- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2008

OTTUMWA, Iowa — Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. said yesterday that even his rivals think he is the most experienced Democratic candidate running for president.

Should he become the Iowa surprise after tonight’s caucus and somehow face off against one of the front-runners in the other contests, he would easily beat them, the Delaware Democrat said.

Sure, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can argue she is most qualified because of her years of service and her two terms as first lady, he said. But, he added, that “is not sufficient to claim that she is ready from Day One,” and “just not as relevant” as Mr. Biden’s 36 years as a senator.

And Sen. Barack Obama, who talks about telling the American people not what they want to hear, but what they “need to hear,” is stealing one of Mr. Biden’s lines, the senator said. Former Sen. John Edwards is just trying to scare people with his populist message that all corporations are corrupt, Mr. Biden said.

To boot, none has passed signification legislation, Mr. Biden said. He told reporters that even those candidates will say he is the most experienced, but that he can’t win. He replies that he can win if Iowans give him a chance.

In appearances here and across the state, Mr. Biden, still a long shot to place third here based on polls, knocks down each of the three leading candidates while asking voters to imagine one of them as president and decide whether any of them are as ready to do the job as he would be.

He used a riff on the Clinton “experience” theme and Obama “change” theme to make his closing argument.

“It’s not about experience or change, it’s about action,” he said, adding later: “I’ve initiated more change than all the Democratic candidates combined.”

Many Iowans who say they lean toward Mr. Biden cite the war in Iraq. Mr. Biden tells everyone that he, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had a direct pipeline to world leaders and can be ready to lead on international affairs the moment he takes the oath of office.

“The next president of the United States is going to have to end this war in Iraq without leaving chaos behind,” Mr. Biden said.

He tells the voters to close their eyes and ask themselves “if the person you’re about to support knows exactly what he or she will do tomorrow to end this war,” and adds that his plan to divide Iraq into three regions held together by a weak central government has already passed Congress.

“He’s figured it out,” said microbiologist Dennis Wegner, a Biden supporter from Ottumwa. “If he doesn’t place third, at least I know I supported the right person. Win, lose or draw, I am so thankful for the gift of listening to Joe.”

Chris Keegan, whose 32-year-old son is serving in Iraq, said she will caucus for Mr. Biden because “he’s the only one with a plan.” The two had an emotional moment sharing an embrace that left her with tear-filled eyes.

Mr. Biden also ridiculed Mrs. Clinton — without using her name — for mistakenly suggesting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf would be on the ballot in the upcoming elections. He said “this is no time” for someone learning the ropes and reminded voters the Pakistani election is actually for parliament.

Mr. Biden ranks fifth in most polls, behind New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who also has gained some momentum lately. Those candidates, and Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut often tell Iowans they deserve a chance to compete in the other states by placing at least third tonight.

“All I’m asking for is a ticket out of Iowa,” Mr. Dodd said in Oelwein on Monday.

“If you give me that ticket out of Iowa, I’m going to be a household name Friday morning. That’s how it works,” he said, closing with: “Give Dodd the nod.”

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