In Opening Pitch To Granite State Voters, Biden Says 'Everything . . . Is At Stake'

May 14, 2019

Joe Biden speaks in Hampton on May 13, 2019.
Credit DAN TUOHY / NHPR

Joe Biden is heading home after his first swing through New Hampshire in the 2020 Democratic presidential race. He visited Manchester Community College, a Hampton pizzeria, and a house party in Nashua. NHPR's Senior Political Reporter Josh Rogers was there for much of it, and he spoke with Peter Biello on All Things Considered about what he's noticed at Biden's first 2020 campaign stops.

So lots of presidential candidates have made lots of visits to New Hampshire in the past few months. Biden's just getting started. What are you hearing in his opening pitch to New Hampshire voters?

Well it's almost a general election pitch -- that he's ready to take on President Trump and that Democrats need to unite to defeat Trump and that if that doesn't happen, the stakes are going to be very high.

"You know in your gut, this is maybe the most important election any one of you ever participate in. No matter how young you are or how old you are. And I mean it not because I'm running, but because of the nature of where we find ourselves today. The core values of this nation, our very standing in the world, everything that has made America America, I believe is at stake."

So there is former Vice President Biden making the case that the country is on a precipice and that you know if he is elected president maybe the country can head back towards what he believes we had before, and if not, nothing good.

So is any of that reflected in the specific issues or policies that he brought up?

Well, I mean a big thrust of his speeches here was that if we undid the Trump tax cuts and close loopholes there'd be money for lots of policies Democrats want such as free community college. The former vice president evokes Obamacare a lot. Certainly health care is a topic Democrats think they're strong on and for Biden it's also a way to remind crowds of his relationship with what he terms 'my friend Barack.' There are other issues that are more present day. The Vice President argues in favor of a $15 minimum wage. Biden also talks of climate change, which is something polling indicates is a real priority for voters this year particularly younger voters. He spoke at some length about how he's been concerned about the issue since the 1980s. But he can really spell out specifics on it.

Biden seems pretty eager to remind voters that he's been around politics for a long time. That history includes two prior runs for the presidency, two earlier campaigns in New Hampshire. Did you get a sense of that history in these visits over the past couple of days?

Certainly not his prior runs for president. Neither time did Biden actually make it to primary day in New Hampshire. But you know his long time in politics is something that is hard to miss. And seemingly something he's out to leverage. In Manchester, he was introduced by former Governor John Lynch. He joked from the stage about the Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley who he referred to as the 'Chairman of chairmans,' the Senate president Donna Soucy was with him. And you know, he seems to have an actual relationship with these people, in part, because for 40 years he has been around, he has been up here for fundraisers, he has campaigned for the Obama administration and on behalf of a local politician. So he does know people and you know his politics are of an old fashioned variety in that respect.

And what have you heard from voters taking all this in at Biden's campaign stops?

Well a lot of voters are very eager to have somebody who can take on President Trump. A lot of voters I spoke to, and these are self-selecting, they're showing up at Joe Biden events, seem to come away that they felt pretty good about him. 

"I'm very reassured and he's experienced, he's articulate. You know, if he turns out to be the one, obviously that could beat Trump, why not?" - Bill Kordas, Goffstown. 

Obviously a challenge for somebody like Biden is to get the good out of his experience without the bad and you know he's up there on stage saying the system is dead broken. Somebody might say, 'Well, you were there for 40 years. Aren't you a part of this?' But a lot of the voters I spoke with feel that Biden might have a restorative quality to the system.

"One thing that appeals to me about Biden is that he...he's kind. And I think the nation really needs some healing and needs that kindness to come together. I don't know it just any Democrat can do it." - Jill Cane, Merrimack.

That's certainly the kind of thing that Joe Biden wants voters in New Hampshire to feel where is he a long ways from the primary and they're going to be lots of Democrats making the case that they are the kind of people who can heal the country.