Biden Campaigns At Iowa State Fair

Aug 9, 2019
Originally published on August 9, 2019 10:26 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Over the next few days, Democratic presidential hopefuls will descend on the Iowa State Fair, where they'll deliver their stump speeches, pose with a whole lot of fried food and meet Iowa caucusgoers. Former Vice President Joe Biden was one of the first. And NPR's Scott Detrow gives us this report from the fairgrounds.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: The general idea of campaigning at the fair is to say hi to Iowans. But for Joe Biden yesterday, that was tough.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right, guys. Come on. You guys...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Just a sec (ph). Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Clear. Clear. I don't...

JOE BIDEN: Pardon me.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Clear this aisle.

DETROW: Biden is making his way through the fair very slowly right now. He's saying hi to voters, but mostly, he's surrounded by dozens and dozens of reporters and microphones and cameras.

At times, Biden had to play traffic cop.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: We ought to get left, guys. You're going to run into benches.

DETROW: And all the attention made it hard for Biden to eat much fair food.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: I only got ice cream, but that was good enough for the start...

DETROW: Then it was on to the soapbox, the stage set up by The Des Moines Register, where every candidate gets 20 minutes. The often long-winded Biden has been mindful of time limits this year, at times stopping himself mid-sentence in debates. He seemed to think he only had five minutes and at first was rushing through his stump speech, glancing at his watch.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: Oh, to speak? Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: Y'all are in real trouble then, man. That's a bad thing, to tell me I got more time to speak. Well, look, folks...

DETROW: Biden's trip to the fair came a day after one of his strongest attacks on President Trump yet. At another Iowa appearance, Biden had said Trump's rhetoric emboldens white nationalism and that Trump isn't capable of presidential leadership. At the fair, Biden refused to engage in repeated questions about whether or not he thinks Trump himself is a white nationalist.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: I believe everything the president says - has done encourages white supremacy. And I'm not sure there's much of a distinction. As a matter of fact, it may be even worse. In fact, if you're out there trying to, in fact, curry the favor of white supremacists or any group...

DETROW: After Biden spoke, his campaign signed up dozens of people to pledge to caucus for him. Pam Giles from Des Moines says she thinks Biden has the best chance of winning.

PAM GILES: Obviously, his years of experience. I like the fact that he's not wanting to go - I guess the important thing is that he's more moderate.

DETROW: Poll after poll shows that for all the attention the big, progressive agendas of other candidates are getting and for all the moments on the debate stage where he seemed a bit off his game, Biden is maintaining his wide lead over the rest of the field. As Biden made his way to the exit, a reporter asked if he considers himself the front-runner. Biden stopped, looked around at all the cameras and microphones surrounding him and almost smirked.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BIDEN: What do you guys think?

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: I'm not running...

DETROW: Scott Detrow, NPR News, Des Moines.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIEFER'S "ISLAND") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.