PITTSBURGH — If Joe Biden is going to win the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House in 2020, he’s going to do it by winning over working-class voters.

That was the message Monday as the former vice president and senator spoke at a campaign event at the Teamsters Local 249 hall in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Biden, who ran for president previously in 1988 and in 2008, announced his long-rumored candidacy with a video message on Thursday.

“There are three basic reasons why I’m running for the president of the United States,” Biden said in front of the packed union hall. “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.”

His visit to Pittsburgh was the first official campaign event for Biden, who is polling atop the crowded field of 20 Democrats vying to challenge President Donald Trump in next year’s election.

Trump won Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes by gaining just 68,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, becoming the first Republican to win the Keystone State and the White House since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Before speaking, Biden picked up a key endorsement from the International Association of Fire Fighters. After Biden announced his candidacy last week, U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, gave his endorsement to his fellow Pennsylvania native.

Biden was born in northeast Pennsylvania before living and serving in Delaware.

“I believe that Pittsburgh, that my native town of Scranton and my hometown of Wilmington and Claymont,” Biden said, “they represent the cities and towns that make up hard-working, middle-class Americans. They are the backbone of this nation. That’s no hyperbole. I also came here because, quite frankly, folks, if I’m going to beat Donald Trump in 2020, it’ going to happen here.”

Cathy Audia, a New Castle resident, and Susan Dietrich, from New Wilmington, both traveled an hour south to hear Biden speak. They both believe Biden is the only Democrat who could defeat Trump in 2020.

“He’s more moderate,” Audia said. “I’m registered Democrat, but I’m not so far left that I’m close-minded. I think he’s more open-minded and I think he can draw some of the Republican votes because there are a lot of Republicans out there who aren’t crazy about what’s going on.”

Neither woman was worried about the 76-year-old Biden’s age.

“He’s concerned about the middle class," Dietrich said. “Trump’s concerned about the upper class.”

Throughout his 25-minute address, Biden spoke on the importance of unions, a strong middle class and other workers' issues – saying “we need to reward work in this country, not just wealth.”

“It’s well past time that the minimum wage now should be $15,” Biden said. “It’s time to start rewarding work over wealth. The first step is to reverse President Trump’s tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations.”

Biden closed the event by shaking hands and posing for photos – taking a selfie or two on his way around the crowd – before waving to waiting spectators out the passenger-side window of his SUV before driving away.

Biden is slated to campaign on Tuesday in Iowa, which will vote by caucus in February to officially begin the 2020 election season.

Pete Sirianni is the digital editor for the New Castle News.

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