WASHINGTON–Joe Biden not-so-coyly teased a presidential bid on Tuesday, basking in “Run, Joe, run” chants from a friendly firefighters union, telling them he may need their support soon — and taking some direct swipes at President Trump.
“I appreciate the energy you showed me when I got up here. Save it a little longer, I may need it in a few weeks,” the former vice president told the annual conference of the International Association of Fire Fighters to big cheers.
Biden took multiple shots at Trump, attacking the president for abandoning the middle class and sowing division and hate. He also took a shot at Trump’s recently unveiled budget, which included planned cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, following Republicans’ massive tax cut package that has dramatically expanded national deficit spending.
“Now they’ve got to go make somebody pay for it. Something that gave millionaires and billionaires excessive tax breaks. And who do they ask to pay for it? Middle class families like you,” he said. “Trading Medicare and Medicaid for tax breaks? How’s that going to help most of the people in this room?”
Biden slammed Trump for fueling division and undercutting American ideals.
“In America, everybody gets a shot. … That’s what the next president of the United States needs to understand, and that’s what I don’t think this current president understands at all,” he said to applause. “Unless you think I’m kidding, try to define an America based on race. Try to define an America based on religion, on ethnicity.”
The event was as much a homecoming as a campaign rally.
Biden got a fawning introduction from union leader Harold Schaitberger, who described him “a true longtime friend,” and talked up their four-decade relationship.
“He’s always stood on the front line with us,” Schaitberger said.
Biden was vintage Joe, for better or worse. In a lengthy and occasionally meandering speech, Biden spun folksy tales from decades prior about his ties to firefighters and telling how he had to ask his wife Jill five times to marry him before lamenting the state of current politics.
Biden’s speech made it more clear than ever that he’s seriously leaning towards a third presidential run, after more than a year of preparation. He currently leads primary polls, and has a deep reservoir of goodwill from Democrats. But it’s less than clear that this is finally his moment. Biden has plenty of baggage on racial, economic and gender issues, and his lamentation during the speech that he’d drawn flack for recently calling Vice President Mike Pence a nice guy hinted he may not have enough anti-Republican hostility for some base voters.
But he showed he still has fire in the belly — and a burning desire to stay in the political mix.
“This is America. So it’s time to get up, remember who the hell we are,” he concluded.