Joe Biden started his speech Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention by hailing Michelle Obama's Monday speech as a lock to be the best of this week's Democratic National Convention.
"He is trying to tell us he cares about the middle class," Biden said of Trump. "Give me a break. That's a bunch of malarkey."
Biden started out by talking about his family and his son, Beau, who died last year. He delivered a tribute to working-class Americans who don't have the kind of support system he does to deal with hard times. He talked about how important Hillary Clinton's presidency would be to his daughters and granddaughters.
And then he turned to Trump and painted the picture of a populist fraud. Trump, he said, was no populist.
"Ladies and gentlemen, to state the obvious — and I'm not trying to be a wiseguy here, I really mean it — that's not Donald Trump's story," Biden said.
It would be the first of many asides Biden would use to get the crowd focused. As the crowd began to applaud, Biden shushed them: "Just listen to me for a sec without booing or cheering. I mean this sincerely. We should really think about this."
Political conventions are about applauding and getting riled up, and Biden was asking for the opposite. And the crowd was with him.
"His cynicism is unbounded," Biden said of Trump. "His lack of empathy and compassion can be summed up in a phrase I suspect he's most proud of having made famous: 'You're fired.' I'm not joking; think about that."
This isn't a particularly novel attack on Trump — that he's a rich guy who likes to fire people. A speechwriter on his or her first day could come up with that. But Biden made it work.
He used humility: "I know I'm called middle-class Joe, and in Washington that's not meant as a compliment. It means you're not sophisticated. But I know why we're strong. I know why we have held together. I know why we are united. It's because we've always had a growing middle class. This guy doesn't have a clue about the middle class — not a clue."
Biden was uniquely situated to make this case. Trump has used his populist appeal and unique political style to appeal to working-class white voters in a way Republicans haven't before. These are Biden's people, too. In fact, Biden was born and raised in the same hardscrabble Scranton, Pa., that Trump visited just hours before Biden's speech at the Democratic convention.
"He has no clue about what makes America great," Biden said referring to Trump's slogan. "Actually, he has no clue."
And then: "No major-party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has been less prepared to deal with our national security."
He said Trump has "no plan whatsoever" to defeat terrorism and "embraces the tactics of our enemies," such as torture.
These were all harsh attacks — the kind of red meat that conventions are made for. And Biden delivered the red meat better than anyone at this week's convention.
There was some talk — mostly Democratic fantasies — about Biden potentially staying on as vice president, becoming Hillary Clinton's running mate. He would have been very good at it — especially in the Year of Trump.