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Biden rallies crowd at UMD, touts middle-class values

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Vice President Joe Biden borrows a supporter's mobile phone to take a selfie with them at the end of the rally in Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com2 / 6
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to a crowd at UMD on Friday. Rep. Rick Nolan is at left. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)3 / 6
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Rep. Rick Nolan and Vice President Joe Biden join hands at the conclusion of the campaign rally at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com4 / 6
Vice President Joe Biden makes a rousing case about how America as a nation never gives up, near the end of his speech during a campaign rally at the University of Minnesota Duluth on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com5 / 6
Vice President Joe Biden entered the venue at 1 p.m., joined by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)6 / 6

Casting themselves as solution-oriented in the face of Republican finger-pointing, and longtime champions of the middle class compared to johnny-come-lately populists across the aisle, Rep. Rick Nolan and his heavy-hitting friends in the Democratic party met the choir Friday in Duluth.

“I know I’m preaching to the choir,” said a camouflage-wearing Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Mankato, “but the choir needs to sing louder.”  

Hitting cleanup at the rally at Romano Gymnasium on the University of Minnesota Duluth campus was Vice President Joe Biden, who followed Nolan and told the assembled crowd that “we grew up in the same neighborhood — 1,200 miles apart — with the same values,” comparing his Scranton, Penn., roots with Nolan’s northern Minnesota upbringing.

The incumbent Nolan, DFL-Crosby, is in a second straight toss-up election against Republican challenger Stewart Mills for Minnesota’s 8th Congressional District seat. The politicians at Nolan’s side urged the throng of supporters to bring others to the polls, plant yard signs and volunteer to knock on doors with only 11 days left until the Nov. 8 election.

Biden wasn’t the only one who drew a connection between Nolan and the vice president sharing middle class roots and values. Sen. Amy Klobuchar offered of Biden, “He comes from a place that has the heart of the people of the Northland and the work ethic to match it.”

Nolan was fiery as he pinballed across his platform — touching on all topics in rapid succession.

Admitting the need for better trade deals with less-developed nations, he said, “We’re not going down to 65 cents an hour; we’re going to bring them up to our level.”

Nolan crescendoed when he re-evaluated what he said was $3 trillion spent on the Iraq War, saying $1 trillion could have graduated every college student for free, another trillion could have rebuilt the nation’s infrastructure and a final trillion could have found the cure for cancer or put a solar panel on every house.

In that flurry was yet another allusion to the similarities between Nolan, 72, and Biden, 73, who lost a son to cancer while Nolan’s daughter is currently being treated for stage 4 lung cancer.

After Nolan’s speech promised Republicans would attempt to repeal a century of American progress, Biden dialed down the macro arguments and brought a firm but quieter tone to a conversation about his upbringing. His father managed a car dealership  and Biden always rode a new car to the prom, the vice president recounted. But his father was turned down for a bank loan that would have been used to send Biden to college. His baseball spikes over his shoulder, Biden approached his father, who admitted to being ashamed of the bank rejection. Dignity, Biden said, has always been a hallmark of the middle class.

“The middle class is not a number,” he said. “It’s a value set.”

Without naming Mills, Biden set up Nolan as the only champion of the middle class who could claim to have devoted his life to its prosperity.

“He knows why he’s in this,” Biden said. “He’s in it basically to restore the middle class.”

In bringing up little-known tax code — called step-up in basis — and a second prospective tax tweak — limiting any deductions to 28 percent — Biden said the country could put people through college with ease, rebuilding the middle class on a wave of education.

“Don’t let them tell you we’re big spenders,” he said.

Biden’s money moment came before a patriotic flourish about Americans never bending, bowing or giving up. He said he’s often called Middle Class Joe in Washington, D.C.

“That’s not a compliment,” he said. “It means I’m unsophisticated. … (But) when the middle class does well the wealthy do really well and the poor find a way up.”

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