Former Vice President Joe Biden continued his tour of southeastern Iowa Tuesday in Davenport with a speech that focused largely on criticizing President Donald Trump and celebrating the achievements of the Obama administration.
Biden, the presumed frontrunner in the crowded Democratic field of candidates seeking to defeat Trump in 2020, called the president a threat to the nation, attacking his character, policies and Twitter habits. He also accused Trump of setting a “standard of crude language and embarrassing behavior” and “tearing down the guardrails” of democracy.
As Biden was campaigning on the eastern side of the state, Trump was also visiting the state and tearing into Biden with insults of his own. The back-and-forth offered a possible preview of what a 2020 presidential race might look like if Biden becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee.
Meandering between one-liners and seriousness, the former vice president earned applause lines, including for his promises to create a stronger middle class and protect the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps the most enthusiastic crowd response came amid a reference to former President Barack Obama, whom he described as a president of “extraordinary care and decency.”
Biden’s event got off to a late start after he made earlier stops in Ottumwa and Mount Pleasant. But a few hundred people remained in the packed hall in the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds to see him, sporting Biden campaign signs and stickers.
The visit from Biden comes as Iowa caucus season is in full swing, with nearly two dozen other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination as the presidential debates are scheduled to kick off later this month.
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While Biden boasts a wealth of political experience, the former vice president has also been forced to defend some of the policies he once supported. He has come under fire for his handling of the Anita Hill’s testimony alleging sexual harassment allegations against then-nominated Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. And Biden made national headlines last week when he disavowed the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for most abortions.
Mid-speech, as Biden was discussing the deadly Charlottesville protests involving white supremacists in 2017, one man rose and yelled at the former vice president over his recent change of stance on the Hyde Amendment. Other anti-abortion protesters were later ushered out of the room.
Unlike some of his fellow Democrats, Biden has taken a more lax approach to campaigning in Iowa compared to lesser-known contenders like former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who has practically lived in Iowa for the past year. Others with lower name recognition have sought to build grassroots campaigns in the first-in-the nation caucus state with the hope that they will make big waves on caucus day Feb. 3.
Biden is scheduled to finish his Iowa tour with a stop in Clinton Wednesday morning.