DES MOINES — President Trump on Thursday mocked former Vice President Joseph R. Biden for his sporadic verbal missteps on what state he’s in while out on the campaign trail.
“Let’s vote for Sleepy Joe. He’s falling asleep,” Mr. Trump said at a rally here at Drake University.
“He always gets the name wrong. How many times has he missed it?’” the president said. “He’s in Iowa, he says ‘great to be in the great state of Ohio.’ They say, ‘Joe, you’re in Iowa!’ You can’t do that.”
“No matter how great you speak — if you’re Winston Churchill, if you make that mistake at the beginning of your speech, it’s over,” he said.
Mr. Trump was rallying in Des Moines ahead of Monday’s caucuses in Iowa, which help kick off voting in the 2020 presidential nominating contests.
“He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about,” Mr. Trump said of Mr. Biden. “He’s so lost — honestly. That poor guy is so lost … it was over for him, actually if you knew him, a long time ago. Now it’s really over.”
As part of his closing pitch in Iowa, Mr. Biden, a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, is trying to hammer home the point that he’s the candidate the president’s team fears facing the most in a general election match-up.
“This whole impeachment trial for Trump is just a political hit job on me, and that is how scared Trump is,” Mr. Biden said at a campaign stop in Newton. “I’ve never seen a president so interested in who the Democratic nominee is going to be in my whole life.”
But the president’s supporters at the event didn’t put too much stock in Mr. Biden’s argument.
“I don’t think Trump’s afraid of Joe Biden or facing him at all. I think it’s just another one of the [Democrats’] little ploys,” said Darcey Widmann, a 62-year-old retiree from Altoona. “They’re on a roll with the impeachment and everything — they’re just trying to do everything they can to discredit Trump.”
Ron Sones, a retiree from Carlisle, said Democrats have been talking about impeachment since the day Mr. Trump was inaugurated.
“We think if he stays in, he’ll be our next president,” Mr. Sones said.
Ms. Widmann and Mr. Sones said they weren’t particularly nervous about the prospects of any other 2020 Democratic contender going up against Mr. Trump, either.
“The things that Trump has done for the USA — why shouldn’t we be voting for him? That’s the way we look at it. He’s done a lot for our economy, I think,” Mr. Sones said.
The Democratic race in Iowa appears to be a toss-up, with Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Mr. Biden jockeying for first place in recent polling.
Republicans will hold caucuses on Monday in Iowa as well. But with only nominal GOP opposition to Mr. Trump thus far, the outcome is all but assured.
The president’s team is still trying to put on a show of force by deploying more than 80 surrogates, including the president’s two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, to campaign at various caucus locations on Monday.
“Folks, here’s what we need to do for the president: show up for caucus - let’s not take Donald Trump for granted,” Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said as he warmed up the crowd. “Show up for caucus - I want to see you all there!”
The GOP process is much simpler compared to the Democratic side, where participants will physically move to various spots in caucus sites to indicate their preference and candidates who aren’t deemed “viable” get eliminated.
For the Republican caucuses, participants simply go into precinct locations and write the name of their candidate of choice on a piece of paper.
Mr. Trump finished in second in the Iowa caucuses in 2016 behind Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But he carried the state in the general election over Hillary Clinton by close to 10 points after the Hawkeye State had twice broken for President Obama.
Back in Washington, D.C., Mr. Trump’s attorneys were facing questions from senators in the president’s impeachment trial, which is throwing a wrench into the campaign plans of Mr. Sanders, along with Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Mr. Trump stands accused of improperly withholding military assistance from Ukraine to prod the country’s leaders into announcing an investigation into Mr. Biden. He has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.