Former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is leaning on his foreign policy experience in his pitch to likely Iowa caucusgoers. This week he won the endorsement of former Secretary of State John Kerry, who joined him in Iowa to magnify that message.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry is making the case that the former vice president can reassert U.S. interests on the world stage on Day One of his first term.
It’s an argument Biden himself has been consistently making on the trail. Still, Kerry’s backing is a boost, as a past winner of the Iowa caucuses and a former Obama administration official.
Speaking to an audience of about 200 people at an event center at the Ushers Ferry Historic Village in Cedar Rapids on Friday, Kerry said he’s built a relationship with Biden over more than two decades of shared experience in the U.S. Senate.
“We’ve known each other a long time but we spent 24 years together in the United States Senate. We worked together as a team,” Kerry said.
“The only team that’s worked more closely than us is Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin,” Kerry said as audience members laughed.
Speaking with reporters after the event, Kerry made the argument that U.S. adversaries like Russia and China are poised to overpower American leadership without a strong president in place.
“I’ve heard this personally from Russians at meetings and things is: the American Century is over, this is…they are a country in decline. We are the future. And you will hear it from Putin and you will hear it from [Chinese leader] Xi,” Kerry said.
Biden himself made the case that President Donald Trump has undermined the country’s relationships with its allies and played in to the interests of its adversaries.
Biden argued Trump has become a target of ridicule for other world leaders, referencing a video that showed the leaders of Canada, the U.K. and France reportedly complaining about Trump during a private reception.
“We’ve led by the power of our example,” Biden said speaking to reporters Friday. “And the example we’re setting for the rest of the world, people are going, 'Oh no. That’s not what I want to be part of.' So it’s consequential abroad and consequential at home.”
Kerry’s appearance on the trail Friday comes the day after Biden lashed out at a potential caucusgoer for criticizing Biden’s son’s role in a Ukrainian oil company, and called the former vice president too old for the job. The exchange came during a campaign stop in New Hampton, Iowa. Biden challenged the man to a push-up contest, something he’s since said he probably shouldn’t have done.
If elected, the 77 year old Biden would become the oldest president in U.S. history.
While he is not the only septuagenarian in the race, Biden’s age does concern 74 year old caucus-goer John Andersen. A retired educator and former Chickasaw County supervisor, Andersen says he’s undecided in the race. But as he ages, Andersen says he feels his own mental acuity slowing and says he feels Biden also seems less sharp than during his past bids.
“I’m not thinking as fast as I used to be able to think,” Andersen said. “I can’t help but believe that he will…that he’s also going through that sort of thing.”
Still, some Biden supporters say they’re not at all concerned about the Biden’s age or health. Cedar Rapids retirees Vicki and John Casali say they value the former vice president’s foreign policy experience and they’re confident he’s physically fit for the office.
“No problem,” John said.
“I think he’s fine,” Vicki agreed. “He seems energetic enough.”
The couple disagreed on Biden’s handling of the interaction in New Hampton.
“Put him in his place,” John said laughing, referring to the potential caucusgoer. “It was great.”
But Vicki says she didn’t like to see Biden “lose his cool” with the man.
Still, Biden seems to still be attracting the interest of some potential caucusgoers wary of candidates they worry are moving too far to the left.
Justin Gorgone is a relatively recent graduate of the University of Iowa living in Iowa City, and says he personally wants to see Medicare For All implemented over the next few years. But he worries that in the eyes of more moderate Democrats, the program will sink candidates like Elizabeth Warren. That’s spurring him to reconsider other contenders, including Biden.
“I was a huge Warren fan for the longest time. And then…I still am,” Gorgone explained. But following recent debates he said he’s had a change of heart.
“I just don’t know,” he said. “There’s so much topsy-turviness that I have no idea who I’m supporting right now. Which is scary.”