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Politics & Government

Joe Biden Speaks To Pittsburgh Union Members, Kicks Off His Presidential Campaign


Former Vice President Joe Biden announced last week that he'd be making another run for the presidency. Today he took his pitch to an audience that he knows well. Biden spoke to a crowd of union members in Pittsburgh.


JOE BIDEN: The country wasn't built by Wall Street bankers, CEOs and hedge fund managers.


BIDEN: It was built by you. It was built by the great American middle class.

CORNISH: Both venue and audience are important here. Democrats will need to win back working-class voters, especially in states like Pennsylvania, that voted for President Trump in 2016. NPR's Don Gonyea joins us now from the Biden rally in Pittsburgh. Hey, there, Don. Can you hear me?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Hi. I can hear you, yes.

CORNISH: So it sounds like from the audio there - pretty friendly crowd. Can you tell us about where you are? And who else is there?

GONYEA: OK, this is a Teamsters hall just off downtown Pittsburgh. And it's actually called the Teamsters Temple. It's one of those classic union facilities for meetings, for banquets, for weddings and/or a lot of political events over the years just like this - but this one, of course, for a presidential campaign. And the line outside went for several blocks. So people were really excited that Biden is kicking off his presidential campaign, in terms of rallies, right here in his home state.

And in Pittsburgh we have lots of union members, of course - not exclusively, though, just lots of Pittsburgh Democrats of all stripes who, again, are just glad to see this happening here. And they say it demonstrates how important their state both has been and will be in the coming election.

CORNISH: Who did you talk to in that line?

GONYEA: Well, let's start with a guy wearing his faded Pittsburgh Pirates ball cap. His name is Lou Guzzo. He's 49 years old. He's also wearing, I should say, a T-shirt with the logo of his union, the International Association of Fire Fighters. That union, by the way, endorsed Biden this morning. It's a union that has 300,000 members internationally.

He called Biden a staunch supporter of working families. That echoes what his union has been saying. And I asked him if Biden is his guy. And he said he absolutely is. But Guzzo said he casts no aspersions on the rest of the Democratic field. He just likes Biden. Give it a listen.

LOU GUZZO: If a guy's going to back a working man, then that's what the working man goes with. I mean, and I go to work every day hard. And I gravitate to the way he brings his approach to it.

GONYEA: And the thing that I heard from Guzzo and from others here is they feel like Joe Biden is an authentic person. And when he says he supports them, they believe him. I said, you know, President Trump talks a lot about being on the side of the working man. He says - he said he didn't believe him for a minute when he says it.

CORNISH: Did you hear from any voters talking about where Biden falls, like, on the spectrum of choices?

GONYEA: Yeah. Let's meet 32-year-old Samantha Petrick. She drove about an hour to get here today. She's a registered nurse. And she said she is a moderate voter, and that is what she likes about Biden. She thinks too many of the Democrats are too far to the left. She says that does not describe her. And she thinks that will be Biden's secret to beating Trump in the general election. Here's Samantha Petrick.

SAMANTHA PETRICK: He has a lot of experience, a lot of wisdom, which I think he can bring to the field. I also like him because he's a little bit more moderate, centrist. And I think that's what is going to help win, you know, independents and bring back some of the Republicans we lost in the election with Trump.

GONYEA: Again, you can hear her saying she likes the fact that Biden is kind of a moderate. That's something that could create some problems for him with other Democrats, though.

CORNISH: And his choice of state to kick this off, what do we make of it?

GONYEA: Biden said it in his speech himself. This was one of those states that put Trump over the top and gave him the presidency. So beating him here is going to be a priority for the campaign - almost feels like it's a national campaign already with all the candidate stops in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan and all of those non - you know, early-voting primary states. And Biden is putting a marker on this particular state, saying he can win it.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Don Gonyea in Pittsburgh. Don, thanks.

GONYEA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.