DAVENPORT — Former Vice President Joe Biden came to Iowa on Tuesday, criticizing President Donald Trump and celebrating the achievements of the Obama administration.
Biden, the presumed front-runner in the crowded Democratic field of candidates seeking to defeat Trump in 2020, called the president a threat to the nation, attacking his character, policies and Twitter habits. He also accused Trump of setting a “standard of crude language and embarrassing behavior” and “tearing down the guardrails” of democracy.
As Biden campaigned on the eastern side of the state, Trump was visiting the western side, tearing into Biden with insults of his own. The back-and-forth offered a possible preview of what a 2020 presidential race might look like if Biden becomes the Democratic Party’s nominee.
The former vice president, meandering between one-liners and seriousness, earned applause lines, including for his promises to create a stronger middle class and protect to the Affordable Care Act. Perhaps the most enthusiastic crowd response came amid a reference to former President Barack Obama, whom he described as a president of “extraordinary care and decency.”
Biden’s event got off to a late start in Davenport after he made earlier stops in Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant. Still, a few hundred people greeted him in a packed hall on the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds, sporting Biden campaign signs and stickers.
The visit from Biden comes as Iowa caucus season gets into full swing, with nearly two dozen other candidates seeking the Democratic nomination and presidential debates scheduled to kick off later this month.
While Biden boasts a wealth of political experience, the former vice president has also been forced to defend some of the policies he once supported. He has come under fire for his handling of the Anita Hill’s testimony alleging sexual harassment allegations against then-nominated Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. And Biden made national headlines last week when he disavowed the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding for most abortions.
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Mid-speech, as Biden was discussing the deadly Charlottesville protests involving white supremacists in 2017, one man rose and yelled at the former vice president about his recent change of stance on the Hyde Amendment. Other anti-abortion protesters were later ushered out of the room.
It mirrored and earlier disruption in Ottumwa. Biden had just begun speaking when a man in an American flag shirt began shouting questions about the amendment. Biden had long supported the measure, but reversed course five days before his arrival in Iowa.
The Ottumwa crowd booed the heckler. Biden waited. He said he would meet with the man after his speech if he would end the disruption.
“He was very friendly,” Biden said after the rally. “It’s a legitimate question for him to ask.”
Unlike many of his fellow Democrats, Biden has taken a more lax approach to campaigning in Iowa compared with lesser-known contenders like former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, who has practically lived in Iowa the past year. Others with less name recognition have sought to build grassroots campaigns in the first-in-the nation caucus state with the hope that they will make big waves on caucus day Feb. 3.
Biden is scheduled to finish his Iowa tour with a stop in Clinton this morning.