Joe Biden is selling his ‘Uncle Joe’ charm instead of competing with other Democrats on big progressive policy ideas

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden‘s early campaign strategy is focusing on selling his personality and experience over policy.
  • Unlike other 2020 heavyweights like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Biden promised a return to normalcy, rather than transformative change, during his second campaign visit to New Hampshire.
  • He skimmed over his new plan to fight climate change in favour of broad calls for decency in politics and unscripted, meandering stories about the past.
  • And Biden seemed to embrace the left’s critique that he’ll be too willing to compromise, highlighting his experience working across the aisle with Republicans.
  • “Every time we had a problem in the administration, who got sent up to Capitol Hill to settle it? Me!” Biden said.
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BERLIN, NH – Former Vice President Joe Biden isn’t going into the details.

At least that’s what he told the crowds at two New Hampshire campaign events this week.

Introducing his new $US1.7 trillion plan to fight climate change, Biden told an intimate audience in the tiny mountain town of Berlin that he wouldn’t dive too deeply into the policy specifics, “and I warn you it’s pretty detailed,” he said, directing them to read the 22-page proposal on his campaign website.

Instead, Biden spent the day selling his nearly five decades of political experience with his folksy, unscripted persona.

He asked voters to trust that he’ll bring normalcy, and even bipartisanship, back to Washington. And he argued that addressing the political divide is a more pressing and challenging task than proposing policies that appeal to most Americans.

Unlike in the 1970s and 80s, when Biden said politics were civil but Americans were in “overwhelming disagreement” about civil rights and the Vietnam War, today most Americans agree the country needs to protect the environment, invest in education, and upgrade its infrastructure. But they’re too busy fighting to get it done.

“It’s become ugly, it’s become mean, it’s become personal, it’s become almost like a vendetta,” he said during a Tuesday night event in Concord, NH. “We gotta bring it back together again. And here’s the deal, it can be done. I’ve done it.”

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The 2020 frontrunner repeatedly stopped himself when he began to get into the weeds of policy and politics.

“I’m getting too detailed, I apologise,” he said after explaining how five CEOs of Fortune 500 companies approached him to request that he loosen regulations on corporations while he was in the White House.

“Here’s the deal,” he concluded, finally landing on the talking point, “We need to reward work, not just wealth. Work, not just wealth.”

He joked that if you ask voters to stand around listening to you for more than 15 minutes, they won’t vote for you.

But while Biden didn’t want to bore voters with policy talk, he repeatedly indulged his audiences in meandering, tangentially-related stories – about a visit to China while he was vice president and a trip to Saint Croix after a major storm. He told tales about his time in the Obama administration, defended his 1990s policy positions, and embraced the warm “Uncle Joe” persona he built his national name on.

Biden embraced his call for compromise even as his Democratic critics are weaponizing his “middle ground” approach. He touted his deep experience in the Senate and as President Barack Obama’s right-hand, his working-class roots in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and his consensus, bipartisan brand of politics.

“Every time we had a problem in the administration, who got sent up to Capitol Hill to settle it? Me!” Biden said.

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This strategy contrasts sharply with that of several other top 2020 Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s rolled out a series of sweeping policy proposals and made her campaign motto “I have a plan for that.” Rather than promising voters a return to stability, candidates like Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders are selling transformative change.

And Biden defended himself against the charge that, at 76, he’s too old to be president, arguing that he’s the only candidate with the gravitas and the experience to do the job well.

“I know I’m the old guy. I get it. They asked me then if I had the ability and the judgment to be a senator when I was 29 and it was a legitimate question,” he said. “It’s a legitimate question to ask me now whether I have the stamina to the be the president of the United States.”

But, he concluded, “I’m the only guy who knows how it works. I’ve been there.”

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