Can Biden make Trump seem like Mitt Romney?

Former President Donald Trump frequently talks about his wealth but has been able to convince the voters who make up his base that he gets them.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

By Jess Bidgood

President Biden made a populist case for re-election during his swing through Pennsylvania over three days last week, laying out plans on tariffs and taxes and seeking to burnish his working-class bona fides as a son of Scranton.

But he also used the trip to sharpen the story he tells about former President Donald Trump, depicting him as a creature of rarefied playgrounds like Mar-a-Lago and a pawn of the billionaires who frequent them.

“He learned the very best way to get rich is to inherit it,” Biden said in Scranton. “He learned that telling people, ‘You’re fired,’ was something to laugh about.”

Twelve years ago, Democrats including then-Vice President Biden relentlessly pilloried a different wealthy Republican as an elitist: Mitt Romney, who was once a Massachusetts governor and chief executive of Bain Capital who won the Republican presidential nomination during a burst of national anger over Wall Street excess. Democrats poked fun at his wealth — remember the car elevator? — and slammed him for his free-market views on the auto industry bailout and the foreclosure crisis.

Those attacks stuck, and Barack Obama beat Romney to secure his re-election as president. Now, in 2024, Biden is seemingly trying to Romnify Donald Trump as he attempts to wear down the former president’s own populist claims.

It may not be easy. Sure, Trump frequently boasts about his wealth, spends much of his spare time on expensive pastimes like golf, and lives at Mar-a-Lago, the opulent property he owns that contains a private club. But he has always been able to convince the voters who make up his base that he gets them.

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