“Chief, didn’t I meet you when you were chief?” Biden said through a half-smile, pointing at the man preparing to ask him a question. Bill Barrett, a retired police chief who is in his fifth term on city council, wanted to know how Biden will address growing violence in cities and the lack of respect for police and the military.

Barrett confirmed that, yes, they’d met when he was chief. And so it went with several other questioners and Biden during a 75-minute homecoming close by to where the candidate spent his youth.

Trump had few such comfortable moments in his brutal town hall: For his first time as president, regular people got the chance to call him out on his boasting and exaggerations. Biden, by comparison, got a “total pass,” the Trump campaign complained afterward, in a typical lashing of the media. The Democratic nominee made the most of the friendly confines, relaying feel-your-pain anecdotes in mostly grammatical syntax and, until the last half-hour, with high-energy.

The back-to-back town halls helped shape the contours of the upcoming debates in a presidential contest where Biden has maintained a steady lead in battleground states.