Joe Biden myth-busts his brand

David Chalian
The Ticket

ORLANDO, Fla. -- From the moment Barack Obama picked Joe Biden to be his running mate four years ago, the Obama political operation (and Mr. Biden himself) have been eager to play up his Scranton, Pennsylvania roots in hopes of providing an easy point of identification to many of the non-college educated whites with whom the president has struggled to bond.

Biden has long touted his credentials as a fighter for the working class, but acknowledged today that the president might tend to exaggerate his connection to that voting bloc just a bit.

"Barack makes me sound like I climbed out of a mine in Scranton, Pennsylvania carrying a lunch bucket," Biden said to laughter at the U.S. Conference of Mayors gathering here.

Despite the vice president's concession that his "dad never worked blue collar," deploying Mr. Biden to critical election battlegrounds such as Ohio and Pennsylvania because of his potential appeal to working class non-college educated whites is certainly part of the reelection campaign plan this year just as it was in 2008.

"Joe is salt of the earth," then-Sen. Obama said in the 2008 video that served to introduce Biden at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. "He is somebody who hasn't forgotten those people in the communities where he grew up," he added.

Talking with reporters last year, David Axelrod, the president's senior campaign adviser, said that Biden "obviously has deep, deep roots in the industrial Midwest running from Pennsylvania right across and he'll be very valuable there."

Biden's comments today won't diminish the appeal he has with some of those working class white voters nor is there any suggestion that the Obama team has misrepresented Biden's biography in any fashion. In fact, in the exclusive club known as the U.S. Senate, Biden was routinely clocking in at the bottom of the pack in terms of net worth during his years of service there.

But the Biden brand has clearly been built around this "he's one of us" appeal and today he poked a little fun at the president, in front of a receptive crowd, that perhaps some hyperbole might be at play.