FORT DODGE, Iowa — Democrat Joe Biden trekked to Iowa in 1988 and 2008 when he was running for president.
He’s back again, and he doesn’t hesitate when asked what’s different this time.
“Donald Trump,” he said Thursday.
Biden wants to be the guy to turn Trump into a one-term president, which is why he’s stumping across Iowa.
It was a beautiful fall day. The snow that walloped Colorado this week had yet to hit western Iowa. Trees and bushes still held their red leaves.
“Happy Halloween,” Biden said to the crowd at the Fort Museum, and then paused.
“I wonder what the president is going as tonight.”
That drew laughs from a mostly older crowd, many who fondly remember the eight years that Barack Obama served as president with Biden as his veep.
“I think Joe is such a steady person. He knows so much, he knows the ins and outs of D.C.,” said Diane Burch, a Fort Dodge native.
She is fascinated to learn I’m from Colorado and that I know U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Denver, who has continued his long-shot bid to become president.
“I just love Bennet,” Burch said. “I think he’s smart as a whip.”
Her dream ticket: Biden/Bennet.
Bennet, like the other Democratic hopefuls, is in Iowa for the state Democratic Party’s Liberty and Justice gala tonight at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. More than 15,000 people are expected for what is being billed as the largest statewide Democratic dinner in U.S. history.
Think of it as the Olympics for political nerds. I can’t wait.
I introduced myself to Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota at my hotel in Des Moines on Thursday night. She’s a big fan of Colorado but, then, who isn’t? She spoke in Boulder earlier this year at the University of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs.
I brought up George Will’s column in The Washington Post, in which he praised Bennet and Klobuchar.
“Were Democrats to nominate either, Trump’s removal, which Democrats insist is their sovereign objective, would be assured,” Will said.
Some 14 presidential hopefuls are expected to speak Friday night. The jabs at Trump are sure to inspire the president’s tweeting through the evening.
“The pressure is on Joe Biden to send a jolt through a campaign that threatens to fizzle in Iowa,” wrote CNN’s Stephen Collinson.
Biden didn’t sound like a guy fizzling when he talked in Fort Dodge. After the event, he stayed for a while shaking hands and taking pictures with people. I was able to stand next to him and listen to the conversations because I passed for the Midwesterner that I am. Then someone spotted my press badge and I had to move back.
During his speech, Biden talked about a variety of topics, including:
• The National Rifle Association: “I’ve beaten them twice, and if you elect me, I promise you I will beat them again.”
• Climate change: “We have to make sure on our watch we’re not contributing to the death of a planet.”
• Prison reform: “We don’t need to build more prisons. We need to build more rehab centers.”
Mike Drew, 68, of Mesa, Ariz., liked everything he heard. He was visiting family in Iowa when he heard Biden would be speaking, so he registered for the event.
Drew whipped off his hat and showed off a large indentation in his skull. The same year he battled a brain tumor he was diagnosed with lung cancer. The health care measure President Obama signed into law required insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.
“I wouldn’t be here if that policy didn’t pass,” he said. “So I’m going to 100 percent support Joe Biden.”
Judge Brown, 73, of Fort Dodge was less impressed. He wanted Biden to outline the five most important plans of his campaign — in a 1.5-minute time frame.
Biden started out by saying “begin to treat people with dignity.” Afterward, Brown said he was looking for “action-type” answers, not “being nice to someone.”
He got a laugh when he imposed the time limit, but he said he did it because candidates tend to be windy.
“I told Obama the same thing when he was here: ‘You talk too long,’” Brown said.
Brown has yet to make up his mind. He said it’s “way too soon” and there are “too many candidates.”
Friday’s Justice and Liberty celebration may help some Iowa Democrats make up their minds. They caucus on Feb. 3, the first nominating contest in the country.
“I’m asking for your help,” Biden said. “I’m asking you to join my campaign.”
Lynn Bartels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org