Government

Joe Biden says he's ready for long campaign

In an interview, he makes the case for experience

Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a selfie with Sonia Elossaias of Cedar Rapids during a campaign event at Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Biden is making his first visit to Iowa after announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a selfie with Sonia Elossaias of Cedar Rapids during a campaign event at Veterans Memorial Building in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Biden is making his first visit to Iowa after announcing his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Joe Biden is getting excited.

He is talking about his presidential campaign, and the 76-year-old former vice president is asked if he is ready for the ninth-month grind to the 2020 Iowa caucuses and beyond.

“I am ready. And quite frankly I’m excited about it. Because I tell you what,” he says. He leans forward, his pace slows and his voice softens. “For all the difficulty we have, we are so much better prepared than any nation in the world to own the 21st century, for Lord’s sake.”

On Tuesday, Biden was in Iowa for the first time since making his presidential campaign official late last week.

During an interview just before Tuesday’s rally in Cedar Rapids, Biden addressed the generation gap between him and some of the other Democrats also running, how he will make the case he is the Democrats’ best choice to take on President Donald Trump and how he could win back voters who strayed from the party in 2016.

Biden, who would turn 78 shortly after Election Day 2020, pledged he would not be outworked in the expansive Democratic primary; that he would “work like the devil” in Iowa to earn support in February’s presidential caucuses.

Biden becomes the 21st candidate to announce in the Democratic primary race. The expansive field includes members of the silent and baby boomer generations, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but also younger candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke.

Some Iowa Democrats have said they wonder whether Biden’s political time has passed, and that it may be time for the party to choose a younger standard-bearer or a fresh political face who could lead the party into the next generation, like Barack Obama in 2008.

Biden said he asks only that those people give him a chance.

“Look at me. Follow me. See what I say. See how I do,” Biden said.

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“I’m going to go out and make that case by demonstrating what I have done, what my experience has taught me,” he said. “All I can do is go out and make my case as to why I think that, at this moment, I’m the best prepared to deal with this. Everyone else is making their case as well, and we’ll see what the voters decide.”

While some Democrats question Biden’s age, others feel he presents the party’s best chance at defeating Trump in a general election.

Biden said he feels he always has connected with working-class Americans, and will be able to again in 2020.

Biden also said he thinks he can connect with voters who had supported the Obama-Biden tickets in 2008 and 2012 but in 2016 voted for Trump. There are many such voters in Iowa, which swung from a six-point victory for Obama in 2012 to a 10-point victory for Trump four years later.

And Democrats can reconnect with those voters without betraying their base, Biden said.

“I don’t think we have to choose between our heart and our soul,” Biden said. “The way it’s being phrased these days is that if you get support among those middle class folks, you’re somehow forsaking our progressive agenda on race and women. It’s just not true. We don’t have to give up anything.”

But Biden said Democrats need to show up in areas they lost voters in 2016 and listen to why allegiances changed.

“There’s an awful lot of people who think we’ve forgotten them, that we don’t listen to them. Half of what we do as elected officials is we’ve got to listen, at least acknowledge we understand what concerns them,” Biden said. “And I hope and I believe that a lot of those folks will listen, at least they have in the past, with me.”

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