Is Biden hidin’?
Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has left his fellow 2020 presidential candidates and local party leaders in early voting states miffed with his light and strictly scripted campaign schedule.
His latest no-show will come this weekend where he’ll miss the first big Iowa cattle call of the 2020 presidential election, which 19 other Democrats will attend. Last weekend, he skipped out on California Democrats’ convention, where 14 rivals spoke.
Instead, Mr. Biden is dictating his own schedule, with an eye toward the general election rather than the primary schedule.
Rather than California, he was in Ohio last weekend, headlining a Human Rights Campaign gala.
Iowa Democrats said the Biden campaign informed them he had a family scheduling conflict, which is why he’ll miss out on this weekend’s Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame where 1,500 state activists and political kingmakers will hear from almost every major candidate in the field.
Party insiders and activists said Mr. Biden is perhaps the one person in the field who has the luxury of skipping their event.
“Clearly he is in the top tier and so he will be the target to many, and I am sure the question there is ‘where do you want to give access to him being a target?’” said Thom Hart, former chair of the Scott County Iowa Democrats. “The others, though, are going there really to build and for name recognition. He doesn’t need that.”
Mr. Hart said that he has been puzzled by Mr. Biden’s strategy, but noted that he did spend a lot of time in Iowa during his previous bids for president in 1988 and 2008.
“So he is probably doing a cost-benefit analysis there,” Mr. Hart said.
His absence does create a chance for anti-Biden forces to get to voters.
In California last week, activists handed out anti-Biden flyers and criticized parts of his long record of public service, hoping to dent the early front-runner.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is backing Sen. Elizabeth Warren but also remains fans of Sen. Bernard Sanders, two of the leading rivals to Mr. Biden, said the former vice president is “hiding from voters.”
PCCC said he needs to start mixing it up or else he’ll be outclassed in the general election.
“He won’t be able to do that against Trump,” the group said on Twitter, releasing a June calendar full of gaps in the former vice president’s public schedule.
In Iowa, though, activists say they’ll have plenty to mull over without Mr. Biden there.
“It is going to be hard to miss him,” said Brett Nilles, chair of the Linn County Iowa Democrats, adding Mr. Biden’s absence will generate more interest in the first debate later this month in Miami, which is shaping up to be the first time he appears on stage unscripted and directly engages with his rivals.
The Des Moines Register reported that the Democratic field has already made 400 stops in the state, but none of the events have had the cache of the dinner Sunday which is expected to attract throngs of activists and a mob of news media.
“This the biggest thing yet,” said former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge. “Of course, since January about every week we have had someone else add to the race, but … this will be the first time they are all in one place and they are all going to give a speech.”
She said it’s the kind of event that could create “a breakout moment” for someone.
In addition to Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders, other candidates speaking include Sens. Kamala D. Harris of California, Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former and current Reps. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Eric Swalwell of California, Tim Ryan of Ohio, John Delaney of Maryland and Beto O’Rourke of Texas.
Also appearing are former and current Govs. Jay Inslee of Washington, Steve Bullock of Montana, and John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and author Marianne Williamson.
The event is doubling as a chance for the candidates to show their organizing strength.
Mr. Nilles said Mr. Buttigieg is hosting a nearby picnic, while Ms. Harris and Mr. Booker are holding rallies outside the venue.
Mr. Sanders plans to march with McDonald’s workers and advocates in the fight to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 to the dinner, setting the stage for his message.
“It is always good to be in a room of Democrats,” said Pete D’Alessandro, senior advisor to the Sanders’ campaign. “My gut would tell me, even though all the campaigns bought tables, there are going to be a good amount of activists in that room that are going to be neutral and yet to make up their minds.”
• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at email@example.com.
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