DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden accused Republicans of breaking faith with the middle class while he preached a populist theme Wednesday in Iowa, an important early-voting state in the presidential nominating calendar.
A potential presidential candidate in 2016, Biden hammered away at the Democrats' key midterm mantra — shrinking the gap between lower-income Americans and the very wealthy.
"It's a question of basic fairness," Biden, in white shirt sleeves and under a midday sun, bellowed from the west steps of Iowa's Capitol.
The vice president spoke to about 250 Democratic activists, among them a dozen or so nuns who are reprising their 2012 nationwide bus tour to urge people to vote.
Biden returned to Iowa just three days after Hillary Rodham Clinton came to the state amid talk of her own potential presidential run. He sought to chart out traditional Democratic territory, railing against the growth in wealthy Americans' incomes compared to those of working- and middle-class Americans and urging voters to back Democrats who favor closing corporate tax loopholes.
"One percent of the population shares 20 percent of the entire income of the United States," he said. "What that's meant is the middle class and the poor have taken a hit."
Biden promoted the growth occurring in the private sector jobs during the Obama administration, but he mentioned President Barack Obama only once and not by name. He credited the nuns with "fighting like the devil" for the health care law enacted in 2010.
Biden said the Nov. 4 midterm elections, in which Democratic control of the Senate is at risk, are about issues such as raising the minimum wage. He said the minimum wage should be indexed annually with inflation.
"The middle class is in real trouble," he said. "It's time to restore that bargain. Deal the middle class back in."
His agenda included a neighborhood diner with Democrats, a meeting with donors to House candidates and a speech at a private union function.
Biden has stayed in close touch with longtime acquaintances in Iowa, who said he remains open to a presidential bid. "He's still considering it," said Terri Goodmann, a longtime Biden friend and assistant Dubuque city manager who met with Biden in Washington last month.
It was Biden's first visit this year to Iowa. With a personal touch, he began his Capitol steps speech with a tribute to a longtime Iowa legislative aide and Biden supporter, Paulee Lipsman, who died last week after a long illness.
"She was not only a friend, she was a tireless advocate of fairness," he said.