Joe Biden visited New Hampshire – home to the first-in-the-nation primary – on Wednesday to tout the Obama administration’s economic and education policies.
But the expectations for the vice president’s visit to New Hampshire were the same as when he visited Iowa – the first-in-the-nation nominating caucus – and South Carolina – the third nomination state – earlier this month: Biden is testing the presidential waters and reminding people that although he doesn’t look likely to challenge Hillary Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, a 2016 bid is still a possibility for him.
The vice president, however, didn’t directly tease those aspirations on Wednesday.
Unlike in Iowa, where the Biden took questions about 2016 and said he would make his decision “sometime in the end of the summer,” the vice president ignored calls for questions while he toured a manufacturing floor at Manchester Community College.
The vice president also ducked a chance to knock Clinton and the Clinton Foundation’s practice of taking foreign donations.
During a lunch stop at “The Works Bakery Cafe” – where the vice president ordered a sizable sandwich with turkey, ham and bacon – Biden was asked what he thought about the controversy that has followed Clinton for the better part of a week.
“No, I don’t have any comment,” Biden said before shaking hands with lunch patrons. “I don’t know enough about it.”
Biden was on message on Wednesday. He stayed away from gaffes that defined some of his past trips and focused on touting the Obama administration, including their decisions in 2009 when the American economy was falling deep into a recession.
“We are on the verge of resurgence, if we are wise,” Biden said. “America is not only back, it is leading the world again.”
He also focused on growing the middle class, an issue Democratic political strategist anticipate to be the defining issue of the 2016 elections.
“When the middle class does well, everybody does well. The economy expands,” Biden said. “Just give them a fighting chance.”
The closest Biden came to commenting on 2016 was when he offered brief thoughts on the amount of money it takes to run for president.
“Presidential campaigns are now talking about spending $2 billion, $2 billion,” Biden said. “The simple truth is we can’t have a government that fights for the middle class if it is owned by the big money.”
Biden pointed out how difficult it is to go to Wall Street and push for middle class tax cuts or push for raising taxes on the upper class while relying on those same big money interests to fund campaigns.
“We need leaders who have courage to stand up to these mountains of money,” he said.
Biden, who in a campaign would pitch himself as a bipartisan deal maker who disagrees without being disagreeable, offered kind words for several prominent Republicans. He used the term “good guys” to describe former Rep. Eric Cantor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican lawmakers, as well as the uber-Republican donors the Koch Brothers.
“These are good guys, they aren’t doing anything wrong,” Biden said about them spending money to protect their business interests. “They are not doing anything illegal.”