Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden made a campaign stop in Vinton on Saturday to talk about a wide range of topics in front of about 200 supporters at Tilford Elementary School.
Biden was accompanied by first-term congresswoman Abby Finkenauer, who spoke first at the event. Finkenauer officially endorsed Biden for President on Thursday, becoming the first House member from Iowa to throw their support toward a presidential candidate in the 2020 election cycle.
Finkenauer set the stage for Biden by emphasizing the former Vice President’s penchant for preaching bipartisanship, relaying stories about her own family’s disagreements growing up.
“We would be having some of the most contentious conversations over that kitchen table after dinner,” she said. “Even though we would disagree... we could hug each other at the end of the night, say ‘I love you and can’t wait to see you next week.’”
Biden spoke for about 40 minutes on subjects like climate change and healthcare as wells as more contemporary issues such as political divisiveness and the American airstrike that killed Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani on Thursday night.
“The hope is that the president at least has a plan that he’s thought through what the second and third iteration is going to be” Biden said about the airstrike and its potential to escalate conflict in the Middle East. “Thus far, he hasn’t demonstrated that he pays an awful lot of attention to his advisors.”
Echoing Finkenauer’s opening speech, Biden continued to talk about bipartisanship early in his segment. He said multiple times throughout his time in front of the crowd that he believed the stakes in America’s political future have never been higher.
“We’ve gotta get back to spirited debates about whether or not we agree or don’t agree on substance but walk away from this idea of just attacking the other person,” he said.
Sara Riley, an attorney from Cedar Rapids, said she made the trip to Vinton to support Biden after doing so in the runup 2008 Democratic primaries. She said she’s sticking with Biden because of his potential appeal to politicians across the aisle.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who is more prepared to try to repair the country, unify the country, reassure our allies,” Riley said. “He has the experience in foreign policy, and what happened Thursday night, it really brings home the importance having somebody who has foreign policy experience.”
Bernie Walther and his son, Ian, made the Vinton trip from Cedar Rapids as well. Bernie, a 59-year-old civil rights commission investigator for the city, said Biden has been his personal frontrunner throughout the primary season.
“I’ve always been a Joe fan,” Bernie said. “I’ll be honest, I came here to see if he’s still got it, and I think he’s still got it.”
Ian, 21, said he agreed with his father’s choice in frontrunner and hasn’t much thought of voting for others.
“I think his pitch on healthcare is a strong one compared to others,” Ian said. “And then the ending [of the speech], of course, the rally to unite the country.”
The rally Ian spoke of consisted of Biden’s closing moments of the speech that echoed sentiments of his debate appearances where Biden has often gone all-in with his voice rising as he proclaims the United States’ resolve to accomplish its goals. In the final minute of his Saturday appearance, Biden would diminish and crescendo his speaking, leading up to his closing statement of the afternoon.
“This is the United States of America,” Biden said. “There’s not a single thing we’ve set our mind to that we’ve been unable to do.”
After his speech ended, Biden spent about half an hour taking pictures with supporters and talking with them, including Bernie and Ian. Ian, a junior in college, talked briefly about his time so far at the University of Iowa.
“It’s all downhill from here, man,” Biden joked. He posed for a selfie with Ian before telling him to look after Bernie. “You guys are hard to raise, you’ve gotta take care of him.”
“Yeah, he’s getting pretty old,” Ian replied.