DES MOINES, Iowa ― Former Vice President Joe Biden is attempting to set up a one-on-one battle with Donald Trump ahead of the Democratic caucuses in Iowa, aiming to bolster his case to voters that he’s the candidate best equipped to battle the Republican president.
“Health care. Climate. Guns. National security. All these issues and more are on the ballot. But something else is on the ballot. Something even more important,” Biden is expected to say in a speech Thursday morning, hours before Trump holds a campaign rally in Des Moines. “Character is on the ballot. America’s character. I don’t believe we’re the dark, angry nation we see in Donald Trump’s tweets.”
The speech could amount to Biden’s closing argument in the state, where he is battling Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg heading into Monday night’s caucuses. It fits in with the themes Biden and his team have emphasized since his campaign’s launch last spring: Trump presents a unique threat, and Biden is best equipped to beat him.
The campaign is also releasing an ad hitting on similar themes. The 60-second spot, set to air in Iowa’s largest markets in the final days of the state campaign, highlights Biden’s biography and his early support of gay marriage and features three appearances by former President Barack Obama.
Biden’s speech, according to a preview provided by his campaign, will also emphasize his ability to beat Trump, referencing the campaign work Biden did across the country in 2018. He’ll suggest that a focus on health care, similar to the one Democrats deployed during the midterm elections, will help the party win back control of the U.S. Senate.
“Trump and I have already gone one round with each other on health care. In 2018, I went to 24 states for 65 candidates. I took on Trump all over the country ― and beat him,” Biden will say. “In fact, we beat him like a drum ― and in the process took back the majority in the House.”
Biden and Trump’s dueling speeches will arrive in the state as the U.S. Senate, including two of Biden’s leading competitors, debate Trump’s conviction and removal from office over charges he withheld military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to force the country’s leaders into opening a corruption investigation into Biden. The former vice president has frequently argued Trump’s actions demonstrate he is the candidate Republicans fear the most.
Biden remains the front-runner in national polling, though recent surveys have given Sanders a slight edge in Iowa and a significant lead in New Hampshire, the second state to cast ballots.
There is a risk to Biden’s speech: Trump is set to campaign at the 7,000-seat Knapp Center at Drake University in Des Moines, while Biden ― who regularly trails his Democratic competitors in crowd size ― is set to speak at an elementary school gymnasium in the suburb of Waukee.