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Biden Rust Belt train tour travels across Western PA

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks with United Steelworkers Union President Thomas Conway and school teacher Denny Flora of New Castle, Pa., aboard his train as it travels to Pittsburgh, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020. Biden is on a train tour through Ohio and Pennsylvania today. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

LATROBE, Pa. (AP) — If America had an Amtrak rider-in-chief, Joe Biden would be it.

The former vice president, who estimates he’s logged more than 2.1 million miles riding the rails in his lifetime, added seven more hours to that total Wednesday as his campaign chartered a nine-car private train to tour parts of eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania — key areas to pick up votes if he wants to flip the states from red to blue in November.

Biden spent much of the trip inside a roomy, window-lined “conversation car” chatting with supporters he had picked up at stops along the way. He and his wife, Jill, also had their own all-glass space at the back of the train known as the “president’s car.” It’s an appropriate name considering the Democrat’s task at hand: to defeat President Donald Trump in November.

iden forged a political identity around being an avid Amtrak rider. Starting around the time his first wife and young daughter died in a car crash just before Christmas 1972, he took the train daily from Wilmington, Delaware, to Washington and then back again to be home with his two young sons. The roundtrip was 250 miles, and he made it every day the Senate was in session during his decades serving in the chamber.

His campaign has used the commute in ads meant to portray Biden as an everyman, and the Amtrak station in Wilmington was renamed in his honor.

It’s an image that fits well into Biden’s latest line of attack against Trump: that he, the former vice president, represents working-class enclaves like his native Scranton, Pennsylvania, while Trump embodies glitzy Park Avenue in Manhattan. Biden frequently says that blue-collar America is tired of being looked down upon — an issue Trump capitalized on in 2016, when many of his supporters believed Democrat Hillary Clinton had disdain for them.

Wednesday’s tour took Biden from Cleveland, the site of Tuesday night’s debate, to Alliance, Ohio, and then on to Pittsburgh. From there, he visited Greensburg, Latrobe (birthplace of the banana split) and Johnstown, Pennsylvania -- areas whose industrially dependent economies, Biden said, had been devastated by Trump’s economic policies.

“I used to look out the window -- like I did on the way down here -- and look into the homes,” Biden told a couple dozen cheering supporters on a train platform at Pittsburgh’s Union Station. “I’d wonder, ‘What’s going on in that house? What are they thinking about?’”

During the tour, Biden proclaimed, “I love being on the train,” and called it his “favorite means of transportation.” He also noted that, when he first started riding Amtrak, the service didn’t have its own police force, and he recalled helping rectify that in the Senate.

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