Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. tells Iowans to cast aside doubts about whether he can win the presidency, saying that if they look beyond celebrity, they will see he is the most electable, experienced politician in the bunch.
“I can win if you say I can win,” the Delaware Democrat says, a nod to Iowa’s important role in the nominating process.
“You have an obligation to show the rest of the nation who you think is the most qualified person to be president, and your recommendation is a big deal,” he told voters in Onawa recently. “If you don’t come out of Iowa one, two or three, you’re gone, this is over.”
An increasing number of Iowa Democrats are saying that Mr. Biden’s strategy — spending more time in the state than his competitors and securing 14 endorsements from state lawmakers who tout his decades of experience — might just yield him a third-place or better finish on Jan. 3.
Such a surprise showing would earn the senator invaluable free press coverage, a fundraising boost and the potential to translate an Iowa blessing into the presidential nomination.
But Mr. Biden has yet to yield major results on paper. His numbers are marginally increasing in the polls, although he ranks far behind Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois.
Still, voters in all parts of the state are increasingly dropping Mr. Biden’s name as their preferred candidate. Unprompted, most cite his foreign-policy credentials as superior to the senators leading the polls.
In northern Iowa at a Clinton event, it was Howard L. Larson: “I’m leaning towards Joe. He’s a good man with an awful lot of experience.”
After the candidates all spoke during the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, it was Molly Clause of Winterset: “Joe Biden stood out because my top issue is Iraq and I like his experience.”
Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has long been advocating for dividing Iraq into three regions loosely held together by a weak central government.
“I’m the only one that has a plan,” he says.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden is jovial as he ridicules Republicans. But his demeanor gets serious when he talks about the country’s international standing and the big problems facing the next president.
“Until we solve the problem in Iraq, we will not be able to regain our credibility to lead the world on any other subject,” he says, adding the next president will have “no margin for error.”
To that extent, Mr. Biden wears his gray hair like a badge of honor, reminding voters again and again that he has worked with seven presidents and was rubbing elbows with foreign leaders back when some of the candidates were years from taking public office.
“I know most [foreign leaders] by their first names, not because I’m important but because I’ve been going to these conferences since I was 29 years old, sitting next to them,” Mr. Biden says.