Biden was up close and personal in Pennsylvania. He hopes it can help him win

Julia Terruso, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Political News

SCRANTON, Pa. — As Megan Bell Giroux introduced President Joe Biden, a childhood best friend of her father’s, she recalled the first time she’d learned the word “smitten.” Biden, on a return visit to Scranton, used it to describe the feeling of meeting his first wife, Neilia, who died in a car crash just six years into their marriage.

At Giroux’s mention of Neilia, Biden turned away from the crowd of supporters and dabbed at his eyes. When it was his turn to talk, he gave a somewhat circuitous, 10-minute retelling of that meeting — the way the sunlight hit her face when they met on spring break, and how she subtly slipped him cash, realizing he was short, on their first date.

“No man deserves one great love, let alone two,” said Biden, who married Jill Biden in 1977. “Anyway, I don’t know why the hell I told ya all that.”

The moment, in a smaller room filled with a few dozen Scranton supporters and union workers, was personal in a way that Biden’s campaign hopes can set him apart from former President Donald Trump.

The campaign has for several months woven more intimate events with everyday people into Biden’s campaign schedule. That was on display in his three-day swing through Pennsylvania this past week, where stops at his childhood home, a Scranton cafe, a union hall, a Philadelphia recreation center, and yes, Wawa and Sheetz, were interspersed with larger speeches. The stops aimed to highlight Biden’s personality, his easy emotion and his endurance.

“They want to show, literally, his strength and vitality because issues about age are out there,” political strategist Mustafa Rashed said. “Putting him out there as much as possible is a way to counter that.”


Smaller, more personal campaign events also provide a vehicle to retell Biden’s narrative — including the tragedy he’s overcome — to boost his relatability, his campaign hopes, in an election in which most voters say they are unenthused about either candidate.

And it’s all a contrast with Trump, whose bombastic style has appealed to his core base but can be off-putting to voters who like his politics but not his pugilism. Trump’s pace of campaigning has also been much less intense, partly by necessity, due to the criminal trial occupying his time.

Biden and Trump: A tale of two campaign strategies

Over his three days in Pennsylvania, Biden covered a lot of ground as Trump sat in a Manhattan courtroom, slipping out for a campaign event in New York one day, but otherwise largely campaigning remotely. Biden has largely avoided mentioning Trump’s criminal trials but often notes the difference in their campaign outreach — particularly in Pennsylvania. Biden has opened 14 offices statewide and hired dozens of staffers. He has also raised more money than Trump.


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