first campaign stop because cities like Pittsburgh represent working class Americans.
“I also came here because, quite frankly folks, if I’m going to be able to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’s going to happen here,” he said. “With your help, I think we’re going to be able to do that.”
Among other things, Biden said he would roll back President Trump’s tax cuts, support a $15-per-hour minimum wage, bolster the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, provide affordable educational opportunities for children of working people and focus on renewable energy to create new jobs.
“There’s three basic reasons why I’m running for president of the United States,” he said. “The first is to restore the soul of the nation. The second is to rebuild the backbone of this nation. The third is to unify this nation. We always do better when we act as one America.”
He described a widening divide in America between the middle class and wealthy and said corporate America puts little value on its workers. Profits are going to CEOs and shareholders, not employees, he said.
“The major moral obligation in our time is to restore, rebuild and respect the backbone of America, the middle class,” he said. “As we rebuilt it, we need this rebuilding to be all-inclusive, opening the doors of opportunity to all America.”
Cleo Harris, 53, of Pittsburgh’s Hill District said she liked everything Biden said. It left little doubt about who she will be supporting.
“I’m really hoping he can do something for the middle class because we’re really suffering,” she said. “I’m voting for Biden.”
Dave Stokes, 66, of Penn Hills said he very much wanted to hear Biden’s position on raising the minimum wage. His wife has a job that pays $10 per hour, he said, and workers deserve more.
“(Former President) George Bush said he wanted a kinder, gentler America,” Stokes said. “(Biden) is the guy who’s going to bring that back. I was very impressed.”
Biden is courting unions and working class Americans in an attempt to regain some of the votes that went to Trump in 2016.
The International Association of Firefighters on Monday became the first major union to endorse Biden. Its General President Harold Schaitberger announced the endorsement in Pittsburgh and later spoke at Biden’s rally.
He said Biden has the experience and temperament to lead America and has the ability to win. He cautioned the Democratic Party about supporting candidates who might have “high-minded ideals,” but lean “too far to the left.”
“The most important factor that we must determine … is who can win,” he said. “Who has the necessary experience to win? Who has the mettle to win the general election? The candidate who can win is Joe Biden.”
People started lining up around noon outside the Teamsters hall on Butler Street — three hours before the event started. The line stretched for nearly two blocks.
Jackie Zimmers of Cranberry brought her 4-month-old son, Grayson.
“It’s never too early to get involved,” she said of her son. “I wanted to bring my teenagers, but they had tests today, and I didn’t want to pull them out of school.”
Zimmers said she hasn’t decided who she would support for president.
“I’m undecided right now, but I’m definitely interested in what he has to say,” she said. “I will vote for whoever the Democratic candidate is, and I hope everyone else will, too.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .