The event: A “community event” with former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden
The location: Sunset Ridge Barn, Prole
How many attended? Around 150 voters, about 25 press and an almost equal number of staff, although from time to time, it’s hard to tell the difference between the two.
The setting: A wedding venue so new that it still smelled of sawdust. A roof and fans provided welcome shade, and the backdrop of a pond, trees and a Biden 4 Iowa sign offered photographers an attractive backdrop.
What the candidate had to say: Biden’s speech tucked policy nuggets among stories about his life that lay out his case for the presidency. For details on his proposals, supporters could pick up flyers on a variety of issues.
Tuesday, he first paid homage to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, pledging that “no one will work harder to try to earn your support and your vote. You are the key to the kingdom, you’ve got to go through this gate.”
Biden greeted several local office holders, including State Rep. Scott Ourth, who introduced him; Don Ruby of the Iowa Democratic party; and Bob Kling, Indianola council member. A stint as a council member helped Biden decide to run for the United States, he said.
“It’s too hard,” he said of serving on a council. “They know where you live. And guess what, everybody thinks I’m an expert on foreign policy. War and peace is easier than zoning hearings.”
But Biden swiftly swerved to make his case for the presidency, and against Donald Trump, offering three reasons he is running for president.
First, he said, is unseating Trump.
“We are in a battle for the soul of this country,” said Biden. “Without restoring our soul, without reestablishing that basic American creed, of decency, honor and treating everybody with some degree of equity, we’re not going to get where we have to go as a nation.
“We can overcome four years of Donald Trump,” he added. “It will be difficult. But if we give him eight, I think we will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation. And we cannot let that happen.”
Second, he said, is restoring the backbone of the country.
“The backbone of America has been the middle class,” he said. Biden said he would offer beginning farmers microloans of up to $100,000 and put more money into the Department of Agriculture’s operating loans to farmers, reinvest in land grant universities agricultural research and “work with farmers to make American farmers the first in the world to achieve net zero emissions and get paid.”
On education, he says he would put high school graduates and anyone needing retraining after losing a job in an apprentice program, a job training program or community college for free.
“We can put every one of them in school, cutting in half the cost of a four-year education,” he said.
Biden said he also would increase money for at-risk schools, “finish the job on health care” and work to make guns safer.
“You leave your key in your car out here, a 14-year-old comes along and takes it and gets in a crash, you’re liable,” he said. “If you leave a weapon sitting on a table without a trigger lock on it, and not locked up, why are you not liable? It has nothing to do with the second amendment.”
Finally, Biden said he wants to unify the country. While some call Biden naïve for wanting to work across the aisle he says it’s the only way to work.
“The system we have is designed only one way, we need to get consensus,” he said. “You don’t have to yield on any principles to get consensus.
“The vast majority of the American people agree with us on all of the major issues,” he said, to steadily building applause. “They agree we have to do something about green infrastructure. They agree we have to do something about education. They agree we have to do something about the cost of college. They agree we have to do something about health care. They agree we have to do something about foreign policy and we have to do something about climate.
“Everybody knows who Donald Trump is, they know his character,” he continued. Democrats, on the other hand, “choose science over fiction, we choose truth over lies, we choose hope over fear. No nation will be more hopeful than the United States of America. Let’s go get them.”
What did the crowd have to say: The crowd kept busy with interviews before and after the event. Janet Strable of Wick said she had been interviewed five times before adding that Biden was the only candidate she needs to see.
“This is the only one,” she said. “I just like that he’s had the experience as vice president and I think he would do our country good and get it back in the right direction.”
Others weren’t convinced. Anna Perdue of Des Moines and Lottie Reid of Oregon hit the soapbox at the Iowa State Fair before heading to their freshman year at Grinnell College. Reid said she heard “Bennet, Bill DeBlasio, Buttigeg, Bernie Sanders” all speak.
Biden, she said, wasn’t right for her.
“I liked his speech, but he is definitely not my favorite candidate,” said Reid, who said her key issues are climate change, gun control, and protecting access to safe abortion.
Andrew Lietzow of Des Moines, on the other hand, recalled seeing Biden open his campaign office in Des Moines in 2008.
“I wanted Joe to get traction then, but with Hillary and Obama sucking all the air out of the room, there just wasn’t much left for Joe Biden,” he said.
Lietzow said he has seen several candidates this cycle and his mind is made up.
“My heart is really with Joe.”