DAVENPORT — Former Vice President Joe Biden, continuing a barrage of criticism of President Donald Trump during a tour Tuesday of southeastern Iowa, called the president a threat to the nation, accusing the president of setting a “standard of crude language and embarrassing behavior” and “tearing down the guardrails” of democracy.
Biden, who polls show is ahead in a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates seeking to defeat Trump in 2020, celebrated the achievements of the Obama administration while attacking Trump’s character, policies and Twitter habits.
As Biden was campaigning on the eastern side of the state, Trump also was visiting the state at the same time 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 nominee.
Meandering between one-liners and seriousness during a Davenport appearance, the former vice president earned applause lines, including for his promises to create a stronger middle class and protect the Affordable Care Act.
But 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.
During his stop at Iowa Wesleyan University in Mount Pleasant, Biden sought to connect with workers, supporting unions and a higher minimum wage.
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Jerry and Kathy Schultze, of Mount Pleasant, are hearing as many candidates as possible. Jerry said that while Biden isn’t his favorite candidate, he does have experience.
“He was a good vice president. He was honest and you knew where he came from,” Jerry said.
“He’s down to earth,” Kathy said.
But not everyone who came out to hear Biden speak were supporters.
Mike Rose, of Mount Pleasant, said the vice president’s time has passed.
“I came to heckle him,” Rose said. “His policies are status quo. The guy has to go.”
Despite the schedule delay, a few hundred people remained in the packed hall in the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport 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.
While Biden boasts a wealth of political experience, the former vice president also has been forced to defend some of the policies and practices 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 his long support of 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 protesters opposed to abortion rights were later ushered out of the room.
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Unlike some of his fellow Democrats, Biden has taken a more lax approach to campaigning in Iowa. He was the most glaring absence when 19 other Democratic candidates took the stage Sunday in downtown Cedar Rapids in the largest gathering this cycle of presidential candidates.
On the opposite extreme is former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who has practically lived in Iowa for the past year and was the first to declare himself a candidate for president.
Others with lower name recognition have sought to build grass roots 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.
Grace King of the Mt. Pleasant News contributed to this report.