- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2019

OTTUMWA, Iowa | Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden sought to ease doubts among Iowa voters Tuesday about his ability to unite Democrats and defeat President Trump, calling him an “existential threat to America.”

His trip — his second to the state since becoming a presidential candidate — came as polling showed his standing had weakened, and as he fought to deal with the fallout from his struggles to define a position on taxpayer funding of abortions.

The trip also came as Mr. Trump was in Iowa, leaving the two men dueling in proximity for the first time this campaign.

“I think he is genuinely a threat to our core values and a threat to our standing in the world,” Mr. Biden told a crowd at an event center on the banks of the Des Moines River. “Four years of Donald Trump will be viewed as an aberration in American history. Eight years, eight years, will fundamentally change who we are as a nation and how we are viewed around the world.”

On the policy front, Mr. Biden called for raising the capital gains tax to pay for free community college, a tax credit for child care, and increasing the federal minimum wage to $15. He advocated for more education spending to increase teacher pay and make preschool universal, and for more money for cancer and Alzheimer’s research

He also played up his humble upbringing, his ties to former President Barack Obama and his support of labor unions.

Amid a massive field of two dozen major candidates, Mr. Biden‘s argument to voters is that he’s the best positioned to defeat Mr. Trump, something that does resonate with many Democratic primary voters.

Becky Taylor said she is relieved Mr. Biden is in the race.

“Politics are very scary right now, and I just think we need someone with some experience and good judgment,” said Ms. Taylor. “I still favor the moderates a little bit because I feel like we are so far apart on the extremes that we can’t get together at all, we can’t get anything done.”

But others say it’s more important to have a progressive warrior, and there Mr. Biden falls short for many Democrats.

“I think if Biden gets the nomination, he is going to get beat by Trump,” said Curt Swarm. “He’s the status quo.”

“I think we need someone who is way out there,” Mr. Swarm said. “What we don’t need is someone conservative. We need some radical left.”

A Des Moines Register/CNN poll released over the weekend showed Mr. Biden‘s lead has narrowed and that his supporters are less enthusiastic about him than the voters that have lined up behind some of his challengers.

The former vice president dismissed the findings.

“They don’t mean a thing right now,” he told voters. “This is a marathon, and the marathon is just beginning.”

Mr. Biden is making a two-day swing through blue-collar counties in southeast Iowa that backed Mr. Trump in 2016.

Ottumwa is the county seat of Wapello County, which Mr. Trump became the first Republican since Dwight Eisenhower to carry in a presidential election.

Miriam Kenning, a local party activist, said she is a bit concerned over whether Mr. Biden can ramp up his low-key deliver to reflect the urgency of the moment in the eyes of voters. If he can do that, Ms. Kenning said she believes he can “attract people who voted for Trump around here.”

His first challenge, though, will be to win enough Democrats to secure the nomination.

Lisa Benge said Mr. Biden is one of her favorites, but is not a shoo-in. “I think it is just could be time for some new blood,” she said

Voters across the state in recent days have described Mr. Biden in glowing terms as a “good guy” and “good dude.” They also shared personal stories about the one-on-one interactions with Mr. Biden over the years.

Still, many voters are torn over whether Mr. Biden should pass the baton to a new generation of leaders.

“I am not excited about Biden and the older generation, we need to have some newer blood, and I am speaking as the older generation,” said Mark Olsen.

State Rep. Charles Isenhart, who represents the Dubuque area, said Mr. Biden is a “well-known commodity” with some “long-term supporters” and that there is a lot of affinity for him among local Catholics.

“He’s kind of a well-worn shoe,” Mr. Isenhart said. “It is a shoe that’s fit, a shoe that is comfortable with a great number of people that are going to vote.”

Things didn’t go off without a hitch for Mr. Biden‘s visit. At a couple of his stops he was interrupted by pro-life activists who chided him for reversing his position last week and saying he now supports using taxpayer money to fund abortions.

“You have blood on your hands!” the protesters shouted, accusing him of backing the “murder of unborn babies, and he wants us to pay for it!”

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